Some of you will recognise these words form the hymn by Walter Chalmers Smith, who entitled his work “Immortal, invisible, God Only Wise”. Personally, I am not a particularly religious person, but I have heard this hymn sung a couple of times in the last year, so it has kind of stuck in my mind. You may ask “what has this got to do with financial services?” The answer is nothing directly, but indirectly the hymn title links into where we are today in the world of pandemic, and the part we can play in this industry.
The pandemic has, no doubt, caused some of us to consider our own mortality, and probably some of our firms’ clients. Every day there is some article on some news feed, some webinar, some latest report, all focused on the markets, the economy, or something else linked to investments. Not unexpected, however I do not see a lot about how people should consider what happens to their families should they leave this planet.
Now is perhaps the most relevant time for many years for advisers to be talking to their clients about mortality, and although I am writing this article a few weeks before publication, I do not expect the world situation to have altered that much. And whether it alters much, one way or the other in the next few months, mortality will still most likely be a topical discussion.
a monthly review for each adviser of one of the most recent Fact Find and Meeting Notes to specifically identify what we, as a firm, didn’t know about that client
Nobody is immortal, and nobody knows when it will be their time. So there are two key areas of financial planning that should be considered: Will they be leaving their spouse, partner, or family in debt or unable to afford the cost of living, and will they be leaving the same people in debt, or in a mess?
If advisers do not talk to their clients about gaps in their financial planning, and the potential consequences of not making provision, then the skilled knowledge and solutions that adviser can employ becomes invisible. Perhaps the advisers’ focus is too much on getting funds under management, or perhaps there is some reticence in discussing such matters.
Either way, those advisers that hold such discussions with their clients are the wise ones. Not only will they provide a holistic service to their clients, they will also most likely increase their revenue and add to their client bank.
So where can we in Training and Competence(T&C) add value? A lot depends on the Scheme and what benchmarks are applied through monitoring. In this current environment, like the advisers who are finding new ways to stay in touch with their clients, we need to find new ways to assist the advisers.
A new measure that I introduced just before lockdown was a monthly review for each adviser of one of the most recent Fact Find and Meeting Notes to specifically identify what we, as a firm, didn’t know about that client. Not necessarily to undermine the advisers’ skills, but sometimes a second pair of eyes picks up something not previously noticed and can be used as a development piece. When we progressed further into lockdown this evolved into identifying opportunities for advisers to have more discussions with clients. After all, it goes without saying that the more people that we talk to, the greater the chances of something happening.
So, the sorts of topics identified for discussion included the more obvious things such as a reminder to make a will, and to set up power of attorneys. The changes in the intestacy law earlier this year. Not a direct income generator, but could lead to discussions with executors, beneficiaries, and other professional advisers. Keeping with protection, how would personal loans, credit cards and mortgages be repaid? Have they planned for their family in the worst-case scenario, or just the best case? Exactly how long do they want to wait before we discuss their views and plans for inheritance tax, or is this the advisers’ perception that you have to be a certain age before this is put on the table? Have we just discussed the personal side for clients who run their own businesses? All these are opportunities for an adviser to pick up the phone and start a discussion.
This measure does work. Last week I identified some missing information in the protection section of a Fact Find, and the client had liabilities that needed covering. I discussed this with the adviser, who agreed to have a conversation with the client. This in turn led to a meeting being booked since the protection plan in question was insufficient to cover the liabilities both in cover and duration. So hopefully that will be a win for both adviser and client. There is also an additional win for me as well since this highlighted that the Fact Find had been completed a few months ago around the original area for discussion, and other areas were just “filled in” but not in any great depth, so there’s some development work to do as well.
There are advisers who only “pick the lowest fruit from the tree”, and there are some that are focused almost entirely on investment and retirement planning. Some may not have been involved in protection planning for some years. However, with income streams being reduced by the markets, and getting in front of clients who aren’t tech-savvy harder, together with having to learn new skills in client engagement, anything we can do from a Training and Competence perspective will likely help to fill the income gap, as well as doing the right things for the clients.
Immortal, Invisible, and Wise. Three words to describe todays’ environment, needs and solutions