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Quality advice v clients’ needs

An IFA recently said it was not their responsibility to create obstacles when a client expressed a desire for a particular product. Customer service dictated that the client should be given what they asked for, regardless if it was the right product or not.

I thought I had understood what had been said, but I could not resist asking the odd probing question to ensure I had not jumped to conclusions. Yes, the message was clear. The IFA expressed that his role was to satisfy the product demands of clients.

So, let’s say, we have a client who has a set view of his or her needs. How does one respond? How do you balance the requirement to provide high quality customer service, if our view does not correspond with the client?

An adviser’s role is to advise. Equally, there is the chance that the advice given will not be what the client wants.

Financial products are complex. The FSA recognises that consumers must be educated. There are many people who need advice to understand the product, and the more people who seek high-quality advice, the more customer-satisfaction levels will rise and the reputation of the industry will improve. Higher-satisfaction levels will also generate greater consumer interest and we may see a reversal of the decline in savings and the failure of many people to take out the most basic insurance.

An article in The Times highlighted many of the elements of individuals’ financial conduct where a more prudent approach might be advised and outlined the advantages for the consumer.

Debt is a subject close to many of our hearts but not all debt is bad. Debt provides access to capital, and capital can be invested to produce a return. So incurring debt to buy an appreciating asset, or items that can be resold at a profit, can be beneficial.

However, incurring debt to acquire an asset that rapidly depreciates or has no permanent lasting value, is not a good idea. While we understand that these maxims apply to individuals, the same is also true of companies and Governments.

We all have examples of cases where organisations and clients have failed to understand and properly describe their actions. It is astounding how often we read that monies are being invested when there is no real asset being acquired, so increasing the provision of services by raising the wage bill is not investment, it is spending and should be recognised as such.

The rise in value of property has left many people with substantial assets which they may be able to use to meet their needs for cash in the future. Many people have factored this into their planning, but advisers will say that property should only be an element of a portfolio and other classes should be included.

It seems that the statistics on savings suggest that not enough people recognise the value of a balanced portfolio and the value of advice.

A client may have to adjust their expenditure levels if they want to increase their savings, another case where the words of the adviser, while properly given, may not be welcomed.

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