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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

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Comments

There are 4 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. 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?

    It is not hard physical labour. But it can become stressful at times when you are running a business whilst being an adviser. To metaphorically keep all the plates spinning at the same time without any of them falling and smashing.

  2. Entirely agree Nick. I’ve been looking after the same clients for around 20 years now and the majority ask me when I intend to retire. I jokingly reply “When my last client dies”!! I fully intend working beyond 70 (health permitting), though of course, the quality of chocolate cake and biscuits they give me will have a bearing on this!!

  3. Not that I want make the obvious statement (sorry), but things used be so much easier years ago (in regards to dealing with new clients) but we are a world away from where we were 10+ years ago.

    Personally, personal recomendations are the only way forward (making the presumption of wanting to avoid the wrong clients and them avoiding the wrong adviser ?)

    10 years ago I stopped all forms of advertisement, gave each of my valued clients 10 business cards, kind of sacked the rest (sorry for the bluntness) and told my remaining clients that I only took on new clients if they recommended by way of an existing client, hence why they have 10 business cards.

    The very true fact is……. if you do a bad job the first thing that client will do is go out and immediately tell 10 people…. if you do a good job, chances are they wont tell any-one ( I exect all my clients to have all the 10 cards I gave them or at least 7)… but if they do you can be sure, they have already been vetted, they know what to expect from day 1, and the trust issue (the biggest hurdle) is there from outset.

    The days of throwing enough mud at the wall in the vain hope some will stick has long gone (thankfully) … this suits my business and how I work, spans of control are kept to a minimum (rather than chasing tyre kickers and people with no money) and the way I look at it I just increase (slowly) my friend base,

    Not for every-one I know, but we get devalued enough from every corner FCA, Press, Government, to the bloke in the pub ….

    This makes any form of advertisement , expensive, un-reliable, and from a clients point of view a shot in the dark

    From my expience (for what its worth) is the people or companies who are forever trying to get new clients are the one’s who have a big attrition rate wrong clients for wrong advisers, poor business and bigger losses

    I would beg any new client or prospective new client reading this ask some -one, a friend, get a recomendation, dont pick up the nearest yellow pages or worse still a glossy advert in the paper and sit endlessly on the phone or seeing an endless stream of advisers till you find (or not) the right or wrong one ! Oh and please, dont fall for a telephone canvass !!!!

  4. And there’s the poor FSA/FCA thinking that all people need to do is to walk down their high street, pick up some initial disclosure documents, and then select their adviser.

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