There has been an abundance of articles based on the positives (and occasionally the negatives) that people have identified since the lockdown began in March, including such things as costs savings, time saved, and even being able to go to work in shorts and a tee shirt. I thought I would share my personal view on the positives of not having to travel to observe advisers in action. Including the luxury of being able to do competency assessments in shorts and a tee shirt!
Before March this year I conducted all observed competency assessments by accompanying advisers to face to face client meetings, whether these took place in the firm’s office, the client’s place of work, or the client’s home.
Of course, the lockdown changed all that and, in my opinion, for the better. Since the advisers were unable to undertake face to face client meetings, everything switched over to virtual meetings online or, if the client was not technically savvy, by phone. Which meant that meetings could be recorded and that, in turn, meant that I could request recordings of specific meetings and carry out the assessments from the comfort of my home office.
You have probably had those “didn’t quite catch that” moments from time to time, and of course once it has gone it is gone
Going back to before March for a moment, accompanied meetings had many benefits, but they also had a few drawbacks. For example my ideal position for myself in the meeting was being situated off to one side but able to see both the adviser and the client without appearing to be part of the meeting, but that couldn’t always be guaranteed unless the meeting took place in the firms’ office and so, on occasion I found myself sitting at the same table with the adviser and client, which brought me back into the meeting by sheer near presence alone, and making notes needed to be more discrete, but I guess all assessors have been in that position at one time or another.
But a recorded meeting eliminates such positioning issues, and more importantly it avoids missing something said or done which cannot be repeated in a face to face client meeting. You have probably had those “didn’t quite catch that” moments from time to time, and of course once it has gone it is gone. The advantage of a recording is that it can be stopped to allow a “rewind to find”. However a virtual meeting will never have the same look and feel of a face to face client meeting, and also having the ability to rewind the recording can also be a drawback by increasing the time taken to complete the assessment.
Not every meeting needs to be recorded, of course. There should still be the ability to join a virtual meeting as it happens, if required. Simply switching the video off and muting the microphone takes the assessor out of actively participating in the meeting, same as correct positioning would in a face to face client meeting. But the real benefits over and above a live meeting are being able to review the recording post-meeting.
The starting point for any assessment is the reason why the assessment is being done in the first place. This might be to meet a KPI for a minimum number and type of meetings to be assessed, such as a Fact Find Meeting, a meeting where the recommendation is presented, or an Annual Review meeting. Generally, these will be a box-tick exercise, with further action depending on content of the meeting.
However, there may be other reasons for the assessment, possible based on the outputs of previous assessments, or something that has been brought to the assessor attention. For example, the assessor might want to check whether the adviser checks for any material changes in circumstances at the start of a presentation meeting. Maybe file check outputs show a lack of detail in certain areas of clients’ financial circumstances, perhaps in areas where the adviser is known to be uncomfortable, or possibly unwilling, to explore areas such as protection, or IHT planning. Or maybe the assessor wants to check how questions are posed by an adviser to a client by type of question, or how the question is phrased. If documents are shared in a virtual meeting, the assessor gets to see these too, which is something not always possible in a face to face client meeting. The ability to “rewind to find” allows certain confirmation of the reason for the assessment, and the recording can also be used when giving feedback to demonstrate to the adviser the feedback being given. It also allows for clarification of the “I didn’t quite catch that from here” moments which sometimes occur my position in a face to face client meeting.
Personally, I believe even if life returns to what is was pre-lockdown, and I suspect it will not, the recorded meeting is the way to go. The benefits of being able “rewind to find” outweigh the face to face client meeting assessment. Best of all it is an extremely useful addition to my toolkit and great evidence for the adviser’s T&C file.