One of my favourite movies is an animated film called The Tune. It’s a surreal story about a young man, Del, trying to write the perfect song. At one point he is taken by his mentor to see The Wise One, a old man at the top of a tower. He walks up the stairs to listens to The Wise One. After a while, he comes back down.
“How did you get on?” asks the mentor.
“I didn’t understand a single word he said!” replies Del.
“Of course not,” says the mentor. “He’s the wise one.”
I sometimes wonder if our clients feel like this.
When an adviser is in a meeting with a client, who is the most important person in the room? It should, I’d suggest, be the client. They should be the focus of attention, the person who is doing the thinking, working out their future, maybe even dreaming a little.
So often, however, the meeting is filled with technical information. The adviser is at last able to demonstrate, in front of a real life case, all that technical knowledge they have accumulated. They can put to use the knowledge they have taken so long to acquire. They can, not to put too fine a point to it, show off a bit.
As a result, they have become the most important person in the room. The more information they impart, the less the client is able to think. The fact that the adviser might be chartered has no bearing on what the client’s life might look like after they have retired.
Don’t get me wrong, technical knowledge is important. It’s just that it should not feature in a client meeting.
Ask a client what benefit they derive from having a financial adviser. I’d suggest they are more likely to say “They helped me work out that I could retire five years earlier than I thought” than they are to say “I now understand what a lifetime ISA is.”
I recall a role play many years ago, where I was the client (I think I was playing the evergreen classic ‘Gruff Northern Business Owner’). The adviser asked how he could help, and I mentioned selling a business and having a pension. He then talked at me for fifteen minutes, providing detailed explanations of Drawdown rules, GAD rates, death benefits, capital gains tax. He didn’t lift his eyes to look at me once, instead drawing diagrams on the pad in front of him.
Learning and applying business coaching skills is counter intuitive for advisers as we are used to being the problem solvers, the clever ones in the room. I would suggest they are essential, however, as they teach us to help clients to understand themselves better. In this way we can put the clients in their proper place as being the most important person in the meeting.
Quiver Management run special one day courses to teach financial advisers basic business coaching skills. Details of courses here