I recently asked one of my clients what they found most valuable about the work we had done for them. Some would call it a subtle way of blowing one’s own trumpet. Others would say you are missing out on a learning opportunity if you do not ask for feedback. Of course, it is also a marvellous way to find out how others could be helped.
So I sat back and listened. And I could not believe what came out. He told me he had never forgotten how important it was to take advice. The ability for his parents to successfully claim attendance allowance was an unknown to him. To order the form on the telephone (yes, the telephone) in order to get the benefit payment started sooner, a masterstroke.
Both the eventual recommendation and price negotiation of an immediate needs annuity to meet the required guaranteed income, which gave the ammunition for a care home fees reduction on the basis the client was far more unlikely to run out of money, resulted in thousands of pounds worth of savings.
The client went on to say that, on top of this unexpected windfall, the advice had given them welcome reassurance, peace of mind and the ability to concentrate their efforts on other demands placed on them. Was the question worth asking? For sure.
Specialist knowledge can add so much value to the advice process. In this case, it was practical later life knowledge, much of it attained through continuing professional development with the Society of Later Life Advisers. But it could also be tax planning, for instance, or winning back child benefit or a lost personal allowance through pension contributions. These things are not so obvious to people with busy lifestyles or who simply just do not know to know.
That said, there could well be times when little information comes back from asking the question. When value is not sufficiently evident, this exercise helps to get back on the conveyor belt of delivering high standards of practical advice that can be repeated and which ultimately ends up rewarded with clients bursting to refer. Deliver the unexpected and you have got yourself a valuable advocate.
All of this comes against a backdrop of knowing that some advisers are getting disheartened by reading too much into the rise of the robos and their supposed imminent redundancy.
No doubt this gets compounded if a sequence of meetings are with know-it-alls that thrive on kicking confidence. But it is the many people who shy away from taking financial action that we need to get to. We need to reach those that are perhaps too proud or too ignorant or seemingly just too inaccessible without the help of those we are already dealing with.
Ask clients the right questions and you can tap into a lucrative market that will keep your business thriving and clients feeling so much better for it.
Mel Kenny is a chartered financial planner at Radcliffe & Newlands