I am typically upbeat about what we do for a living. Helping clients understand their financial affairs and how they can continue on their journey as efficiently as possible to long-term financial security brings a huge amount of job satisfaction to the working week. I enjoy the feeling of sitting on the same side of the table as my clients, helping them navigate their financial futures. Talking to others in the profession I get the same feedback.
However, despite this generally positive experience I am sorely troubled. I read in a recent survey carried out by YouGov and commissioned by the International Longevity Centre that only one in five 55 to 70 year olds yet to retire thought the guidance guarantee service would be sufficient for them to be able to make a decision on their pension savings. Fifty per cent believed they would need further information following the guidance, with only 39 per cent saying they would go to a financial adviser.
So there is a considerable number of people who, even after taking guidance and not feeling confident of their course of action, would not wish to sit down with an adviser to plan what could be their most critical financial decisions with consequences right to the end of their lives.
Personally speaking, I always worry about stuff like this but there are wider issues for us all here going forwards. Just how can we have become so remote to so many of the very people we are meant to serve?
All of us as a body of advisers did the technical training, got the examinations and refined our charging models while making them ever more transparent, working hard on demonstrating value through a well thought out and carefully priced client proposition. We increased and improved our reporting and communication to clients and engaged with the press to get these messages out there. We moved away from commissions to fees – many of us years before the laggards were dragged across the line.
Our professional bodies have also been working hard here, with the Consumer Confidence Campaign from the PFS and the long-standing Financial Planning Week from the IFP two leading initiatives. I am told by both of these bodies the results and take up are good when they sit down to verify effectiveness.
In the drive for profitability to ensure adequate capital adequacy and the ability to deliver a professionally qualified, technically competent adviser body we appear to have had, for a large section of society, the complete opposite effect of what was intended. Too many people do not trust us and see us as too expensive.
How have we allowed the system within which we operate to put us, perhaps for the very first time, on the other side of the table from our potential clients?
Lee Robertson is chief executive at Investment Quorum