Tis the season to be whinging 

On Ivy League University Campuses in the US, over the last few weeks we have been treated to the unedifying sight of undergraduate students haranguing and abusing their Tutors, because they found content in the curriculum which they took exception to.  There is a growing trend towards 'safe zones' on campuses where any risk of hearing something contrary to one's preferences can be precluded, in order to eliminate even the possibility of stress for precious little egos.

In the UK, breaking news is that the Odeon, Vue and Cineworld cinema chains have banned a Church of England advertisement on prayer, because it might possibly cause offence.  Which is truly ironic, given the nature of the medium of cinema, and the potential for offending anybody and everybody (as evidence, the film 'Kingsman' contains the most prolific use of the 'F-word' ever seen on a 15 Certificate).  Meanwhile, in Paris, and further afield, we are wringing our hands over the expression of intolerance, and how intolerant we will allow ourselves to be of it.

We are turning into a culture which is so intolerant of offence that it is therefore incapable of dealing with it, other than in this terribly precious and reactionary manner.  And because such personal peccadilloes must be upheld at all times, then we are learning to pursue all possible sources of offence wherever they arise.  Offence can take various forms, and the IFA would be wise to bear these in mind.  There are instances where you do actually have a great deal of control - namely treating clients fairly, and with great care and courtesy, and documenting your work thoroughly, and consistently (on Clarity).  And there are instances where you actually have little control...

We've seen a steady uptick in complaints against Member Firms again.  Nothing to lose sleep about, and the reassuring thing has been the evidence of the quality of our Members' work on behalf of their clients.  The specious nature of the complaints, however, suggests that, in these clients' minds at least, integrity and care are qualities they are entitled to receive but not demonstrate.  The intolerance of others' views, and the favouring of oneself, is a one-way street.  In practice, these traits are evident in people who feel they are entitled to demand, irrespective of the facts, and who will never, ever accept a verdict unless it results in capitulation.  Indeed, I have discovered the hard way, recently, that a polite letter, responding thoroughly to a particularly baseless complaint, can be taken as a source of offence!

IFAs deal with clients, not patients.  We cannot prescribe medication for personality disorders, but we can attempt a reasonable job in influencing our clients' expectations to a reasonable degree, thus cutting away the ground for future, spurious dissatisfactions.  Areas for preparatory focus would include:

  • educating clients into the nature of the advice process
  • being systematic in handling initial disclosures, and especially when it comes to agreeing your Adviser Charges in advance of any work
  • being clear with the client about all the things that you don't do (you may be surprised by the number of clients who retain the mistaken belief that the IFA is 'managing' their investments!)
  • treating the FactFind as if it actually mattered, rather than a token hurdle along the IFA's running-track
  • crafting suitability documentation that isn't a form of 'death by a thousand paragraphs'
  • providing resources which are educational in nature, to help influence correct perceptions of risk and return
  • being clear on the importance of Annual Reviews, and how they are paid for
Hoping that you'll have an unrelentingly Merry Christmas, unencumbered by whingers!
Kevin Moss, 24/11/2015