'Tis the season to be careful 

The population is getting its jabs, and we're all suffused with a sense of invincibility, judging by the hordes of folk meeting outdoors in order to breach social-distancing guidance whilst consuming impressive quantities of alcohol.  And clearly, there is some kind of competition going on, judging by the tonnage of bottles, cans and disposable Barbecues left scattered over the local parkland by those enthusiasts for thumbing the nose at COVID.

The weather's been great, the COVID wards are largely empty (certainly in my area) and the stock market hasn't been doing too badly, either.  Some clients, afflicted on the one side by COVID-anxiety, and on the other by Brexit fears, seem on the whole to be pleasantly surprised by the state of their investments, and seem almost disappointed that the media's more apocalyptic prognostications were not realised.

Perhaps you might think that such generally positive phenomena might lead to a reduction in instances of the Blame Game, but unfortunately this seems to be becoming something of a inherent trait, aided and abetted by the promotion of ideologies which teach us that, whatever our grievance, someone else is always culpable.  The current format for regulation in the UK is very much a byproduct of those kinds of ideologies - so that individuals don't actually require an objective basis for dissatisfaction, they merely need to feel a bit put out.  This is a world where, ultimately, facts don't matter.  It's all about feelings - or at least, the feelings will tend to trump the facts, judging by the way the FOS goes about its work.

There has been another upsurge in grievance notifications aimed at financial advisers, and whilst most of it seems to be the kind of opportunistic nonsense that the CMCs specialise in, it is nevertheless the kind of nonsense which combines (a) unpredictability, (b) expense, and (c) a complete absence of accountability.  One cannot help but admire the kind of creativity that exponents of this arcane art demonstrate when parroting the time-honoured narratives of redress.  However, given the nature of the heightened risks within a regulated market, due to the nature of regulation, it pays professional advisers to exercise additional care.

So, we thought it might be helpful to list a few Dos and Don'ts...

Take steps to accurately influence the client's expectations at the beginning of the advice process. Take short-cuts when it comes to documenting the scope of your advisory proposition.
Document the extent/nature of your ongoing client review service. Continue to receive ongoing adviser charges and fail to deliver an ongoing review.
Keep your promises (use diaries and calendar reminders to help). Fail to follow up agreed actions.
Keep a record of every client interaction, especially when advice is being given, or actions are being agreed. Fail to upload all relevant documents onto X-Plan.
Deliver your ongoing reviews and document them fully (data, analysis, advice, outcomes). Handle this essential review work off X-Plan.
Keep regularly in contact with your clients. Leave clients on their own until something urgent needs to happen.
Take seriously the guidance that ValidPath routinely issue in order to (a) keep you safe, and (b) help optimise client outcomes. Tune us out and pretend that you "know best because I've been doing this for X years".  The markets have moved on,  regulatory standards have gone stratospheric and we must move with the times.
Take TCF seriously. Play clients off against each other.


Kevin Moss, 27/04/2021