How can advisers and paraplanners maximise the efficiency of their investment and product due diligence processes? Compliance consultant Tony Catt offers some practical suggestions.
The need for professional advice is based on the assumption that an adviser is likely to know more than their client about the choices which are available to that client when considering how to achieve certain life goals.
The adviser builds up and maintains their technical knowledge by passing the required exams and undertaking regular Continuous Professional Development (CPD). A lot of valuable knowledge is also built up by experience from advising clients over the years.
The FCA expects advisers to select the most suitable products to enable clients to meet their demands and needs and to enable forward financial planning. It is in this selection process that a lot of time can be won and lost.
The use of software tools
When advisers or paraplanners are comparing mortgage terms for example, then there are excellent mortgage sourcing software providers – Trigold, Mortgage Brain and Air Sourcing spring to mind, others are available of course. These are easy to use and give quick, understandable answers and make selection really straightforward.
Looking at protection products, again there are excellent software providers – iress, Ipipeline and LifeQuote and several others. Again, the choice is relatively easy and the comparison of rates is clear. The slope becomes a little slippery when looking at critical illness and income protection plans because providers have different definitions of conditions and therefore sorting out which provider is most appropriate to use is not so clear cut. CI Expert is one product that I have seen that goes into details on critical illness as the product name suggests. I have also seen some interesting comparisons on Defaqto Engage.
So far, so good. In these instances there would not be too much of a your time spent on research due to the excellence of the software and the relative simplicity of the products involved.
A question of investment
When we get into investments, then the research becomes a little more involved. We need to ask some crucial questions and make assessments before we can attempt it. Such questions are:
- Why is the client investing?
- How much is the client investing?
- What proportion of their overall wealth does this represent?
- What is their attitude to risk? Do they understand risk?
- What is the term of the investment?
- How to maximise tax efficiency?
As I so often stress, the effective advice research process starts with a sound, in-depth fact find session with the client. A detailed fact find is the best sales tool any adviser can obtain. Good fact finding helps builds a relationship based on trust. It happens when an adviser does a minimal amount of talking and a lot of listening and noting down all the information that a client is willing to provide. It’s about using empathetic questioning to get detailed information. This will gain a better overall picture of the client’s situation as well as greater client buy-in than a mechanical question and answer session which simply aims to get to the end of the questionnaire.
This leads nicely on to a detailed discussion of risk and what risk means to your client. Again, many advisers waste opportunities by rushing through a meaningless series of questions on a risk profile form. There are many providers of such risk profilers. Advisers need to ensure that they understand the results from the questionnaires and that the risk ratings are in line with their own beliefs.