by Tony Vidler
Total honesty with clients is a wonderful idea….but 100% honesty in all things with clients would kill us commercially.
I was discussing the concept of professional honesty a little while ago with someone from the “holier than thou” side of the professional fence. You know the sort – the hardcore ideological zealot who holds that financial advisers are only decent humans if they can prove in advance that they are more pure than the Pope. To be honest, the conversation went nowhere – neither of us moved position in our views – but I had a lot more fun than he did! I started playing with “what would we really say if we were 100% honest sometimes with clients” ….and the discussion sort of degenerated from there really.
If we were 100% honest all the time with every client we’d actually find ourselves saying things like:
We could go on with dozens of examples, however imagine writing a letter to some of THOSE longstanding clients that was totally honest?
You may not be aware that the laws governing the professional obligations of financial advisers has been changed. In fact it changes weekly, but as you have not returned one of my calls or kept an arranged appointment for a couple of years now I appreciate that this may indeed be news to you.
So I thought I would summarise the most important of the changes for you:
In effect, I now have to disclose anything and everything to you, whether you want it or not, with 100% honesty.
Your investment portfolio has been plummeting in the last year or two. The performance has been so appalling that you may as well be holding your investments in Russian Roubles.
What have I been doing about it for you? Nothing.
Why? Well you didn’t care enough to value my time and advice when it began turning into a problem . Besides, my residual income is decreasing by the minute seeing as you didn’t want to pay fees, and that concerns me.
Frankly I am thankful to the regulators for forcing me to put these thoughts in writing, it is about time we were totally honest with each other. And because I now cannot give investment advice over the phone I have had my telephone number changed to minimise the risk of being “shadow shopped” by strangers looking for someone to sue.
The new number is now unlisted.
My service offering to you moving forward is to provide you with one telephone number digit for every referral you provide seeing as you do not pay for my time. If you would like to sit down and discuss your portfolio without paying for my time again, send me seven friends.”
Total honesty is a wonderful concept, and perhaps with some of THOSE clients it would be a healthy thing. For most client relationships however tact is an essential component, and tact tempers total honesty.0