One of the fundamental components of a T&C scheme under the FCA rules is measuring an Advisers’ behaviours through activity, file reviews, competency assessments, and direct feedback from clients. It’s not just about ticking boxes, it’s about how those boxed were ticked, and why. And one of the most important factors that contribute to behaviours is how an Adviser manages their own and their clients’ time.
Time is critical in our busy daily working routines, and yet time is often managed very badly. Just as an example, think of how many internal meetings you’ve attended where somebody has turned up late, leading to some form of disruption, or the meeting organiser or one of the attendees has not allocated enough time to sufficiently cover the topic of the meeting, resulting in a further meeting or meetings, using up more precious time. Or you may have colleagues who diarise or accept diary invites for back to back meetings, often resulting in very similar outcomes. Maybe you are one of these people as too?
Poorly planned meeting timings may conclude with having insufficient time to fully explore all opportunities presented during the meeting
When we take poor time management into the client meeting environment the potential issues for all parties escalate, especially from a T&C perspective. Here are five top “sins” and potential outcomes caused by poor time management:
Turning up late for client meetings
This demonstrates that the Adviser has poor time management, which is often caused by a range of factors including too many meetings in the diary, meetings poorly planned in the diary, lack of planning travel time, whether by own or public transport, and lack of researching the clients locality for parking provision or walking time from where the public transport ends.
There is nothing worse than turning up late for a client meeting. What does that say to a client? Not perhaps the best start to a relationship with a new client, or even an ongoing relationship with an existing client.
Good practice would be to research the travel routes and times, perhaps ask the client about parking arrangements or walking time from the station, or plan get there early to avoid situations where the clients’ office is further from the train station than envisaged, or that although the client lives in a residential area the nearest non-resident parking is half a mile away. And don’t forget change for parking!
Arriving late may mean that the adviser has to get their mind into the zone immediately on meeting the client, as opposed to being in that place in advance of meeting the client. And of course potentially a late start to the meeting might mean less time with the client.
Of course if there is an unavoidable delay despite good planning then the adviser should always let the client know out of courtesy.
The Adviser runs out of meeting time
Client meetings should always be planned around the time it will take to conclude the type of meeting, whether it is a first meeting, a review meeting, or a presentation meeting. Plus extra time to answer questions or to factor in discussions such as referrals, who should be allocated time so that it doesn’t appear that the adviser is just running away with a name and a contact number.
Poorly planned meeting timings may conclude with having insufficient time to fully explore all opportunities presented during the meeting, or gather sufficient information, resulting in further (and most likely remote) communications without the benefit of having the interaction that only a face to face meeting can have.
A similar outcome may occur where the Adviser has another meeting to get to and hasn’t factored in the travel arrangements between the two meetings.
Not checking that the client has enough time for the meeting
An adviser should always check that the client has sufficient time for the meeting. Good practice would be to do this at the time the meeting is arranged, as it is not ideal for get to the meeting only to find out that the client hasn’t got sufficient time, or even find out part-way through the meeting itself, with again the same outcomes as above.
Over-running the agreed length of time for the meeting
Over-running the agreed length of time for the meeting demonstrates either a lack of pre-meeting planning, or a lack of control during the meeting. It is important that both the Advisers’ and the clients’ timescales are agreed and kept to, otherwise the Adviser could be in a position where they find that they are going to be late for their next meeting, or the client might become agitated or evasive in order to conclude the meeting.
For both the scenario where there is insufficient time, or the meeting over-runs, important elements could be missed which, if in an assessment situation, could make the meeting non-competent.
Open-ended timescale until advice can be delivered or acted upon
An Adviser should always set the clients’ expectations as to what will happen after the meeting is concluded and how long the next steps should take. Next steps would include at least an approximate time to undertake the research, including gathering information for plans under review, and how long it will take to put together the Suitability Report. A timescale based on past experience should be agreed as well as contact points to keep the client informed if delays occur.
All pretty obvious things to avoid, you might say. Shouldn’t happen. But, having worked with a number of different firms over the years, any or all of the above happen more often than you might think.
From a T&C perspective a supervisor does not want to go an observe a client meeting where the Adviser has turned up late, runs out of time, or over-runs the agreed time for the meeting, resulting in more development actions than would be expected, or worse still a non-competent meeting. Nor does the supervisor want to discover that from file review feedback, the Adviser should have gathered more information, possibly that could have altered the advice, or missed potential opportunities. And of course nobody wants poor feedback from client surveys.
Financial advice is more than just technical ability. The way an Adviser conducts themself through good time management and planning is, from a T&C perspective, probably just as important.