Those of a certain vintage will be familiar with the now classic comedy sketch of hyena-like stereo store staff bamboozling a hapless customer who just wants to buy something.

It came to mind while I read the latest account of why some folk are suspicious of financial advisers.

The latest salvo in this debate came not from a regulator or journalist but from a fellow professional adviser.

Andrew Megson recently wrote in FT Adviser about the industry’s ongoing battle for trust.

Starkly, more than half of those surveyed (57 per cent) stated that they didn’t trust financial advisers.

Part of this was illustrated by the choices on offer being too overwhelming, subsequently leading to poor decisions. (For those who remember the sketch I mentioned: wattage, output or a bag over the head, even?)

The following passage leapt out as a sensible path to follow for the vast majority in our field who have worked with the same clients for years, if not decades, helping them navigate the financial landscape at every stage of their lives:

“Advisers must commit to being completely transparent with individuals. From ensuring that little to no jargon is used throughout the advisory process, to clear and comprehensive discussion about how fees are calculated, both savers and advisers alike stand to benefit from greater clarity in the industry.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

And in the same collective spirit of striking a blow for the reputation of our profession, this is the first of my Casey Study blogs, which aim to look at real-life examples of when our prompting has really helped clients.

Casey Study number one:

We recently ran a workshop for staff of a corporate client to take them through how the lifetime allowance for pensions works (how much you can build up in your pot before the taxman takes a chunk).

And we must have done a decent job because the Human Resources director who’d asked us to present then asked us about how it would affect him. As it turned out, he could well have been £180,000 worse off had he not done so.

Naturally, this was a positive outcome for him. We also restructured his existing pension holdings to take advantage of the most up-to-date legislation so his extended family were also protected, with maximum flexibility as to who should get what when he died.

This client was very happy with the advice, and has gone on to recommend us to his family, friends and colleagues.

Which goes on to prove the point at the start of this blog.

My take on the very public debate over the value and trustworthiness of advice is that it is reflected in what goes on around us.

For example, I find most other drivers are courteous and considerate, most folk thank you if you hold a door open as a courtesy, most people waiting to be served at the bar clock who’s been waiting before them and fall into line.

When this pattern is disrupted, it tends to surprise – because it is the exception, rather than the rule. It’s no different in financial services, albeit with a regulator to enforce against breaches (although that might be interesting when it comes to someone jumping the queue at the local).

Admittedly, it wouldn’t make for good comedy…

…but in our world, Mel Smith’s character might have appreciated being taken through, step by step, the right hi-fi for him in straightforward terms by someone who knows their woofers from their tweeters.

Posted by Phil Casey

Topics: Insights & Advice, financial planning

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