Opportunities to Keep Engaging

By: Alasdair Walker
Managing Director
Handford, Aitkenhead and Walker Ltd

An annual client Review Meeting acts as our formal client touch point each year to review what has happened and what changes need to be made to inform the future. By Alasdair Walker.

Our Review Meetings take place at the same time each year. The ‘strike date’ is the exact anniversary of the client’s plan going live. Our two aims are to provide an update of what we have experienced over the year and to collect new information from the client about any changes they are experiencing.

The meeting typically lasts an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the client. Even if there is relatively little to update, the meeting still acts as a comfort touch point to remind clients where they are and gives them a chance to keep the plan moving forward.

There is a procedural element to these meetings. Updating the file notes plays an important role because that leads to a follow up report that we send to clients. This report meets the MiFID II annual suitability reporting requirements for clients.

Rather than presenting an agenda to the clients, I like to run the meeting in a more relaxed way.

We send a letter to clients asking them to bring certain things to the meeting and I work to a list of headings that I make notes under.

We don’t collect data ahead of the meeting because I worry about missing the ‘texture’ of the update. The conversational exchange in the meeting is valuable and we update the file live with the client to make sure we cover everything.

Often there are opportunities to discuss what might otherwise be missed. I have an enlightening workshop with Jan Bowen-Nielson of quivermanagement.com to thank for that insight.

As an example, you get an update by email about the cash position and you receive the number £80,000 and that’s £20,000 less than last year. With advanced data provided, we might miss the nuance of this change and the opportunity to expand on it. The discussion in the meeting may lead to learning about a family wedding that was funded. It’s a fantastic bit of information that you wouldn’t otherwise have got and that leads to other conversations.

The meeting structure is guided by what the client says with me jumping between headings collecting new information as appropriate.

ANNUAL CLIENT REVIEW MEETING DATA COLLECTION CHECKLIST
  • Financial Position Update
  • Health
  • Risk Profile Replay
  • Objectives Discussion
  • Market Review
  • Valuations
  • Voyant
  • Protection Needs
  • Tax Planning
  • Capital Gains
  • Accumulation
  • ISA Allowances
  • Pension Allowances
  • Decumulation
  • Income Levels
  • Sustainability
  • Estate Issues
  • Wills
  • Estate Planning
  • Protection
  • Product Provision
  • Investment Strategy
  • Action Points

Live cashflow

We will talk through the cashflow, updating and looking at any impacts there might be. This is always live, even if it’s just a five-minute recap. Our clients are all familiar with Voyant because it’s front and centre to what we do. Effectively, we use it to fact find. A copy cashflow report is provided with the follow-up report.

For me, cashflow is the starting point for any Financial Planning discussion. The tongue-in-cheek statement we use around the office is “No matter what the question is, the answer is you need a Financial Plan.” Even for something that is seemingly fairly standard, cashflow allows us to model, stress-test, and challenge any preconceived assumptions or biases we might suffer from. I have been surprised at how often our ‘gut feelings’ about long-term Financial Planning can turn out to be empirically incorrect.

Higher engagement

The evolution from an old style investment review meeting to a Financial Planning focused Review Meeting has been received positively by clients, resulting in higher engagement across the board.

Clients find it a comfort when we use the cashflow tools to stress-test and demonstrate the robustness of their planning against disasters like the death of a spouse or care home fees. If the plan can’t stand those disasters, it allows us to consider the issues far in advance of them actually happening.

Overall, I think this leads to a significant reduction in ‘financial stress-levels’ for clients. It makes things very tangible as they can see how disparate things tie together. It presents them in an easy to understand way. It also helps to underline the value in our services.

We use any opportunity to keep engaging with the client by listening for when to say, “Tell me more about that.” We are constantly fact finding and increasing our understanding of a client’s position.

Re-statement of suitability

Our follow up report acts as a combination of an updated Financial Plan and a MiFID II compliant re-statement of suitability. There is significant post-meeting preparation work to undertake to get that right but it works well with compliance needs.

Two weeks after the review meeting, we run annual statements of account for clients to send with the report, which is something we have done since 2013. It includes any fees we have levied and any payments we have received towards those fees, with the balance either paid by the client or credited to next year’s fee account by us. I like this approach because it gives clients complete transparency and an opportunity to challenge the value they are getting. It has been a wholly positive experience and something I would highly recommend.

Satisfaction survey

Six weeks after the report is with the client and the statement of account is settled, we have a three-question satisfaction survey that goes out every year to every client. It is based on the ‘Net Promotor Score’ concept and is deliberately kept short to ensure a high response rate:

  1. How likely is it that you’d recommend us to a friend or colleague? (a scale of 1-10)
  2. What changes would we need to make for you to give us a higher rating?
  3. Any other comments, questions or concerns?

The answers form a useful Management Information metric.

Our entire process is tech-led through Intelligent Office. Improved task management and workflow are resulting in a rewarding increase in efficiency.

SOME SUGGESTIONS

  • The Review Meeting is a great opportunity to show progress against objectives over the year and to gather more information.
  • Collecting data and preparing a follow up report that meets the MiFID II annual suitability reporting requirements is an effective use of time.
  • Live use of cashflow is a good way of engaging clients in the data collection process.
  • Using cashflow tools to stress-test against potential problems such as death of a partner or ill health serves to reduce financial stress levels for clients.

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