How do you demonstrate that you put the long term needs and goals of your clients first?

Steve Gazzard from the Institute of Financial Planning, talks client trust, expert knowledge and what it means to be accredited

Being an expert is not enough; clients need to really trust you and the advice you give. This requires clarity around what you offer and trust, but there are different levels of trust.

The ‘question of trust’ campaign that IFP supported raised some interesting issues of the definition of trust. There are two forms of trust; trusted to do what you say you will, and always trusted to act in the best interests of the client. Clients will interact with their advisers in different ways indicating different levels of trust. For example, a client may trust you but not share everything with you. Other clients will trust you to a high degree and share everything with you. But some clients will trust you implicitly, share everything with you, without hesitation, and call you before anyone else. You are their “Go To” person. That’s what Accredited Firms aim to be.

Accredited Firms are accredited by the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP), the professional body focused

on Financial Planning in the UK. Firms use the branding and trademark (right) to show their status as one of the UK’s leading Financial Planning firms. In short, it means that having successfully undergone the IFP’s rigorous accreditation process, consumers can be confident the firm will offer a financial planning service which meets the highest ethical and professional standards.

Specifically, it means Accredited Firms offer these five key benefits:

  1. They help their clients to understand and define their goals for the future more clearly by developing a long-term financial plan.  And once defined, of course, clients’ goals will become much more achievable.
  2. Clients enjoy a long-term working relationship with a highly-qualified financial planner on a structured programme which will keep them on track towards their goals.
  3. They work with clients to create a financial plan which will take account of their goals and provide a secure future for their family too.
  4. All charges will always be entirely transparent and agreed with clients in advance. 
  5. They are committed to the highest ethical standards and carefully manage conflicts of interest.  Clients’ interests always come first.

These are the key practical commitments firms make.  But for their clients, what’s even more important is the way this quality of service makes them feel.

First and foremost, it’s about peace of mind.  It’s about knowing there’s someone there who’s on their side – someone to listen, understand and advise on some of the most important and financial decisions they will face in their lifetime.

It’s about knowing that they have a clear direction in life, and that although there are sure to be unexpected events along the way they are on track towards achieving the life they want to lead in the future.

To sum up, it’s about knowing that they have selected a firm which is proven to deliver the highest standards in financial planning. And when the quality of their future depends so much on the quality of the thinking and execution that go into the financial plan, we must ask why should they be satisfied with anything less?

Being an Accredited Firm is not only good news for your clients, it also results in a highly efficient business model for you, which compares well against the wider adviser market (summary from IFP’s 2014 Accredited Firms’ Survey). In particular they demonstrate:

  • High yield per Planner – upfront and ongoing
  • Low cost of advice compared to many
  • Higher profitability than ‘adviser’ firms
  • Lower risks within the firm – very few complaints
  • Efficient use of Planners time compared to many others via their use of a team approach

Some firms, often operating under the term, ‘financial advisers’, can advise on individual transactions (e.g. finding a mortgage, taking out a pension, and making an investment). There is plenty of evidence to show that advised consumers get better outcomes than self-directed. However, “Financial Planners” and Accredited Firms in particular, work with their clients on an on-going basis, creating, maintaining and delivering their long-term financial plan.

For more information visit the IFP website

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