Client Focus or Compliance Focus?
Advice Processes & Best Practice Advice & Compliance

Client Focus or Compliance Focus?

January 17, 2022

by Tony Vidler  CFP logo   CLU logo  ChFC logo

compliance-focusI support a compliance focus 100% ….but I support a client focus 100% too.


All too often it is impossible to achieve 100% for both simultaneously though.


Where does a professional compromise?

Or does one not compromise?


I think this picture captures the challenge of delivering compliant “best practice” advice whilst also  attempting to deliver a service and professional advice experience that the client would choose.  And somehow todays professional advisers have to achieve both.


What highlighted this issue (again) was a recent discussion with an adviser about whether a professional should just let a client buy a product solution – or try to stop them and make them go through a comprehensive advice process.


Well let’s get clear about one thing: you can not MAKE a client do anything in particular.  They will do what they want to do, and they will do it how they want to do it.  The professionals choice is to deliver a service which meets clients expectations, or not.  Deliver the service and you can reasonably expect to be remunerated and valued by the client.  Fail to do so and what right do we have to be valued by the client at all?  After all, we either couldn’t deliver according to their expectations, or we refused to (which is worse).


Professional services as a business is about getting both elements right: being professional, and, providing service.


The person who is paying gets to decide which they want first: the service or the professional process.  What we need to be mindful of is that the only choice the client has is which element they want first.  If they want us to provide a service – perhaps just a transactional service – then if you wish to keep them as a client you’d best deliver that.  or they will find another business which will deliver it for them.


Professionals do however have an obligation to other stakeholders as well as the clients to deliver service to certain standards.  We have come to describe those standards as “best practice”, in recognition of them being the standards which are agreed to collectively by other professionals in the same field as being “best for client”.  So our own ethics and agreed standards – regardless of other standards which the lawmakers might impose – must be met as well.


Client focus, which is fundamentally about delivering the professional service experience which the client values, must be paramount.  Regulators are not paying us.  Our peers and professional colleagues are not paying us.  Nor are the competitors or anybody else….the client pays us.  Our primary business objective in any engagement must be to deliver the client experience which they will happily pay for.


THEN we can layer in the best practice requirements.  We include them and cover them at any point where they do not inhibit the clients’ service expectation.   Where they get in the way of the clients’ service expectation, sideline them.  Don’t ignore them, but defer them.  If they client doesn’t value (or want!) the 20 page report with colourful pie-charts, then don’t make them wait for it.  Send it later.


Professional services firms today have more challenges than ever before, which makes it critical for us to be even more client focussed than ever before. The clients have more choices and are far quicker to pursue those alternatives than they have previously.


Deliver the “user experience” wherever possible in the practice….we must walk the carefully designed path of best practice and compliance, however we can do that whilst also allowing clients to take a few shortcuts of their own making.


Client focus today means understanding where and how clients might want to take shortcuts.  Compliance focus is making sure that we trod the path safely behind them if the clients choose not to walk down the same path we must.


You might also be interested in this related article:
Financial Advice: You Can Be Compliant Without Being Dull
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