Nick Bamford: Trust is about action, not words

Nick Bamford

In a recent article for Money Marketing Nic Cicutti asked us to face up to the lack of trust in advisers and that was a fair point. Indeed, it comes at a time when many people seem to want to hammer home just how little consumers trust the financial services industry at every opportunity they get.

Take the Financial Advice Market Review final report, for example. Looking at accessibility, it stated: “A further contributing factor was a lack of trust in advisers, due in part to historic examples of misselling of products such as personal pensions and structured products.

“Although the RDR made significant progress in professionalising the advice industry, trust remains relatively low and it seems likely that it will take longer for awareness of the changes introduced by the RDR to lead to high levels of confidence in the industry.”

There is, however, a bit of a mismatch between the day-to-day experience of professional advisers and the constant drip of negativity from commentators.

The former know full well they have created a real relationship based on trust by delivering exactly what they have promised their clients in an environment of total transparency.

The latter have usually not had any first-hand experience of that relationship but still feel their comments have validity. The fact is, though, they do not.

It is high time these commentators actually took a long hard look under the bonnet; spend some time in an adviser’s office (a week should do it) and experience exactly what takes place on a day-by-day basis. Perhaps then they would be in a position of knowledge.

I wonder if they realise just how rude they are being by claiming consumers do not trust us? I try to shield my team from this nonsense as much as possible because such a claim is a personal affront to their efforts to deliver the very best to our clients.

Cicutti usually starts his column with a story from his past. In the piece in question, he claims the hospital environment he worked in back in the 1980s had “endless petty cruelties and poor care inflicted daily on vulnerable individuals”. Horrible behavior.

The thing is, back then, anyone outside the medial profession looked at those within it as dedicated and devoted professionals.

He concludes: “The same imbalance of knowledge and understanding applies just as much to advisers and their clients. Most consumers do not know what to expect from their advisers, so it is hardly surprising they trust them. It is only when things go wrong that the penny drops – and trust shatters, never to be rebuilt again.”

Trust is about action, not words. Advisers need to continue to deliver the most professional and suitable advice to their clients in an atmosphere of good communication and transparency. Eventually, we may just be able to convince the commentators we are worth trusting. Remember: it is what we do every day – not the opinions of the critics – that defines us.

Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice