Does remote working have a positive impact on the personalisation of advice?
Justin Wysocki is chief revenue officer at Age Partnership
This is my second comment piece in a series focusing on how remote ways of working affect the key findings from last year’s FCA review of the equity release sales and advice process. The review highlighted three significant areas of concern about the suitability of advice provided, which could increase the risk of harm to consumers in this market.
This week I will be discussing ‘the insufficient personalisation of advice’.
As we emerge from lockdown and people face a wide range of different and challenging circumstances, it’s crucial that every client is treated like an individual.
The new ways of working that we all adapted over the last 12 months have proved to be a resounding success with most clients and advisers alike, as they have witnessed first-hand that remote working can actually allow more time with the client, albeit virtually, because travel time is reduced.
Personalised advice should be a given, especially during remote working, as it’s a fundamental part of any adviser’s role. Below are the three areas where personalisation is key to delivering a successful outcome for clients.
- Confirming a client’s objectives involves building a rapport to help understand what is driving their need for funds. It allows the adviser to create a picture, understanding the client’s past, current and potential future situation. Many clients are initially reluctant to share their objectives as they don’t see it as ‘our business’. But it is the adviser’s responsibility to challenge what they are being told by the client, however uncomfortable that might feel. We should be questioning how much clients want to release, when they want to access the money and their objectives. All of this helps to personalise the recommendation and is a solid foundation for a gold standard level of advice, which most importantly leads to clients only releasing what they absolutely need.
- Once the fact find has been completed, the client needs to understand what is being recommended to them, every client will want to absorb this information in their own way. It’s our responsibility to present the client with the recommendation in a jargon-free, easy to digest way in addition to the KFI. The KFI is an integral part of the recommendation documents, but it is written in a technical language and from my experience many clients find it hard to digest.
- Taking the time to walk through the recommendation documentation and KFI with the client in a clear way ensures that they have digested the information. Questions should always be asked to confirm the client’s understanding. For example, asking them to confirm the amount that they will owe, including the compound interest, at various years highlights the longer term impacts of equity release borrowing.
- Video technology has empowered lots of advisers, including our own at Age Partnership, to adapt their fact finding and how they present their advice. It provides the opportunity to build human interaction and for advisers to get to know their clients, encourage clients to involve their family – regardless of their location – and allows instant sharing of documentation and discussions around the documents in real-time. Video technology also allows advisers to better spot the verbal and non-verbal cues that highlight possible vulnerabilities, allowing the service to be adapted to meet client needs.
Regular training ensures that advisers have a sound knowledge base that they can refer to in order to provide truly personalised advice. According to data from Moneyfacts, the number of equity release plans on the market has reached an all-time high of 488. This compares to 405 in 2020 last year and 221 in January 2019 – a 139% increase in 2 years. Such a huge number of plans with a wide range of features covering the whole of the market is fantastic for clients.
Whilst an efficient sourcing tool will help an adviser narrow down the search for each client, solid knowledge of plan developments is vital. There is a responsibility on the business to ensure that training is up to standard to provide advisers with the knowledge to select plan features which best meet the client’s needs.