Death To The Fact Find Part 2

In February 2013 I wrote a blog on an interesting new web site called Adviser Lounge entitled ‘Death To The Fact Find’. A recent experience prompts me to update this piece.

I attended a compliance course last week on the subject of risk. One way to reduce the risk in a business (we were told) is to have excellent information of your client. Write everything down. Probe the client. Fill in every box of the fact find. Maybe even record the meeting. Just get that darned information on your file!

After the first session I approached the speaker, an intelligent and worldy wise chap. I offered my thoughts on his talk, expressing my concern that an adviser of limited experience could have construed his advice to mean that the fact find is the most important aspect of their job. That if we followed compliance advice to the letter the client experience would be considerably worsened. That compliance was actually stopping advisers from doing their job properly because all this gathering of facts to appease the regulator was getting in the way of really getting to know your client properly.

To his credit, the speaker entirely accepted the point. He even mentioned it later in the day. And he was, after, all only doing his job, part of which is helping firms not get sued. Or if they do, making sure they have a robust defence by proving they had received all the information and have it on file.

What did concern me was that I seemed to be the only person who was concerned about this issue. Maybe others thought the same but didn’t feel like making a fuss.

Towards the end of the session the speaker asked if anyone thought something was missing from the fact find he had been through. The speaker suggested there might be one extra area – objectives. He asked how many advisers in the room include objectives in their fact finding. Only a few arms went up.

If the first meeting is all about facts this sets the tone for the future relationship. If a first meeting focuses on investments then investments are likely to be the focus of future review meetings.

I would suggest that the first meeting or two should be used to help clients better understand their objectives, followed up by a plan to help get there. Each review then concentrates on tracking progress to those objectives. I’ve written blogs on the subject of how advisers can help clients understand themselves better (by using coaching techniques).

When fact finds were first introduced they were a list of product areas and the adviser’s job was to find the boxes which were blank and sell the client the required product. Now fact finds seem to be the compliance officer’s domain, completed by the adviser and used to protect a firm against future litigation.

Death to the fact find, I say. Let’s take it away from the adviser completely and find other ways to gather the hard details. In that way the client facing time can be focussed on the client, their hopes and dreams, and not the gathering of facts.


As it’s Christmas I hope you will forgive me a posting of a link to my novel


5 thoughts on “Death To The Fact Find Part 2

  • Send the client a version of exactly what you have said about the need to discuss objectives in the first couple of meetings. Send them the factfind at the same time. Explain the need for the fact find but also that it’s mostly stuff they know so they can complete it, mostly, before the meeting to save time. Or arrange for a junior staff member or paraplanner to do it via the telephone.

    Incentivise their completing it with a charitable donation or similar.

    The factfind is a critical document and point of reference for everyone that isn’t the adviser in the room, together with their notes of the meeting. You can limit its dominance during your time with the client but you can’t kill it.

    • I totally agree. I’m surprised how often we find that we are the exception in sending out our ‘factfind’ ahead of first meetings and asking clients to fill them in before we meet. This approach means we can spend more time at the first meeting talking about objectives, not asking for dates of birth or National Insurance numbers. It’s taken us years to refine our factfind to create a version clients can fill in without our assistance, but it’s been worth the effort to get to the stage where first meetings become focused on objectives, not hard facts.

  • Chris,

    We call it hard facts and then soft facts.

    The hard facts rarely change (i.e. dependents, DOBs etc etc..). As Benjamin says, we usually just email or post a form for poential clients to complete prior to the meeting. There isn’t any value in this to the client.

    The soft facts or as you say objectives evolve over time and we believe is the whole point of the review and ongoing advice process. Although new clients will have objectives, they probably don’t know how it looks yet until they start working with you.

    This is the area where we believe we can add real meaning to the relationships with our clients. Having read a number of your blogs I am pretty sure you are similar.

  • Hi Chris,

    this is a very interesting topic and a very interesting article.

    We, like a number of people that left a comment on your 2013 blog, send a short questionnaire to the client for them to complete in preparation for our meeting. This way, we have all the basic information ready and only need to use a blank notepad for the meeting itself.

    This works really well for at least two reasons; firstly, we don’t have to ‘waste’ time asking about the hard facts (which are probably easier for the client to fill in on their own time anyway) and, instead, spend the time more efficiently on finding out about what it is that the clients want from us and how we can help them achieve it.

    Secondly, having the questionnaire in front of them before the meeting and even just trying to complete it gets the clients thinking. It gets them thinking about where they are currently as well as about where they want to be in the future. As a result, I find that clients are more prepared for our discussions, which is great.

    I think a big part of the fact find obsession is that many still don’t realise that, even though it is used often, fact find is not compulsory; it is knowing your customer that is.

  • Very good, as ever, Budd.

    I had a “ding-dong” with my compliance support this year: I had dated a fact find “May-Jun”.

    He said that it needs to be dated on the day the information was obtained. I replied that if an adviser gets all of this tedious hard-data in one sitting then he probably should not be an adviser.

    Blank looks all round.


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