Meeting advisers face-to-face
Do paraplanners need to meet advisers and end clients face-to-face? Kim Bendall of outsourced service The Paraplanners talked to ABR editor Rob Kingsbury
RK: As an outsourced paraplanning service dealing with advisers all over the country, how important is it for you to meet the advisers you work for face-to-face?
It is really important for our business. We act for around 25 advisory firms and a large number of advisers within them at the moment, and for the majority of them we have a face-to-face relationship with at least one or more advisers in that company. It makes a huge difference because we often have a much closer relationship with the advisers we meet face-to-face. It’s human nature. When you have that kind of relationship you have a better feel for what that person is looking for from the service. You understand the way that they talk and the way that they think, which makes it much easier to tailor a report to their personal style.
From the perspective of a ‘ghost’ report writer, when you are trying to write a report on behalf of someone else, if you can tailor it as much as possible to their own language and style of communication then it can be much more engaging and personal, both for the Adviser and for their client. For me, the ideal outcome is that the client cannot tell that the report has been written by someone else. Indeed, the biggest praise is when an adviser can’t tell that they haven’t written it either!
RK: The same benefits must apply to meeting the end client?
It is similar. When I was an in-house paraplanner I found that the quality of the work that I undertook for a client where there was a face-to-face relationship was greater than for those I had never met or spoken to. You don’t have to take an active role in the meeting – you can just be observing and taking notes – but it can make a big difference as you hear the client talk in their own language and that can be filtered through into the client’s report.
RK: As an outsourced paraplanner you’re unlikely to meet the end client, so how does that work in practice?
Most outsourcers don’t attend their advisers’ clients meetings, although I do know a few that are happy to do so. Generally they are self-employed and/or live locally to the advisory firm and can negotiate on fees, which makes it a more viable proposition.
For our own company, although we don’t openly offer this service, this is because it would cost the advisers a fair amount in our time and expenses and is unlikely to be entertained or needed in most cases. It would work in isolated cases where it makes financial sense for all parties concerned, and we have become involved directly with advisers’ clients in the past, but firms tend to employ in-house paraplanners if they want their clients to establish working relationships with other team members as it is simply more financially viable that way.
To put this into context, we often find that advisers using outsourced paraplanners for their technical knowledge and to do a specific job. They will use the report as a purely technical tool to complement their face-to-face relationship with the client. They also tend to be more comfortable with a process-driven service and like to manage their client relationships personally.
Where we work with advisers that do want a more bespoke or unusual report, they will often write the opening section themselves (to personalise it and use their own, or the client’s, language) and leave the technical analysis in the remainder of the report to us. This helps us to deliver a report that is technically and compliantly sound, but also contains the adviser’s own finishing touches, which make it more personal and emotive to the client.
It really comes down to the individual adviser or firm and how they want to work. We are there to provide a service and we will fit in with their particular style and needs. Having a face-to-face relationship with them is highly beneficial, but we’ve found some really simple ways of working around the physical distance between us that enable us to still provide an excellent, and personal, service.