How to have difficult conversations with clients

This article is part of
Guide to advising clients with mental ill health

How to have difficult conversations with clients
Photo: Fauxels via Pexels

Creating a financial plan for clients requires having in-depth conversations. 

Traditionally, these have always been face-to-face but post-pandemic, more remote conversations have been taking place.

While there are advantages to remote meetings over Zoom or Microsoft Office, there are of course other issues that might need to be considered, such as being aware of a client's body language and tone of voice - things picked up more easily during in-person meetings.

Article continues after advert

These things are true of clients who do not currently have a diagnosis of mental ill health, and can be even more so for those who do have mental ill health.

Indeed, as the Financial Conduct Authority's own work on vulnerability has highlighted 75 per cent of customers with mental health problems have serious difficulties engaging with at least one commonly used communication channel, such as the telephone, email or letters, so understanding these preferences is a helpful first step.

So how should advisers set about helping to structure conversations when it comes to financial planning or guidance for people with mental ill health? And once conversations have begun, what sort of questions can be asked - without being intrusive - in order to get the best possible financial plan for clients? 

"Customers self-evidently will have different needs and will want and warrant different approaches", says Peter Hamilton, head of retail protection for Zurich. Therefore, getting to know your client, in the way that best suits them, can take time but will be valuable for them - and for the adviser.

For Kathryn Knowles, co-founder of Cura Financial Services, it is useful to be as flexible as possible when it comes to even setting up that initial meeting. She explains: "You may need to have an in-person conversation, they may want to chat solely by email until they are more comfortable or they may not want to chat about their mental health at all."

Andrew Wilkinson, director of Moneysworth, agrees making the client feel comfortable is vital, because only when they feel they can trust the adviser with their personal information will they trust the adviser with managing their finances.

So treating all customers as if they could be vulnerable, and giving all potential clients a sense of control at the outset, will help build trust. 

He says: "Some people don’t want to have to speak to anyone about their mental health but are still interested in applying and an adviser should be able to facilitate this, for example by arranging for a link to be sent to the client to complete their application online."