I have never quite understood whether “Poles Apar” related to an electromagnetic or geographical opposite, but we all clearly understand it to be opposite viewpoints on the same subject. Over the last few months I have read several letters written by IFA’s, and talked to others, on a subject that seems to divide many service!
Client servicing means many different things to many financial advisors, but one point is clear as long as we are talking about it. We must, hopefully, be striving to improve it. Although I personally cannot abide the arrogance of anyone who dictates and preaches their own perceived virtues, as if they are the only way, it is interesting to listen to or read those who are so convinced of their divine correctness.
So it was as I read one broker telling us how things should be done and how basically all others were less for not following his example. In that instance the writer was convinced the only way was by sitting in one’s office and never visiting a client, charging out his time like some financial sage or old world accountant.
Yet another broker spoke of a world where all the service needed was to contact the client every two to three years, to update records and a third went as far as suggesting that to contact clients more than once a year would simply confuse them.
I state immediately and for the record that I am not entitled to claim any authoritive view, just an opinion and that is that we cannot be tied to any one of these schools of financial service. We must be part of the new South Africa, not aloof from it, we must teach our clients about the products and, therefore, benefits we can provide and we must treat our clients as equals who deserve to be kept informed. The idea of us sitting like school prefects in our offices charging our clients for our service on an hourly basis, is simply not new or progressive thinking, it is positively old fashioned and arrogant. It harks back to the Dickensian ideas of the lawyer, scribe or accountant looking down on his humble clientele. It also does not suit any other portion of our South African society other than the middle class. It keeps new brokers out of the industry and leaves millions of people, white, black and coloured in a financial service void.
At the other pole (perhaps the South Pole!), it is not right to sit back charging huge, often hidden commissions on products that a client may not even require. Compound this with no attempt to contact the client at all and you have an arrogance that is as bad as our first broker. We must note, however, that although our first example is narrow and in many peopleâ€™s opinion an ill-founded way of building a financial â€œserviceâ€ driven company, it is totally acceptable for him to do so.
We should be inclusive, whereas as our second example is simply not acceptable in the 21st century. We have a duty also to first do no harm! If your clients enjoy you rather than feel condescended or intimidated by you. If they listen to your assured and professional opinion, rather than feel lectured to and if they speak of you respectfully to their own friends and thank you for what you have achieved for them, then you have followed a correct route and found a way forward that works for you! You will have given them that feeling of bespoke service by offering exclusive service, but in an inclusive way.
Within our industry there are many roads and alternates and as long as they are legitimate, honest, carried out with integrity and within the rules of the FSB, they all have a place. That is what gives the public choice and gives the industry interest and flavour that is inclusive. So somewhere in the middle ground there is a right way perhaps it could be called the Equator method, half way between the Poles.
I personally, again just an opinion, believe in the 100% system, it is the opposite of the 80/20 system. It says if you give all your clients care and attention, then your generosity will come back to you, no client is not worth caring for and as I have seen they can be the point of referral of your biggest future client.
It can also, in the simplest and most basic human way, make you feel good about yourself and your profession. But as I have said all along that is just my own opinion and not the only way. There is never only one way!