I have a client who is lovely, but a real stickler. You know the type: old school, traditional, well informed, and observant. We have a good relationship, even if he’s not so keen on the fact I’m slightly laid back – sartorially speaking. I’ve got a beard, I don’t get my hair cut very often, and tend to wear t-shirts rather than suits.
I used to find this vaguely funny, until a few years ago he made a comment that really stuck with me.
I was on my way to a meeting with him but hadn’t taken an umbrella with me. On leaving the tube, I got completely soaked in a rainstorm. I arrived at the meeting bedraggled and wet.
The first thing he said was: “You didn’t plan that very well, did you?!”
And he was right
I hadn’t planned the journey and it reflected badly on me. Not a very good advert for my one big skill.
In a way though, I’m glad of this comment, because I think I directly benefited from it last month.
I live in Leytonstone in East London, which has never flooded and is nowhere near a river. Despite this, my family and I have the most comprehensive buildings and contents cover available – including flooding.
At £92 a month, this wasn’t cheap, and last year the provider added 20% onto the premium for flooding risk (their data must have been telling them something). Even though at the time this might have seemed a waste of money, that client’s comment must have been in the back of my mind when I took out the additional cover.
Because what happened? This July, severe flash flooding left our kitchen and basement two-foot deep in water.
It was distressing for the whole family. But thinking as a planner, I felt ok. Other than build an ark, I couldn’t have put us in a better position financially.
The policy paid out
The insurance company quickly arranged for us to move to a local hotel while a team of specialists fixed the house. The guttering people, building surveyor, loss adjuster and specialist cleaning company all descended just a week on from the event.
While neighbours in the same situation struggled to find people locally to carry out work on their homes, our policy meant we could source tradespeople from all over the country. In fact, most of our neighbours, it turned out, had buildings insurance, but no contents insurance.
Protecting a family home and its contents against flooding is of course just one small part of financial planning, and it may not be the most exciting bit for us as planners. But if the situation had been different, imagine what a client might think?
What the client sees counts
Sometimes it is the small details that count, because they’re the ones that can be seen and judged. In this case, having the best insurance wasn’t just the difference between getting our house fixed quickly or waiting several weeks for repairs. It was a demonstration that in both my personal and professional life, nothing is left to chance.
As ‘holistic financial planners’ we often struggle with the message because it’s invisible, intangible and not necessarily what clients expect when they go to see a financial adviser to ‘sort their pensions out’. So any opportunity to engender that feeling of trust – and more so leadership – has got to be taken.
We’re our own walking billboards, so we need to present an image that’s watertight, not just give them the impression that we’re good in one or two areas.
This means paying particular attention to the finer details.
A final example of this is of a graduate I once worked with who was really good at the big stuff, but spelt a client’s name wrong and made a mistake in her address.
While my colleague could take pride in everything else she’d got right, the client was upset. But my colleague was confused.
However, it was the only thing the client understood. The spreadsheet is important to us, but a client can’t judge us on that. They’ll simply think: why would you get the complicated stuff right in you can’t get simple stuff right?
Or, to put it another way, why is your hair wet when you could just have brought an umbrella?