Neil Liversidge: My golden rules on client relationships

Neil Liversidge

Last month I discussed in this column our golden rules around charging clients. I had a terrific response, so here are some of the rules we apply to client relationships.

The first is we do not let clients take risks they can then delegate to us. We have had clients impress upon us that they are “cautious investors”. Fine. We have built portfolios on that basis. But then they have come back complaining their portfolio “is not setting the world on fire”  or “is too boring and conventional” for their tastes.

They want the kind of rewards that go with higher-risk investments but they have put down the cautious investor marker on the fact-find. You can be certain they will point the ombudsman at it if they are given a higher-risk portfolio and it all goes pear-shaped.

Second, we do not do business with people we cannot trust. We have come across a couple of prospects in the last dozen years who hinted they had faked income protection claims.

One had been receiving payments for over 20 years and the claim looked pre-planned. The law used to call this “obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception”. Clients who lie to an insurer will lie to the ombudsman.

“It is not our objective to hoover up every available client in the world”

Third, we do not take on serial complainants. When an individual has fallen out with a string of previous advisers, lawyers, accountants, estate agents et al, the law of averages applies. The  rest of the world cannot be consistently wrong.

Fourth, we are not evangelists. I used to attend the networking group BNI. One member once asked me: “Neil, my sister says all advisers are crooks and she hates them. If I can persuade her to see you would you like a meeting to ‘convert’ her?” My answer? No thank you. Some people have such prejudices and in my experience they tend to be the kind of bitter, unpleasant and twisted people no sane adviser would want anyway.

The late Labour MP Ian Mikardo famously won his first parliamentary seat in the Conservative town of Reading by having his canvassers identify every Labour supporter in the constituency and then working to get those votes out.

No time was wasted trying to convert the committed opposition. I apply that same lesson to business. If benighted IFA-haters populate certain blogs it is not my job to enlighten them. I do not need them. There are more than enough nice and reasonable people for me to look after.

Finally, we are not a rubber stamp. The insistent client debate shows every sign of going on ad infinitum. Will we do insistent client business? It depends.

That is a subject worth a column all of its own. To sum up, though, it is not our objective to hoover up every available client in the world. I allow myself relatively few luxuries in life but one I insist on is that I only work for clients I like. When you do that, work does not feel like  work at all.

Neil Liversidge is managing director of West Riding Personal Financial Solutions