In Focus: Vulnerability  

'Ditch the suit': an adviser's take on dealing with vulnerable clients

“To enter a complex financial arrangement for which there is no undoing really needs some careful consideration,” Johnson said.

“It is really about acknowledging the extent that it could impact somebody and making sure you don't lose sight of getting good autonomous client outcomes to the best of your ability.”

He added that advisers should not just go ahead and do what they think is the best for their client but instead should work to get the client on board.

Johnson said: “We do not want them to be restricted from good client outcomes because of the vulnerability. We need to find a way to work with them instead and accommodate it.”

Vulnerability can also lead to people being excluded from advice, as they are mistaken for not needing this service, for example if they suffer from illnesses such as alcoholism.

In fact, Johnson said some of his vulnerable clients had highly complicated financial needs.

For example, one of his clients was turned down from getting advice on a number of occasions due to his vulnerable appearance.

However, the client has a £1.5m portfolio which needs to be managed and he is not in the position to make good decisions, therefore it is imperative that he gets advice, Johnson said.

How the advice process differs

Johnson said advisers should consider shaking up the advice process with vulnerable clients as it will never be a one size suits all situation.

For example, if someone is recently divorced or bereaved they may not be up to having long sessions.

Mr Johnson said he has some clients who tire easily and therefore sessions are broken down into shorter, bitesize pieces.

This could mean talking for 10 minutes on a particular issue and making sure it is fully understood before moving on to the next issue in a similar session the following day.

Whereas other clients prefer to take it really slow over two or three meetings and are happy for them to go on for an hour or two each time.

Mr Johnson said: “In terms of a recently bereaved client, the way the grief will impact them will change over time so there will be good weeks and bad weeks, so as an adviser I have to be patient.

“Whilst I know the outcome is going to be good for the client, I must wait until we get to a point when they are able to get on board and are able to make that right decision and engage in the advice.”

amy.austin@ft.com

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