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