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The facts of life

Clients’ unwillingness to fill in fact-finds means I cannot do my job correctly

The first half of the year, while financially successful, has been emotionally draining. One of the reasons was the unexpected deaths of three of my clients. Two of them were in their forties and the third was in his eighties. These deaths refocused my mind on the job that we do for our clients and our responsibility to those clients.

Let me explain. On my desk at the moment, I have a new holistic fact-find. It is 24 pages long and incorporates an ID certificate. I am considering whether or not we use this fact-find as opposed to our current three fact-finds and separate ID certificate. Why am I even considering not using this holistic fact-find? It is 24 pages long and clients have an utter aversion to completing forms.

Our current investment fact-find, which is 10 pages long, is one of the hardest forms to get clients to complete correctly and we have a separate mortgage fact-find and a protection fact-find.

I imagine that if I slap a 24-page fact-find in front of some of my clients and go through all the explanations about the need for them to provide as much information as possible so that I can provide them with tailor-made advice that is specific to them, I will have tremendous resistance to the completion of this form.

The holistic fact-find is an excellent document. It provides all the information I could possibly need to advise a client but will they fill it in or will the sheer volume of the form scare them off?

Going back to my clients, as I said, two of them died of cancer in their forties and one of them was meticulous in providing me with the information that I required in order to advise him. As a result, when he died, he had sufficient cover for his mortgage and his other liabilities and had provided for his wife in such a manner that she would never ever have to work again. With this client, I had been allowed to do my job properly. He had taken on board the importance of providing information which was relevant and current.

My second client, who ran his own company, resisted completing a fact-find in any detail and every piece of information that was gleaned from him had to be extracted as if I were a dentist pulling a tooth. He would take on liabilities and not tell me and when he died, sorting out his affairs was a nightmare, to such an extent that his wife was not even aware of who their mortgage was with and how much it was. Looking back at his fact-find, it has on it “client would not disclose information” because he deemed it irrelevant to providing him with a pension.

With this client, I was not allowed to do my job correctly and as a consequence, his wife, whilst not financially destitute, is not in the same position as my first client. In addition to the emotional trauma she has suffered through the sudden loss of her husband, there will also be the ongoing financial trauma of dealing with their financial liabilities and I can only provide scant assistance.

But you cannot force a client to give you information they are unwilling to provide and you cannot force a client to take out protection that they are unwilling to buy.

I want to choose the holistic fact-find because instead of having four forms, I would now have one. I fear I will get less information from clients as a result of it and I will have to sit down with another widow who is not sure if she will be financially secure.

My determination is that I will not allow this to happen again. I will, more than ever, insist that I cannot provide the holistic service that I should be without obtaining full current and relevant details of clients’ liabilities.

The resistance to filling in forms is a big problem and I do not know how to get around this with clients but I can see this why clients flock to the no advice execution-only route that some providers give them, where the forms are completed for them and no responsibility is taken for the advice. We must combat this by better education and stress the values of advice.

John Winful is a partner at Winful Associates


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