Adrian Patty is the director of innovation at Advice Revolution, which provides support and tools to help financial advisers give the best possible service.
It’s important for advisers with an office to ensure it looks professional, neat and welcoming, but increasingly advisers are meeting their clients outside a typical office environment, Patty says.
“The average adviser doesn't need a plush office. Many advisers meet with clients at cafés or offsite locations; others work from serviced offices. The focus should be on developing the right marketing touchpoints before the first meeting, to warm people into the connection with the adviser. It’s all about the client understanding the value proposition and creating trust,” he explains.
Subsequent to the initial meeting, it’s important to maintain the right balance when it comes to ongoing contact with clients.
“Some clients need more face time to take them through the process. Others are happy to meet as infrequently as possible because they are time poor, but still want good advice,” Patty says. “It just depends on the person.”
Generally, he says clients are happy just to meet with one adviser. Although from the adviser’s perspective it can help to have a support person in the room, so the former can focus on advice, while the latter can record proceedings.
“Many advisers run a really good meeting without having someone else there. Others have support because it enhances their ability to give value, because they can fully focus on the client,” Patty adds.
“Often, clients don't know what to expect in the meeting. So how it proceeds is within the adviser’s control. It can be quite a confronting experience for clients. So it's up to the adviser to set the agenda and the expectations. The main thing is to ensure the client feels comfortable so that level of trust is built so they share everything about themselves, as this is the fuel for great advice,” he adds.
If the meeting is successful, at the end of it the client should have a sense the adviser understands their problems, fears and concerns. Says Patty: “That can also be dictated by the client's circumstances.”
What can be challenging is getting through everything that needs to be captured in the meeting. “It’s crucial to be really inquisitive about the client. So instead of it simply being a process to capture factual data, it's important you care about what you're asking.”
The more touchpoints the adviser can provide along the journey that add value and allay concerns, the better the relationship will be.
“There's so much information the adviser needs to compile in the advice process. Because of the complexity, it may be challenging for the adviser to communicate the salient factors to the client. So it’s a great idea to provide the client with a summary of what was covered in the initial meeting,” Patty says.
Also, there may be a considerable gap in time between the initial meeting and sending the client the statement of advice (SOA). So, it’s important to do a recap of what happened in the first meeting when running through the SOA, to ensure both parties have shared expectations. Part of this is an education process, and advisers also need to recognise the knowledge gap between them and the client.
“It’s up to the adviser to educate the client about the options they are presenting – and to get the balance right between presenting the options available and ensuring they are suitable to the client’s needs,” says Patty.
“This takes subtlety. Allow the client to lead as much as possible. Make sure the discussion is agnostic and explain the pros and cons of going down certain paths. Open the door to areas about which they may not be aware and make sure you’re not just giving them a single option,” he says.
Peter Horsefield from Smart Advice says there are a number of steps advisers can take to ensure they deliver the best possible advice.
“First, put clients’ interests first. It’s also important to ensure they have access to their adviser. Respond promptly when they call and also proactively call them,” he says.
He says it’s essential to be credible, by delivering non-conflicted advice. “Also be accountable – this means putting a timeline in place so clients have an idea about when their goals will be realised.”
It’s vital for clients to understand the qualifications the adviser has so they have confidence in the process. But what’s also important, says Patty, is ‘social proof’.
This includes having a presence online and in social media, including client reviews. This helps clients have confidence other people find them trustworthy, which ensures the client has trust in the advice process. Advisers should ensure they have an up-to-date web site.
If appropriate, it may also be useful to include client testimonials on it. Client video testimonials are a great way to present this social proof. If the practice has a social media presence, this can be used by advisers to engage with the client base on topical issues, with also helps affirm confidence in the advice process and an understanding of the clients’ world.
As this shows, providing great advice is much more than ticking the technical and compliance boxes. It’s essential to build soft skills, aided by technology to ensure clients have confidence in the advice they are given, to cement long-term relationships over time.
This article was prepared by BT, a part of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141, AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 233714. This information is current as at 30 August 2019. This article provides an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such. It does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to these factors before acting on it.
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