Is the burden of phone recording worth it?

Natalie Holt, journalist with Money Marketing Photo by Michael Walter/Troika

“This call is being monitored and recorded for training purposes.” We hear this line so often when we call big financial services firms that we barely process it – just another recorded statement you listen to until you get to speak to a real person.

When the new rules come in in 2018 requiring advisers to record phone calls, will clients bat an eyelid? Probably not. But then again, it is all in the framing. “This call is being monitored and recorded to safeguard against future complaints and because the FCA says so” may be strictly accurate, but does not exactly engender a nurturing, trusting relationship between adviser and client.

It is important to stress that under the rules as proposed, not all phone calls will have to be recorded, just the ones relating to a transaction or client request. The difficulty, of course, comes with the evolving nature of client conversations. The call that starts with a general catch-up about the health and wealth of relatives and pets will more often than not morph into a question about the health of a client’s portfolio. It is a shame that relationship could be soured by having to break off the conversation in order to record it.

Despite the added compliance burden, the idea of recording calls is this will protect advisers as much as it will clients. It may begin to sound the death knell for vexatious complaints, with clients being fully aware that their version of events further down the line will be measured against hard evidence.

Recording calls will also have to interact with the black and white rationale of suitability reports. By the time this is introduced, who knows? We may even have a workable format for suitability reports which are made all the more concise when they are backed up by call recordings. (I live in hope).

Part of the reason advisers are frustrated by this requirement may be less to do with the cost of recording and storing client conversations, but more due to the FCA’s track record on handling copious amounts of data. You need only look at the volume of data collected through regulatory returns – I shudder to think of the vast phone records that will be requested by the FCA for little material gain.

It comes back to the adviser/client relationship. Alternatives such as note taking and minutes of client meetings may offer a less intrusive way forward for consumer and adviser protection than blanket recording.

Natalie Holt is editor of Money Marketing – follow her on Twitter here