Back in the 1980s banking was a face to face affair. If you wanted to open an account, transfer some money or even pay certain bills, you’d need to travel to your local branch to ask a bank official to execute your transaction. And then it would take days – or even weeks – for your instructions to be carried out. Looking back it seems totally crazy.
Everything took such a long time. It was all so painfully slow.
Moreover, it was also expensive. All that manual processing, all those staff waiting behind a thousand of service counters up and down the country and all those buildings cost the banks a lot of money to maintain. Costs that, as consumers, we ended up paying for.
Thank goodness that I can now make things happen over the telephone or by a click of my mouse. It’s so much easier and quicker. There’s no way that I’d want to go back to the 80s, no matter how romantic the notion might be.
But strangely, many people think that the clock does need to be rolled back when using the services of a financial adviser. They think there’s a need to visit their “local branch” (read local adviser) and anticipate that things take weeks to get done. It’s a shame because that’s not the case.
Things can really be a whole lot better. Here’s why.
Communication has changed
Emails, text, Skype and now WhatsApp have transformed the way we communicate with each other. These new tecnologies mean that we’re now able to talk with our friends and relatives in Aberdeen, Austria or America as if they were sat on the sofa opposite us.
But is it really possible for a financial adviser use these same tools to be present for you in the same way, no matter where their office is based? Can they work when it comes making decisions about your pensions?
Absolutely. My firm is using them all day, every day with our clients. Let’s look at one or two examples.
Every month our investment committee considers the global market outlook for subscribers to our portfolio management service. They identify and evaluate emerging opportunities for achieving superior growth for our clients’ pensions and investments and look to spot any threats to their wealth that may be looming on the horizon. Sometimes this means that we’ll recommend make a change to their investments.
We communicate these proposed changes to clients by email. We set out clearly what actions we are advising them to take and refer to the market outlook reports published on our website so that they can read more about our decisions at a time that’s convenient for them.
Modern communication tools allow financial advisers to provide their services from anywhere.
Telling us to go ahead with the changes is as simple as hitting the reply button with a “Please Proceed” message. It’s something which our clients can do whenever and wherever they want. If they’re happy with the information we’ve provided, there’s simply no need to meet face to face.
However, a client may have a question they want to ask. That’s completely understandable, so we’re available for a phone or Skype call when required. There’s no ducking 1-2-1 conversations. We’re just using the tools that our clients prefer, tools that fit in with their busy lives.
Paperwork is nearly redundant
Agreeing to move funds to a higher-performing investment or increasing your regular pension contributions should be quick and easy to execute. Requiring unnecessary paperwork only frustrates the administration of your pension. It creates a barrier that limits our ability to optimise your finances and ultimately help you secure the most in your retirement.
The investment platform that we use allows us to swiftly action your instructions on receipt of a simple email. There’s little need for traditional “wet signatures” meaning there’s no need for you to visit our offices for something that doesn’t add any real value.
On the rare occasion that we need you do physically sign a document, we use a specialist secure courier service to collect the documents from your home or place of work. This minimises the impact on your daily activities yet also ensures that we’re able to process your request very quickly. There’s no waiting around for things to arrive in the post.
Meeting is still possible if you're working with the right adviser
It would be wrong to suggest that there is no place for meeting face to face though. It’s important for clients to be able to get to know me and also for me to get to know you.It would be difficult to build a strong relationship and provide the support you need without ever having met you. That’s where the banks have gone too far – removing the personal account manager has cut the service they are able to provide.
But retaining the ability to meet with your adviser face to face doesn’t mean that the adviser needs to be based locally to your home or place of work.
We focus on serving clients in London and the North East and spend as much time meeting with clients in London as we do local to our offices in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. If you’re based in Greenwich we’ll be able to see you just as quickly as if you’re based in Gosforth.
Are you working with a local adviser, or one that's further afield? Let me know how you find it in the comments box below.