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Prepping for client meetings and reviews

We talk to advisers about the way they prepare for new client meetings and for their client reviews

Meeting with clients, both new and existing, provides advisers with the opportunity to demonstrate their value, as well as understand their client’s needs and goals.

But what should these meetings entail and do advisers benefit from following a certain process?

The discovery meeting

Rebecca Aldridge, managing director, Balance: Wealth Planning, says her key aim when meeting with a prospective client for the first time is to understand what they need and why.

“I obviously want to explain how we work and how we might be able to help them, but that is secondary to finding out what they are looking for,” she explains.

Before meeting with a client for the first time, Aldridge usually has a phone chat to get some idea about what they might need and expect.

“What I’m looking for is both for us to like the client and for them to feel comfortable with me. I’m looking for someone who will be receptive to advice and where we can make a difference,” she says.

It is an approach shared by Keith Churchouse, director of Surrey-based Chapters Financial.

“The purpose of a new enquiry meeting is really about discovery,” he says. “You discover as much about the client as you can and they learn about you.”

Like many other advisers, Churchouse says meetings typically take around an hour and are provided at no charge to the client.

Churchouse, Keith1Both Churchouse and Aldridge look to carry out research on their client ahead of the meeting if possible, with Aldridge noting that would include “their accounts, their social media profiles and reading through everything I know about them.”

Rowena Griffiths, chartered financial planner at Female Financial Management, also places emphasis on finding out as much about the client as possible before the first meeting.

She asks prospective clients to fill out an attitude to risk questionnaire and to draw up a statement of assets, liabilities, income and expenditure as well as any policies they have in place, which they are expected to bring to the meeting. On her part, she produces a ‘Client Agreement’ and ‘Service Proposition.’

She says: “First, I have a phone conversation to see what their objectives are and if I can help. Then when I meet the client, I should already know whether and dhow I can help them, so it’s just a case of explaining how I work and to try to win them as a client.”

Bringing clients on board

If both parties decide they want to work together, the next step is to formulate how the advice process will work.

Churchouse says that following the initial meeting he will send out a ‘scope of work’ letter, which outlines what was discussed during the meeting and the cost of work involved.

He explains: “We would only send this letter if we were absolutely confident that we can help this person. On some occasions you meet with someone and know instantly that you’re not the right adviser for them. Our business is all about creating long-term, trusting relationships so it’s important that we are the right fit.”

Dominic Thomas, founder of London-based Solomons, says the process of an initial meeting is “to determine if I can help and if we can work together. We need to ‘click’ as we want to see each other regularly and they need to be able to afford our fees. I also need to assess if it’s the sort of work I want.”

At the end of the meeting, Thomas provides the client with documentation which includes the firm’s “what to expect next” brochure along with the fee menu.

Anna Sofat, managing director, Addidi, says once an individual has agreed to become a client her team is immediately involved.

Sofat, Anna“For new clients, as soon as terms have been signed, I debrief my paraplanner and administrator, as well as our technical head, so they can commence the work. I get involved once all the information has been collated to agree the strategy and financial plan,” she says.

Annual reviews

Arguably one of the most important meetings in an adviser’s calendar is the annual review, providing them with the opportunity to review their client’s goals and aims and ensure they are still on track.

Churchouse says his firm’s annual reviews are “usually prompted by a review of the funds,” but ahead of the meeting his team will check with the client whether there were any changes in circumstances.

The firm’s administrators are responsible for gathering fund information and if there were any changes needed, they will provide a fund switch form and ensure there are no penalties attached.

Thomas says his team also contacts the client to obtain updates, changes to income, expenditure, assets and liabilities ahead of the review, and to ask if the client has anything they want to discuss in particular.

Thomas, Dominic“Once all the changes are updated to the back-office system, the file is passed to me and I update the client’s cashflow model as appropriate,” he says, adding that clients are provided with a hard copy presentation of the model during the review meeting.

In addition to Voyant for cashflow modelling, Thomas also uses FinaMetrica as well as his back-office system JCS and MS Office applications.

“There is little point preparing every detail,” Thomas says, “as the purpose of the meeting is a progress review, to check goals and assumptions and essentially ensure the client’s financial plan is on track.”

Sofat says pre the meeting her team enquires about cash, debt, income and outgoings and checks whether there are any issues the client particularly wants to address. The firm does not use cashflow modelling for all clients, but always provides pension projections. Meetings are arranged one to two months in advance, and Sofat tasks her paraplanner with organising the review, of which she has the final sign off.

Similarly, Griffiths says her assistant obtains valuations and policy information, such as withdrawals taken, and uses Synaptic’s technology to produce past performance information, as well as product provider websites and Intelliflo.

“All of the information is incorporated into a pack, which I review before the meeting. Sometimes clients email to say their objectives have changed, for example they would like additional income from their assets, but sometimes this information only comes out at the meeting and needs to be followed up afterwards,” she says.

Following the review, advisers document the meeting on paper.

Thomas says his letter includes both what was covered and an action list for the client and himself. He also tends to send an updated cashflow projection, based on what was discussed, for example if his client wished to retire earlier or wanted to buy a house for their children.

“A typical client meeting lasts an hour, and there is probably an hour of work post-meeting clarifying what was said and what needs to be done, before the financial planning work itself,” he explains.

“Our processes are the spine of what we do. Naturally, there are always exceptions, but unless there is a good reason not to do them they get done.”

Visit the Balance Wealth:Planning website

Visit the Chapters Financial website

Visit the Female Financial Management website

Visit Solomons website

Visit the Addidi Wealth website

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