Death to the Factfind!

A few years ago, I went on a 2 day compliance supervisors training course in Leeds. You may have heard my screams as the train went past your town, dragging me inexorably towards my fate.

A number of things happened on that course which showed the enormous disconnect between what compliance wants, and what we actually do.

Now, I’m not bashing compliance here. I am actually a great fan of compliance, in principle. Those advisers who used to refer to the compliance officer as the ‘Business Prevention Officer’ have hopefully either been forced to change by RDR or given up the fight and moved on.

It’s the way compliance works that bugs me. For years, the FSA have been trying to force IFAs to be more accountable for their time, to look at client needs, to become fee based planners. And yet they regulate based around the sale of a product. When I submit my Gabriel return, I feel like phoning up the FSA in tears, crying down the phone “You just don’t understand me…”

Back to the supervisor’s course. We were shown a video of the ‘perfect’ first client meeting. The fact-finding meeting. The meeting where you get to know your customer. This, they said, is the way that we would like all advisers to conduct the first meeting.

I stared at the screen, horrified, as I watched an adviser (white shirt, tie, probably white socks too) sitting across a desk from a new client. He had a 19 page factfind on the desk in front of him, each page full of boxes to be filled in. He proceeded to go through each question, looking down as he wrote the client’s answer, looking up briefly, then looking down again as he read the next question.

I don’t need to tell readers of the Adviser Lounge what is wrong with this. At Ovation, we don’t allow a factfind into a meeting. The adviser asks a question, then shuts up. He listens. He (or she, except we don’t have any female advisers. We’d love to, but there aren’t enough around) should be focussed on the client, judging their body language, assessing mood to understand their priorities and beliefs, getting an understand of what money means to them.  They should be guiding the meeting, slowing down at sensitive moments, making sure it moves towards resolution, action points, so that the client will leave the meeting feeling that something has changed for the better. Facts are needed, of course, but they come out through conversation, with the blanks being filled in later, by email or telephone call.

Even better is to have a paraplanner in the meeting as well. Then the adviser can focus totally on the client, with someone else making the meeting notes and gathering the required information.

As I recall, after the video presentation, I offered my opinion about their version of  the ‘perfect’ meeting. The course leader shook his head at me sadly (I’ve had that a lot through my life…), and gave a response along the lines of ‘You might not like it, but that’s what you have to do’.

Facts are needed, of course they are, but they don’t need to be gathered in that first meeting. Let’s get rid of the factfind, and make sure our concentration is on the client and their needs and desires.