Occasionally, as a financial adviser, I would conduct a client meeting in a café or at their place of work but, mostly, the meetings were held at the client's home.
This practice stemmed from the era in which I first became an adviser -
Nowadays, most financial advisers encourage clients to attend a meeting at the office of the adviser. This is based largely on the assumption that it is more financially efficient for the adviser. It is also part of the attempt to make the financial advisory profession look more professional by adopting the same practice as lawyers and accountant who would rarely make a house call.
I believe the economics of the case are rather more complex although further discussion of that particular issue is not the purpose of this article.
Anyway, my predominant experience was that, by visiting the client's home, I felt I was better able to fulfil the first rule for financial planning -
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Since 1986 every financial adviser has had to complete a "factfind" for each client -
Completing the factfind was really just the bare bones approach of the work despite the regulatory importance attached to it being on file.
In my experience, what was much more important was to begin by asking a question along the lines of "so what can I do for you?" and then listen as the client explained their circumstances and what they wanted.
Listening to the client's story was perhaps the most crucial aspect of the whole advisory process. Time and again, in different areas of life I find that what many people most want is someone who will simply just listen to them. No interruptions, no views expressed, just listen.
Through this process, the simple empathetic witnessing of one person's story by another person, a bond of trust can be created whether between adviser and client, therapist and patient or warring partners in the office of a divorce lawyer.
Only after I had heard the client's story would I fill in the boxes on the factfind.
Perhaps the most moving version of this phenomenon which I have encountered is the story told by Auschwitz survivor, Viktor Frankl, in the biography of him by Anna Redsand, A Life Worth Living.
A patient of Frankl's phoned him in the middle of the night to tell him, calmly, that she was about to commit suicide. He kept her on the phone for two hours, giving her every conceivable reason to live. Eventually she said that she had changed her mind and would not end her life. He was curious to know which of the reasons he had given her to live had brought about the change of heart and asked her this when he next saw her. None of the reasons he had given had been the cause -
The story is retold by Jonathan Sacks in a piece which includes a number of other profound examples of the power and sanctity of active listening.
In the first stage of Life Planning -
We find it helpful for a client not to be distracted by children, pets, callers, tenants or anything else. Of course, there may be occasions when it is better to meet at the home of a client and we have also done consultations by Skype but the most important factor is that this is your time when we listen without making judgements or suggestions -
© Jonathon Clark 2016