Opinion  

How much is too much when it comes to advice?

Simon Read

Simon Read

How much responsibility should financial advisers have towards their clients? 

Should you be helping out with their emotional problems, family worries or even listening to their health concerns? Or is a financial adviser simply there to help keep people’s finances on track and sell them the occasional protection policy to give them some extra peace of mind?

New research from wealth manager Charles Stanley paints a fascinating picture of advisers going far beyond their basic commitment to clients.

According to the survey, a third of financial advisers reckon that clients now need more emotional support than financial.

That means they’re handing out guidance and assistance to help people with their day-to-day lives.

Reshaping roles

The wealth manager says the survey results suggest the role of financial advisers has been “reshaped”.

“Clients no longer only seek financial advice from their adviser, but also look for someone who can go above and beyond the traditional role and demonstrate their skillset as a counsellor, mediator and listener, all the while being more contactable and accessible out of hours,” said the business's group head of sales Sean Osborne.

Part of the reason for the change, he understandably reckons, is Covid-19.

The pandemic has thrown huge curveballs to advisers and clients, “changing the ways we work, digitisation, the financial priorities everyone has, and the moments that matter which prompt conversations between the two”. 

That’s all true, and there have been lots of conversations about the switch from face-to-face interviews to virtual meetings during the past couple of years.

Virtual meetings can be great as they free up advisers’ time as their traveling hours are slashed.

But for every client that’s happy to chat on Teams or Zoom, there are many more that struggle with the technology, particularly if you look at later-life clients.

Talking to contacts, they report that some clients will still not use email or are fearful of online services.

It’s those that need the most hand-holding, I presume, with more than one visit needed to their homes to sort out paperwork or talk over their plans.

And it’s those, I suspect, that are most likely to ask their adviser about matters beyond their investments or savings.

Counselling clients

How do you react to clients who stray away from strictly financial matters and ask about other things?

Responding with a frosty, 'That’s not in my remit', is hardly likely to engender good relationships with clients.

But some may feel that counselling clients on other issues is the wrong move, especially if you already have heavy workloads.

Extending a helping hand can presumably lead to tedious time taken up helping someone deal with whatever has come up in their life.

On the other hand, it must be hard not to respond to a genuine appeal for help.