Opinion  

Arguing your way to good advice

Robert Reid

Life without definition could be argued to be life out of context.There is much talk about the value of advice but to date the need for definition of this value has been ignored or –worse – not recognised as important.

With all this discussion over the value of advice I thought it might be time to define advice in its most productive form. Some may argue it’s the subjectivity of advice that makes it difficult to pinpoint the value with ease. Through repetition, the act of advice could underline the value we need to highlight.

We may be increasingly passive in our investment approach but we cannot afford that passive approach to extend into our financial planning. Advice should be based on deeply held and researched thoughts and beliefs. That means if you have never argued with your clients, you are not delivering advice of significant value.

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Great advice pulls people up, it makes them think; it is certainly not about blindly agreeing with the client from the time you first meet. So ask yourself when did you last argue with a client? If you can’t remember then you need to get into the habit before the clients identify you as a sponge rather than a valuable resource that corrects them when needed.

Those of you old enough will recall Monty Python’s argument sketch; the sheer genius of the team comes through and we end up realising that not all arguments are bad and are at a multiplicity of levels.

In Python the sketch starts off in a waiting room similar to a GP’s:

Man: Ah. I’d like to have an argument, please.

Receptionist: Certainly sir. Have you been here before?

Man: No, I haven’t, this is my first time.

Receptionist: I see. Well, do you want to have just one argument, or were you thinking of taking a course?

Man: Well, what is the cost?

Receptionist: Well, It’s one pound for a five minute argument, but only eight pounds for a course of ten.

Man: Well, I think it would be best if I perhaps started off with just the one and then see how it goes.

It has been said that an argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition, and a proposition is what so many advisers have been striving to create in time for RDR.

Yet few seem to have ever argued with a client and that is a serious flaw in their approach and indeed their proposition. Making it clear to clients that you are there to challenge their assumptions and then to make them explain why they are where they are could give an energy to meetings that they lack.

Just as the risk conversation is just as important as the risk questionnaire, the argument can be the vital ingredient to getting to the point that much quicker.

“Oh, I’m sorry, just one moment. Is this a five minute argument or the full half hour?”