If we have a toothache, we go to the dentist. This is common sense, because the habit has been drilled into us from childhood. But what if the decay isn’t in our teeth but in our savings? Some people would immediately think of a financial adviser, but many more probably wouldn’t, because that habit isn’t so automatic.
Of the people with sufficient assets to make financial advice worthwhile, all we can really say is that some seek advice and some don’t. So what is deterring the second group? If we could only answer that question, then financial advisers could potentially tap into a whole new market.
People’s attitudes to their finances can be broadly divided into eight categories – a whole spectrum of different attitudes.
The range of financial attitudes
There are many key life events, including buying a house and retiring, for which a large proportion of people do not seek professional advice. Research[i] suggests that considerably more than fifty per cent of people who might reasonably be expected to have sought financial advice, did not do so. Why didn’t they?
The eight attitudes to financial advice could be summed up like this:
The ideal client, clearly, is number eight. The rest of them, numbers one through seven, are unlikely to be on your list of long term clients. Some will be easier than others to sell your services to, while others (e.g. one and two) will be very hard to reach. However, they are all worth trying to win over, because these seven categories account for the 50+ per cent of viable potential clients who could benefit from financial advice, but are not currently seeking it. What if all these go-it-aloners could somehow be brought into the financial advice market?
Open wide – and shout about it
It may sound absurd to suggest that financial advisers could double their client lists. Yet if (as seems likely) the go-it-aloners currently outnumber active clients, then even a small shift in attitudes could bring many thousands of additional clients flooding into the market place.
The key to this is education. In nearly all the examples listed above, the common factor deterring people from seeking advice is ignorance – specifically, ignorance about the value of advice. Regular clients of financial advisers stay with them for a reason: experience has proven to them that they are better off taking advice. They have hard evidence that the advice they buy actually has a negative cost in the long term, because it makes them more money than it costs them. If this weren’t true, they would quickly vote with their feet.
As for those who have sought advice in the past and so believe they no longer need to do so, this is possibly the easiest group of all to bring back into the fold. They have already felt the benefit for themselves, so may need only a nudge – a reminder that circumstances and needs are constantly changing, and that yesterday’s advice is not always enough for tomorrow.
Clearly, many more people would seek advice if they took the time to reflect upon its potential value for them. What prevents them from doing so is a range of different obstacles: apathy, anxiety, lack of awareness, over-confidence, lack of time, or a combination of several. The challenge for today’s adviser is to erode these barriers with a steady flow of education, so that prospective clients can see and understand the value of advice as well as those clients who have experienced it first hand. Don’t leave it until consumers get financial cavities – show them the benefits of polishing their portfolio, and they’ll beat a path to your door.
[i] 2014 Advice Moments research by unbiased.co.uk