As the coronavirus pandemic was unfolding, like many adviser companies, FH Manning Financial Services felt compelled to “give a little bit back”, according to Claire Markham, its investment director.
On April 2, she tweeted that it was offering phone appointments free of charge for those in the Lincolnshire area who did not have a financial adviser and wanted to discuss investment or pension holdings. On its website, Horncastle-based FH Manning stated that only “factual information” and “reassurance” would be provided.
“Surprisingly, right at the very beginning, when we started sharing on social media that we were offering that time to people, we had very few enquiries,” she says.
Ms Markham puts the initial delay in people using the service down to the shock of being in lockdown and the huge personal issues individuals were having to deal with. She thinks, at that time, financial matters took a back seat.
“Everyone was dealing with the change of working from home, having the children at home, and home schooling. I don’t think there was any capacity to be thinking about what their pension was worth right at the beginning.”
She adds: “I certainly didn’t worry about my pension for the first two weeks.”
Ms Markham notes: “There was so much change in physical circumstances and emotional circumstances — all those things took precedence.
“I think for a lot of people that is still more important than the financial aspect.”
Even among their existing clients, with whom they engaged early on in lockdown, the discussions were less about their finances and more about how they were dealing with the lockdown.
An open door
But despite a slow start, the number of enquiries has picked up.
“Certainly, after a month, the conversations with our existing clients did start to change a little bit and we have had enquiries through this free service that we’re offering,” Ms Markham explains.
She highlights that FH Manning is not the only advice company offering this kind of service during the crisis.
“At the end of the day, our door is always open, and I think a lot of advisers are like that as well.”
Among the individuals without an adviser that Ms Markham and her colleagues have been speaking to through the free service, pensions have been the biggest concern.
“We’ve had younger people enquiring because they have lots of different pots that they’re worried about with a long-term view,” she notes.
“We’ve also had people ring up at the other end asking, ‘is this going to affect when I can stop work?’”
Business as usual?
While FH Manning’s door may be “always open”, the company took a more proactive approach with its existing clients, making sure they were all contacted in the first four to six weeks of lockdown. Ms Markham says the average lengths of those phone calls was in excess of half an hour as they mainly discussed personal experiences.