Watch out advisers, the relationship you have with your clients is at risk! Well maybe, maybe not. However, recent times and the immediate future does pose some intriguing considerations and potential trends, perhaps more influential in specific locations and professions.

During the past 18 months or so, many advisers across the professions based in NSW and VIC have been conducting client interviews or appointments via Zoom, Teams or similar ‘virtual’ means. This may also perhaps be the case for advisers who have clients interstate. For the remainder of the States, it has generally been business as usual with the exception of a few short sharp restriction periods. Whilst this may have added benefits to productivity, as well as firm expenses, due to a reduction in time physically visiting clients or hosting meetings in your offices, I especially don’t believe now is the time to start or continue to withdraw your personal interactions with your clients. Why? Let’s see…..

If we consider for a moment the recent changes within the financial planning profession, many of the changes focus around or require advisers to physically engage more often with their clients than they have ever before. Some of the difficulties associated with this include the ongoing costs of such compliance which the profession continues to address. The profession has endeavoured to find other means of providing advice that meet regulatory requirements but cap or limit their costs. However, we don’t believe an increased need to interact with clients is all bad. If anything, we believe the past 18 months has highlighted an even greater need on the part of many firms’ clients for assistance and guidance, which results in two attributes – trust and the development or reinforcement of relationships. The accounting profession, in particular, is one of the most trusted industries across the board; a strength to build rather than discourage.  

So why do we believe these relationships are under risk? A very good question. In the past couple of months I have been contacted by two different service providers offering to review of the current services provided to me, both of which have left me scratching my head. The first was my current home loan provider. Now this one is not uncommon. I’m probably contacted by this financier every couple of years. It’s almost as though the bank revitalises its approach to attempting to service their clients or a new manager joins the division and insists on proactively contacting clients as a means of extending the services currently offered to their boarder client base. But, I found such enquiries came slap in the middle of the longest lockdown Sydney had experienced yet. Of course, the question I would lead with during such enquiries, ‘is why would I be speaking with a representative of the bank that I don’t know from a bar of soap, instead of my broker, whom I have known since shortly after leaving school?’

However, the next service provider that contacted me was a little more surprising as I had never received such communication, again in probably around 25 – 30 years. It was from an industry super fund, to which I was member. They contacted me noting that no contributions had been made to the account for many years. At the time I advised them that I had moved from the position of employee to director. ‘Oh right’ was the comment on the other end of the phone, only to be followed up with, ‘well we have advisers here internally that can assist you with general advice or your superannuation needs if you would be interested’. My reply, again, ‘thank you, but no I’m right’. This approach really stopped me in my tracks. Perhaps from a cynical perspective, this was a brazen attempt to supersede any advice that I may be receiving from my trusted financial adviser.

At that point it really hit home to me, it was game on! Relationships between advisers and their current clients were fair game, with some potential traction possible where a client doesn’t currently feel valued or have a trusted bond with their adviser. All too often we hear from some clients that they can never get to speak with their advisers, that they don’t receive returned calls, that they are speaking to a new person each year. These are the types of clients that may just take these opportunities to switch teams. Now that may be okay if the firm is losing someone who isn’t their ideal client, however, of late, the loss of good clients hurts, so it may just be time to revisit your firm’s servicing approach for its ideal and desired clients.

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