When it comes to determining value, is it really for us, as advisers, to decide? Many say far from it. For them, only the client can make the connection between costs and value derived.
Contingency charging remains the Achilles heel of our sector. The charging option has a clear and unarguable tendency towards bias, which presents a major risk for all parties involved in the transaction.
In showing value to any client it is important their experience is as positive as possible. After all, it is through these positive experiences that such clients are prepared to refer others to our services.
In measuring our success in this area, back-office systems play a crucial role. Too many advisers focus on numbers to the exclusion of what is really important to clients: their plans, their attitudes and how they feel about their current position and where they would like to get to.
I remember asking several back- office providers where I could store the details of clients’ pets – just their names, a rough age and perhaps a couple of pictures of them. Now, before you start to suggest I am trying to create something akin to Facebook, I am not. But it is a fact that many people have more time for their animals than they do for even their own spouses or close relatives.
Mark my words, if you were to arrive at a client’s home, remember the dog’s name and have it recognise you as well, you would be able to go to the kitchen, open the fridge, make yourself a sandwich, maybe grab a beer, walk into the lounge, put your feet up on the coffee table, munch the sandwich and drink the beer. All this without the client objecting – simply because you had remembered the name of the dog.
This underlines the importance of the smaller details, especially where we are trying to create a culture of empathy. Because where that is absent we are never going to take the client experience away from what is, by default, a transactional process. A process which becomes more commoditised by the day; one ruled by price.
For too long the industry has focused on the transaction because it triggered remuneration. Most clients are more interested in how they are looked after in terms of their objectives than the performance of their portfolio. Their priorities, their wishes and their concerns are quite different from how the market is dealing with their back-office systems need to start to store more than just numbers. They need to know how robust relationships are within someone’s family, for example. Are they particularly close to their children? Are they alienated from their children? All that kind of information needs to be captured.
This is where robo-advice systems come under extreme pressure. Knowing that someone gets on better with one child over another, or that a child with special needs will need to be treated differently from the rest does not flow easily from a simple date of birth and gender information field. The market for robo is finite, but for real life planners it is the exact opposite.
Robert Reid is a director at The Ideas Lab