Nick Bamford: The challenge for clients in choosing an adviser

Nick Bamford

What is it about you and your firm that encourages a person to appoint you as their adviser? Perhaps it is your unique combination of qualifications, experience and engaging personality. Perhaps you are able to evidence the skill you employ through relevant story-telling in order to help them solve whatever financial challenges they may be facing.

When you get to my age, clients start to ask you some searching questions. I had a review meeting with one couple last week, who asked: “When are you going to retire?” Some of my colleagues accuse me of regularly answering questions with a question but on this occasion I thought it was valid to do so. “Why do you ask?”

Their response was to explain just how difficult it was to find and engage with an adviser they trust, and they did not want to have to go through that process again.

I highlighted the fact there were other people within my firm who would look after them if for any reason I was not around. These are people they have met and known for over a decade and who know all about them and their requirements. Yes, I act as their lead adviser but the real work is done on a team basis.

I also pointed out that, unlike many jobs, being an adviser is not physically demanding and the idea of a fixed retirement age is perhaps less common.

To put this into context, we were having the conversation around a table in the local arts centre, eating a rather nice chocolate sponge and drinking tea, before I took them to meet with a local solicitor who was going to draw up their wills and lasting power of attorneys. It is not exactly hard, physical work, is it? And if you love doing what you do, why would you stop doing it?

But it did get me thinking about how challenging it is for consumers to identify with an adviser. They have to be prepared to share an awful lot of information with us; a good deal of which is highly personal. They generally do not have much experience in choosing an adviser and mostly do not know what to expect.

With this in mind, once we have got to know people a little better we ask them why they chose us. Often the selection has little to do with the likes of hygiene factors, qualifications, experience and price, and more to do with the way we speak with them. How we make it a fun experience along the way. We employ our people skills and that in itself is engaging. I am sure this is true about most advisers.

I also believe it is a confidence thing. And that is a two-way street: a confident adviser who is comfortable with the value of what they do and what they charge for their service will instil confidence in the client who is more likely to say “yes” to their proposition.

Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice