One of my favourite websites is called Letters of Note. It collects famous and not so famous letters from famous and not so famous people. Some are inspiring, some are insightful, all are interesting.
One of my favourites is this letter from a senior advertising executive in Los Angeles in the 1950’s, at a time when advertising as an industry was coming into its own. I think it has a huge amount to say about the financial advice industry and how we are regulated.
In order that the quality of advice can be measured, it needs to be homogenised. If everybody follows the same procedure, then the quality can be centrally controlled, and the client cannot be badly advised.
The problem with this principle is that it sets the bar at a pretty low level. Advice designed by a committee leaves little room for inspiration.
During a recent compliance audit we had some ‘discussion’ on the subject of use of fact finds in a meeting, a subject I have blogged on before, such as here. Meeting time with a client is precious, and should be used to increase understanding of the client by the adviser. If we are really doing a good job the client should leave with a better understanding of themselves. Facts will come out of such discussions, and any gaps can be filled in later.
But what about after the meeting? How often do we leave space for dreaming time? Do we accept the solutions that seem obvious, or that the client might have requested? Or do we question and probe and seek inspiration about other ways in which we can help?
As the letter says, we need technical and we need processes. But, in an industry driven by compliance and a need to protect the customer at all costs, I fear we have thrown the baby out with the bath water. We have creating pathways of advice that leave little space for inspiration and creativity.
So, your thoughts please, on a practical and positive note: How can compliance be applied in such a way as to allow room for dreaming time?