It is an age old saying that first impressions last. And that is why first meetings are always important, be it a job interview, a first date or an initial meeting with a client. It is a great opportunity for both parties to understand each other and to decide whether they can move ahead.
The first meeting is important in laying foundations for the future. Advisers use these meetings to understand the needs of the client and determine whether they want to work with them as much as whether the client is comfortable working with them.
“First impressions count, so it is critical for the adviser to have a clear, consistent structure for first meetings which allows the prospective client the opportunity to describe what they are looking for,” says Martin Bamford, an independent financial adviser at Surrey-based Informed Choice.
Meanwhile Stuart Read, a pension specialist at Devon-based Sabre Financial, says he conducts research on prospective clients via social media and internet sites in order to understand the client and their background.
“The initial face-to-face principle has always worked well for ongoing relationships regardless of whether it continues on this basis as the majority of clients also like to see who they are dealing with and the type of premises/establishment that they are having a relationship with,” he says
Free first hour
While the biggest aim for advisers is to find potential clients, for clients it is to find someone they feel comfortable sharing their financial details and plans for a secured future. Often clients are also worried about spending too much on the process itself and so many advisers tend to provide a first hour free service. This is used by financial advisers to understand their clients and chalk out a plan of action for them in case they were to be hired.
“It would be normal for the first meeting to be offered at no charge,” says Tony Catt, a compliance consultant. “It is purely a fact-finding mission for both parties. Either party could decide not to work with the other. However, it is important at the meeting to set out the terms of engagement and the costs of the services being offered.”
Most financial advisers use this opportunity to outline the services that their firm offers and test the client’s reactions as to whether they value the proposition. While some advisers offer a free first hour to meet with their clients face to face, some companies resort to phone calls as a means to understand their clients better.
“We offer a detailed initial call at our cost with each prospective client,” says Hayley North, a chartered financial planner at London-based Rose & North. “We have a structured process, offering all clients a financial review first so they can ‘try us out’ before we make recommendations. Most clients then go on to do much more work with us.”
Ms North further explains that, if a client is particularly nervous then they meet with them for a ‘quick coffee.’ Referring to first meetings as her ‘favourite type of meeting,’ Ms North says that it gives an opportunity to delve deeper into what a client wants. “We really get a feel for who they are and what they need us to do for them and how the partnership will work in practice.”