Advisers shy away from talking about them, but the services they don't advertise on their business cards are often the ones clients value most. Laura Miller and Carmen Reichman uncover the unseen side of the advisory profession
Qualifications. Membership of professional bodies. Awards. Years' experience. These are the pieces of information advisers are most likely to include on the business cards they pass to prospective clients.
But those details tell just a fraction of the story of what a client can expect from a really professional adviser, and are certainly not the most important parts.
Perhaps the card should read: 'Accepts worried late night calls; provides comfort when a loved one dies; thrilled at being part of a wedding; will send you flowers when you move into your new home'.
Because advisers do all of these, and more, often without telling a soul. It is the side of hiring an adviser that few people, except the clients involved, ever know about. Until now...
Professional Adviser has gently teased from a group of advisers a glimpse of what it really means to provide that most overused of terms, ‘holistic advice', and how, by doing so, advisers have built lasting friendships with many of their clients.
First port of call
Investment Quorum co-founder Petronella West (pictured) remembers a recent example when she took a call on one of the darkest days of her client's life.
"Her husband had a serious case of Alzheimer's. I'd been in touch with her regularly over the past few years. My mum died last October and we'd spoken about it at Christmas when she phoned to say her husband would go very soon. She was distraught.
"The next day she phoned me and said, 'I'm holding him in my arms, he passed away half an hour ago'. She asked me what to do next. I told her: 'Don't worry, we'll take care of everything'."
How does an adviser get to that level in the client relationship when they become the first port of call in a crisis? Plan Money director Pete Chadborn (pictured) believes it is what comes from a ‘proper' ongoing financial planning service.
"If I set up a critical illness policy and the client is diagnosed with a critical illness, I expect to be the one who gets the phonecall. I expect to be the one who is virtually holding the client's hands and helping them through it," he said.
"A client's husband was diagnosed with a critical illness and we helped them through that and eventually, after about a year, he died. On the way from the hospital she just got on her phone, rang her mum and told her: 'Ring Pete, he will sort it out'. That's the role we play."
Being a rock
Advisers don't have to be there on the end of the phone when the worst happens – but many are, listening, comforting, offering support and a level of professionalism that can be a rock for clients to cling to when their world is crumbling around them.
"The unseen side of what I do is when a usually very worried surviving spouse, or spouse of someone who no longer has capacity to make decisions, is suddenly in charge of the finances for the first time and I can make it clear to them - 'let me do the worrying for you'," Radcliffe & Newlands IFA Mel Kenney (pictured) said.
Not all of the ‘above and beyond' service comes at times of sorrow, however.
Sometimes it can be an everyday matter, but one where an adviser-and-friend's help can make all the difference.
DC&A Financial Planning managing director David Cathcart (pictured) is often called upon in this way. One example involved his oldest client, an 89-year-old lady who had just moved from Manchester to Hull.
"We rang her to see if she'd moved in okay and she made the comment that she was cold," he said.
"We found out that there was no central heating in the house that she'd moved into so my staff took it upon themselves to ring the local gas board to get a gas main put into the village. Then they rang up a local heating engineer, explained the situation, and managed to get a central heating system to be installed for her completely free of charge."
Motor cars and ministers
On another occasion, Cathcart found himself on the phone haggling over price with a salesman for a client who was buying a new car.
"She rang my office and said: 'David, I'm in the Fiat showroom, will you speak to the salesman and negotiate a price for the car please?' Which I did, for fifteen minutes."
Then there was the time he got a cabinet minister involved to stop a foreclosure.
"There was a firm that we dealt with that Barclays was going to foreclose on. The chap's father had died on Friday and on the Monday Barclays were going to foreclose on the business," Cathcart recalls.
"We managed to get the then-business secretary Peter Mandelson involved to stop Barclays foreclosing on the business, through the Chamber of Commerce."
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