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What to do when a romance turns sour

Bryce Sanders

When someone approaches you with their story of a client-adviser relationship gone wrong, don’t think of it as stealing a client when offering to help them, but rather as helping a prospective client address a problem and move to a better situation.

Often clients complain about their adviser. It is human nature to complain when things do not work out. Some complaints are serious and changes will need to be made.

Very possibly a client’s adviser may have put his own interests ahead of the client. They may have recommended products with higher fees when others were more suitable. They may have given inappropriate advice.

Your prospective client may have outgrown their existing relationship. Often this happens when the adviser works in one segment of the business. The adviser might offer insurance but not investment products or lending services. The client’s needs have changed and one product category no longer provides all the answers.

However, the most frequent failing of advisers by departing clients is lack of contact or attention. The client feels taken for granted. They are rarely contacted and their calls are rarely returned.

Also, there is a dark side to running a fee-based business. The original logic of charging clients a fee on assets is the adviser is paid fo

r their guidance even when the best advice is to sit tight. Some advisers may rationalise they are being paid on those assets anyway, why not focus on bringing in new assets from additional clients and be paid more? Current clients do not receive the attention they deserve.

Thinking about themselves. Outgrowing the relationship. Being taken for granted. It does sound like a romance turned sour. So how do you leave this lover?

Beginning with the assumption that your prospective client has a valid reason for leaving their current adviser it might follow that they do not know how to have a conversation to effectively end the relationship. Clearly, you cannot have it for them or offer to write it out. But you may want to role play and help them with structure of such a conversation.

Think of it in three parts: What is the issue? Why is this a concern for the client? Finally, what action is your prospective client going to take? This approach is simple and it makes sense. If the adviser becomes argumentative they can restate the three parts over and over.

Ignored

Clients pay fees to advisers and so have a right to expect something in return. They deserve respect.

Issue: A couple of years ago we moved to professional money management. Previously you were calling regularly with suggestions on buying and selling.

Concern: I have not heard from you or your assistant during 2012. I know you cannot control the market or performance, but you should have been letting me know how I am doing.

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