For Us - It's Personal

Welcome to my third bi-monthly commentary which I am writing to offer a fresh perspective on what I do and the challenges facing financial planners on a daily basis. As always my working week involves speaking to a variety of different people from various walks of life and advising them on their financial affairs.

I want to talk about client relationships this month following a very sad recent event.

In our business, we are constantly looking for client satisfaction to ensure that everybody knows what we do, how we do it, how much it costs and what benefit it is to the person or business concerned. We don't seek to glorify this, but this is key to ensuring that the client is happy, contented, and loyal. Loyal client relationships are key to our business as they are to all businesses.

Recently I attended the funeral of a client of mine, a client who I had known for 14 years and a client with whom I had a very close relationship. After a period of illness sadly my client passed away and as I approached the funeral I thought of how long I had known this person, the family she left behind, the arrival of her granddaughter and the other associated life events that I had discussed with her over the years, as well as reviewing her financial affairs.

I know her husband, her son, her daughter in law, her sister in law and I have shared news of family events, and the ups and down of life with them over many years.

Clearly my loss was not as great as that of the family but the upset felt at her loss at the funeral was very real. Clients become much more than clients, they become close friends and our relationships with them are very strong. It has to be so.

Even just a few years ago, the amount of face to face contact anybody had with a financial adviser was often very minimal and usually a "one-off" meeting. Business was transacted, commission earned, and that was the end of that. No follow up meetings and no ongoing advice.

With the much welcome introduction of the Retail Distribution Review, the ongoing investment process and portfolio monitoring, client meetings are more frequent than ever before. At least annually we will meet with our clients, but often six monthly or quarterly meetings are routine for us and quite often I see my clients more than I do my own family members. We know everything there is to know about them and base our advice accordingly.

Sadly the passing of any client or any person we are close to, is a tragic situation but my point is not to glory in the event of this, but to illustrate just how close we are to our clients and how much we miss them when they are no longer around.

Ian Howell DipFA MIFS