Fatbergs! 

Put it down to my education, or the fact that I have never grown up (and probably never will), but this story on the BBC this morning held a kind of relentless fascination.

Apparently, an innovative firm up in Ellesemere Port has developed a technology capable of transforming 'fatbergs' into "sweet-smelling bio-diesel".  As connoisseurs of this topic will know, 'fatbergs' are the enormous solid deposits that build up at strategic locations in our sewer network, and literally have to be quarried out, in order to keep things moving along nicely.

Fatbergs consist largely of spent fat and oil, flushed away from kitchen sinks and restaurants, but also combined within the mix are a whole host of substances that you would probably expect to find down sewers - so the "sweet-smelling" epithet, applied to the end product of this innovative process, is testimony to human ingenuity and imagination.  Next, we'll be seeing TV adverts of Angelina Jolie modelling the stuff as face-cream.  Well, I can but hope.

The company running this project is in the process of compiling a map of the UK's sewer network, showing where these things are likely to accumulate, thus improving the efficiency of their collection activity.  Apparently, their intrepid workers hoik thirty tons of the stuff every month out of the Birmingham sewers alone!  And, by the way, if you find yourself griping about your lot as an IFA, that's an alternative vocation to hold in mind, just to keep a sense of proportion.

Which left me thinking:  for the financial-planner, what kinds of 'waste product' do we generate which might be recycled into something that is a little more sweet-smelling?

  • Those enquiries that go nowhere:  they may seem to you to be a waste of time, but it may just be that these are people who are a little slow on the uptake, who do not immediately 'get' the magic of the service you provide.  So, don't just bin their details in a fit of pique - add them to your marketing database.  Keep in touch, send them newsletters, expose them to the literary delights of your blogposts;
  • The kinds of dissatisfaction or gripe which arise, quite naturally, during the advice process - which are usually linked to the perceived onerous burdens of compliance and regulation:  if the client becomes impatient about the completion of a decent FactFind, show him what you can do with that lovely information - and generate an initial cashflow forecast on CashCalc.  There's an abbreviated version that won't take you ten minutes to produce, and it might well 'sell' the benefits of proper cashflow forecasting for the uninitiated;
  • Proper complaints:  you know the kind of thing.  A given product-provider makes promises to you and the client, and then - right at the last minute - drives a cart and horses right through the whole deal.  The client is livid.  He might understand, in theory, that it's not your fault, that you have been as much let down as he has been - but, somehow, there's a kind of guilt by association.  If you do nothing, the relationship with a perfectly good client is probably impaired forever - so don't do nothing.  Pull out the stops.  Find innovative ways to show how much you care about the client.  Make the formal complaint against the product-provider - they'll probably put it into some kind of lock-down, and come out at the end of it smelling of roses (or at least of bio-diesel), but you'll have shown the client that you mean business on his behalf.  You're not some lacky for the insurance industry.  With a little commitment and ingenuity, you can convert the fatberg of client dissatisfaction into the bio-diesel of long-term loyalty;
  • Re-use every bit of research that you do, because every moment of time expended in this direction is precious.  Keep a central repository of past research.  Add to it, refer back to it, update it.  Avoid the temptation to keep reinventing wheels that simply don't require reinvention.  Use your 'reference template' functionality on Clarity to build product-research databases that you can link back to from your Adviser Process.
That's it.  I'm sure you can think of yet more examples of the same principle.  And whilst you do, reflect on the fact that last week, we gave you the high art of the eighteenth century, and this week we're giving you poop.  What other Network supplies such breadth of support?
Kevin Moss, 28/06/2017