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IFAs should focus on substance over style

Style matters but focus should be on what a firm delivers

We lost a client recently. By lost, I do not mean that their whereabouts became unknown. I mean that he made the decision to move to another IFA firm.

Thankfully, this is a very rare occurrence but when it does happen, we are always keen to find out the reasons behind the move. If it was the result of something we did (or did not) do, then I want to know about it so we do not make the same mistakes in the future.

During the “departing client debrief”, it transpired that moving to a new IFA firm was part of the agreement the client had struck with his accountants because he was refinancing his business and they wanted better control over his personal financial planning at the same time.

Satisfied that he had not been upset by anything we were doing to him business-wise, we used the debrief as an opportunity to get a bit of candid feedback on our approach to the delivery of advice. As they say, feedback is the breakfast of champions.

An interesting comment raised during this debrief was that the offices for the new IFA firm were “really nice”.

This is the sort of comment which is guaranteed to provoke a debate here at Informed Choice. Now, we love our offices, as much as it is possible to feel that particular human emotion for a building. They represent part of the culture of our business and while not a modern glass and steel property sat in a nondescript business park, we often get really positive client feedback when people come to visit.

The debate gradually moved away from one of sanded wooden floorboards and mock Tudor beams onto one of style over substance. It is fair to say that style has never been an over-whelmingly important consideration when building and growing this business over the past 17 years.

I know that style matters a lot to some people. Some businesses have been built more or less on style alone, with the quality of their envelopes and the décor in their reception areas saying a lot more about their client proposition than what they do and deliver.

While some clients will always be impressed by the type of car their IFA drives or where they holiday each year, the vast majority, in our experience, are more concerned with the substance of what their adviser does and delivers.

If we are to collectively restore trust in retail financial services, a move away from the style aspects of what we do towards more of a focus on the substance of the delivery can do no harm at all.

Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice


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There are 5 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Tyrone Murphy 16th May 2011 at 9:22 am

    People want to deal with people who they perceive to be successful and as such having a nice office helps to create this impression. However, the service provided needs to back up the initial impression created.

    All too often the client finds out that they have been paying for the fancy office and lifestyle of the adviser with no real value being added to their financial affairs.

    You could be the best financial adviser in the world. But if you fail to market your business in a way that appeals to potential clients you should not be suprised when they decide to use the services of a adviser who is aware of the need for marketing.

  2. True Martin!

    Clients who are more impressed by materialism do not generally get on well with us, which is fine for both parties. As we start on values, we find those who chose us are either in no doubt or more understanding as to why we don’t wish to spend our client’s money on looking (ultra) fancy.

    It’s like chatting up a woman. Moist men get carried away by their style and beauty, only to find out (in most cases) they are just that and lack substance or longevity.

    Style is temporary, substance is permanent.

  3. Harry, had to laugh at your moist men!
    Does Martin need to give MM a more up to date photo or is that one recent?

  4. And the point if this article is?

  5. Julian Stevens 18th May 2011 at 9:22 am

    One has to ask in just what ways moving the client’s affairs to a firm of his accountant’s choosing is likely to facilitate “better control over his personal financial planning”. Why does the accountant feel that s/he needs “better control”? It sounds decidedly fishy to me.

    These things happen from time to time, however well you’ve done your job and, though client defections often hurt, they’re just a fact of life. Forget it and move on.

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