James Coney  

Advisers, goodbye and good luck

James Coney

James Coney

Good news SJP advisers, I’m off. Bad news, I’ve not been sacked.

After almost two decades writing for financial advisers (and 10 years writing this column), it’s time to do something new.

Being a journalist gives you an unusual view, being able to see both the consumer and the industry side of this business.

It gives you access to information and people (senior regulators, chief executives and so on) that you would not normally speak to. Here’s what I know.

Most advisers are well intentioned

I’m not saying most are good – it is impossible to make that judgement as I don’t get to see outcomes of clients – but as far as I can see most advisers, and in particular financial planners, care passionately about doing the right thing.

They want their clients to have a richer and stress-free experience and that is the major asset the entire industry has going for it.

But the awful ones are really awful

From firms that charge exit penalties, have limited panels of underperforming funds, vague terms and conditions, to those who care more about assets under management than client outcomes – bad firms that cost their clients money are everywhere.

Particularly unpleasant are the advisers who also have side businesses in unregulated investments. These firms are letting down the entire industry and costing consumers an absolute fortune.

Be confident about what you offer

In this age where everything is available online in an instant, where transparency and accountability are paramount, your fees must be front and centre of your advice proposition, clearly available and easy to compare.

It’s no good arguing that ‘every client is different’ because financial advice is an added-value service. If clients can’t see what they are paying upfront they can’t assess your worth.

You are providing something that your clients do not have the time nor the expertise to replicate. Be proud of the fact that your services cost money and show-off about why you are worth it.

Blow the whistle 

The British Steel scandal was one of the few occasions I can think of where wrongdoing was called out by advisers – but even then it was only a handful of individuals.

For years rogue advisers, and particularly introducers, operated and almost no good firm without being called out. This must change. It’s time to be on the right side of the argument.

If you care about your profession you must be more vocal about those that are doing harm at the moment they are doing it.

You need better advocates

Financial advisers need to have a functioning trade body that understands their needs and lobbies in the corridors of Westminster on their behalf.

It seems most of the time the work of advisers is championed by investment and insurance trade bodies – that’s an unsatisfactory situation because it makes you seem like their flunkies, when actually you should be advocates for the consumer.