I was taught by a life company in their sales process a few decades ago that to look after a client well, you need to seek first to understand, then be understood! Possibly a bit trite, but the reality is that achieving the right outcomes is about the right questioning in a professional culture. The usual ‘why, when, who, what’ etc. spring to mind. But getting to understand a client clearly is the key to doing good quality business that will stand the test of time, both for the advice given at that point, but also for the longer term relationship.

The questioning can also be divided into two, in the format of:

  • What they want from you; and,
  • What they want from their financial planning?

What do they want from you?

Do they want a relationship, or just a portal to gain advice? Face-to-face would favour the former, usually at a greater cost than the latter, which invariably is a more advice transaction approach.

We have two outlets to cover both opportunities – Chapters Financial, the face-to-face business, and SaidSo, the online arm. This is because we believe that there will be a part-change in terms of what clients want from advisers as online advice/business evolves at a rapid pace.

The users of SaidSo.co.uk so far seem happy and comfortable to share their plans, needs and aspirations through the information gathering process to create a holistic picture for us of their financial planning objectives and priorities. We plan to enhance and expand this process with a chatbot in the autumn, although if there are any current responses that are unclear we will explore these further with the client online.

Some might argue it is easier to gather client needs and desires face to face. But this still comes down to the right questioning and, more importantly, clear understanding of the answers given. It is possible to achieve an ‘order take’ via both mediums.

Pricing your models accordingly will be vital to profitability and, if you have not achieved this recently, cost your process (however delivered) from start to finish to make sure it is profitable. In our experience, the outcomes for online advice and face-to-face advice involve very different costs.

What do they want from their financial planning?

In a word, trust!

Trust that they are working with the right people, buying into the business culture.

Trust that their correctly challenged decisions will be implemented and achieved.

Trust that future contact will reinforce the decisions that were made last month, last year, five years ago.

I believe that face-to-face advisory businesses have the advantage on this position at this time.

The FCA’s Financial Advice Market Review Baseline Report of June 2017 (page 25) notes a recent survey stating that online advice as a delivery channel accounted for only 3% of advice taken over the 12 month period in question...although I have no doubt that we will observe a significant degree of change over time.

And it will change as trust in online propositions grows. Be ready!