Trusted Adviser...or what? 

We have written before on the question of whether we are trusted advisers or order takers.  A recent article published in Money Marketing took a similar theme and provided a compliance overlay [When to say no to clients].

Let’s take a step back. 

We expect sales people to be in the business of selling.  I do not seriously expect the sales assistant to tell me if my bum looks big in this.  I do not seriously expect the car salesman to tell me that integrated sat nav isn’t really worth paying for if you already have access to Tom Tom.  (Interestingly, two examples where this is exactly what happened, and I now enthusiastically recommend both businesses to anyone who will listen.)

We expect professionals to be in the business of advice.  We DO expect our solicitor to tell us that a potential case has no realistic chance of success.  We DO expect our accountant to tell us that the tax saving scheme is unlikely to be effective and could in fact make things worse.  We do expect our doctor to refuse a repeat prescription of a potentially addictive painkiller. 
So, what are you?  Salesman?  Or professional?  More importantly, what are you in the eyes of your client? 

Are you a salesman, desperate to make a sale, earn some commission, saying or doing anything to close the deal?  Or are you a professional, desperate to focus on your client’s best interests, even if it may not be the most lucrative short term decision?

The compliance consultant’s analysis is pivotal.  I was trained that the execution only declaration was that “no advice has been sought or given in association with this transaction”.  Clearly if advice has been sought and given it simply cannot be execution only, tempting as it may be to keep the client happy. 

If a client has asked your advice and, having received it, wishes to ignore it, then the correct classification of that person is an ‘insistent client’. But I would go further.  That person may be an insistent client from a compliance point of view, but he or she is not actually a client. 

We all faithfully hand our clients a Client Agreement at the start of our business relationship.  We set out the things that I as adviser will do for my client, and it sets out the things that we expect our clients to do for us.  And we agree them. 

Here’s the radical thought: your Client Agreement includes a clause that if you advise a client and they wish to not just ignore your advice, but proceed with a transaction in deliberate defiance of your advice you will (a) not facilitate that transaction and (b) regard their attitude towards you and your advice as cause to terminate your relationship with that client with immediate effect.

You are professional.  Don’t let your clients treat you like a salesman. 
Gill Cardy, 08/05/2014