In a distrustful age of fake news and know-it-alls (who usually turn out to know little about anything) who can you trust?
That is an issue that should be at the forefront of every adviser’s mind because it is at the heart of growing a business – particularly for smaller companies.
Trust is what builds growth and long-term clients.
Recommendations are everything and reputation is the key to that.
No one normal knows or understands formal qualifications. That CF30 certificate you are so proud of is only good for compliance, not for wowing new clients.
So getting your track record out there so that the average punter (or mass affluent BMW owner) finds out about it is problematic.
It is not like smaller companies have immense marketing budgets for high-profile television campaigns.
And client referrals are one thing, but wider recognition is harder to achieve.
This struck me more than ever when I saw the top IFAs list that was published by the referral company VouchedFor, and which appeared in The Times.
In eight pages of listings, hundreds of IFAs from around the country were named for their work in different categories and highlighted for their transparency on charges.
In all, this guide will have found its way under the eyes of more than 1m people. That is the wider recognition that so many advisers crave – for the rights or the wrongs of how the list was compiled.
(Full disclosure here: although my day job is for the Sunday Times, I have no knowledge of how the guide was compiled).
But many advisers I have spoken to are still not happy, not least because polls like these will naturally find those who are backed by bigger companies such as True Potential or St James’s Place.
This leaves the one or two-man bands somewhat sidelined.
It is a completely fair moan, but also reflects a quandary that most smaller businesses find themselves in.
The cost of their compliance and administration is already a burden because they lack the economies of scale of these bigger companies, so any feeling that the big boys are getting more than their fair share of praise can rankle.
Besides, what are we to make of client reviews anyway? They are important, but not every client is always going to be happy.
No awards, no marker of excellence is ever going to be perfect.
So advisers should not shun any attempt to raise their profile and status.
As one comment on the FTAdviser website said about the VouchedFor list: “This is just a good bit of advertising for VouchedFor dressed up as a national popularity contest.”
Well, I say let us not rush to be sniffy. After all, what is wrong with being popular if that brings more clients?