Surprised by excellence 

It’s not often that I walk away from a product provider meeting feeling positive, challenged, stimulated, enthusiastic.  More often than not, having ploughed, yet again, through the “tell me a bit more about ValidPath” conversation I am left wishing that I had prepared a digital recording which would go through all that while I went off to get a decent cup of coffee.

And I have to say it’s noticeable that, as a network, we get a different quality of interaction with provider staff, not least because we are often approached by the ‘Strategic Relationships Manager’ or similar.  Their approach to client meetings is not always superior, and their ability to manage a business relationships is not always more successful.

On the other hand, progression to this more senior position does often mean a significant improvement in the quality of the meetings.  So, today’s meeting with Neal Smith and Richard Goodall of Parmenion is worthy of mention. 

Whilst product providers do indeed design and manufacture products for which our clients are the end-users, there needs to be a strong relationship between the adviser and the provider.  The long term nature of the products we recommend means that there has to be a high degree of trust in that relationship, as well as a high degree of collaboration between us. 

In particular, where platform and model portfolio solutions are the subject of the meeting, we are not talking about simple factual stuff like pricing and product features.  We are talking about implementing long term solutions which we would like to use to help our clients meet their personal and financial planning objectives. 

But you know all that.  What became especially apparent in today’s discussion though, was the importance of working with strategic partners.  Whilst the company reps who visit ValidPath are often called Strategic Relationship Managers, that doesn’t really mean that much in practical terms.  It’s usually a senior sales manager who’s responsible for firms with a national footprint. 

Rarely are we treated as strategic partners working together in a strategic relationship.  More importantly, it was inspiring to be reminded of just how innovative Parmenion was when they launched, and how innovative they remain with the launch of their simplified advice platform.  Neither we nor our clients need yet another product, yet another fund.  What we do need are strategic relationships with forward-thinking companies who can develop simple cost-effective solutions for our clients. 

We need thought-leaders, innovative, horizon-scanning for the next opportunity, responding before anyone else.  Yes, it can be risky, for providers and advisers, because everyone finds it more comfortable to work with the known than the unknown.  But helping us help our clients solve their problems before they even realised they had problems is a skill. 

It’s a rare one, and Parmenion has it. 
Gill Cardy, 18/07/2014