by Tony Vidler
Compliance has a lot to answer for.
One of the truly negative consequences of evolving best practice advice standards is the trend to torture clients.
Now torture is a rather harsh word, and I am sure that globally there is no particular agenda on the part of regulators or professional advisers or service providers to deliberately torture consumers.
We tell them “this won’t hurt – much“…and wonder why they approach the financial advice process with distinct trepidation?
I am referring especially to that part of the professional advice process that is focused on uncovering the facts and dreams and ambitions and goals of clients.
It is called the Discovery Process. Or Data Gathering. Or Fact-Finding. We call it many things around the globe to make it sound nicer than it actually is.
The concept of determining what matters to the customer, and ensuring that you have all the appropriate information to be able to provide good objective and sound advice is totally valid. It is a necessity if good advice is to be provided that can actually be valuable to a customer, and be valued by them.
The problem is how we, as an industry, approach the task.
An adviser and potential client are happily discussing the way ahead, and the client consents to engaging in the advice process. Out comes the 30 page discovery document…with oodles of boxes to be filled in…many of them with dollar signs waiting with bated breath….and lots more boxes requiring precise data covering pretty much everything from knowing the zodiac planetary alignment for each dependent through to the complete medical history of your grandmother.
Most of us aren’t even entirely sure what our grandmother’s maiden name was…so guess what the client is thinking when they see this process coming at them?
Generally they don’t feel any better about it if we pull out an Ipad instead….they can still see the boxes on the screen…they know what’s coming….
…and so begins the process of disengagement by the consumer. So why do we torture them?
The problem is not the data-gathering process as such. Nor is the problem that we do actually require quite a lot of information to do the job well. The problem – the torture – is how advisers generally tend to approach it.
It really is rather like the surgeon calling you into theatre and showing you all the tools she has and may call upon to make holes in you, and then patting you nicely and saying “don’t worry about it, you won’t feel a thing”. At best you feel trepidation – at worst; blind panic.
Clients don’t need to see the tools before the operation – it is not helpful for most of them.
The solution is incredibly simple. Instead of showing them all the amazingly painful tools, get out a blank sheet of paper.
You did read that right.…I love gadgets, technology, and cool apps as much as the next person…and agree that we need to get a lot of information to be able to do the job professionally and completely. So I suggest a blank piece of paper is the way to go.
You see, when you sit in front of a client with a blank sheet of paper you are subliminally suggesting a number of positive things to them:
1. this process is about them, not you.
2. there are no preconceived or preset paths to be taken.
3. you are entirely focused on them, and paying attention to what they are saying.
4. you know your stuff – you know what you need to do; you know what you have to get; you know where you are going with this process.
5. you are actually really listening to them.
If you want to break down the barriers in your business and get higher levels of engagement and participation by clients consider going old school for some parts of your process. A blank sheet of paper is still compliant – if you have done your work properly and gathered the required information. It isn’t the tool that does the job, it is you. A tool is just a tool – an inanimate object that does nothing valuable until it is used properly by an artisan.
Remember that the ultimate sophistication is simplicity.
Some simple things have stood the test of time because they were the best ways of doing things. And the least painful ways.
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