What is the value of working with a financial adviser? One view is that advisers have unique insights into market direction that give their clients an advantage. But of the many roles a professional adviser should play, soothsayer is not one of them.
The truth is that no-one knows what will happen next in investment markets. And if anyone really did have a working crystal ball, it is unlikely they would be plying their trade as an adviser, a broker, an analyst or a financial journalist.
Some folk may still think an adviser’s role is to deliver them market-beating returns year after year. Generally, those are the same people who believe good advice equates to making accurate forecasts.
But in reality, the value a professional adviser brings is not dependent on the state of markets. Indeed, their value can be even more evident when volatility, and emotions, are running high as we experienced through the GFC.
At Alman Partners our Advisers play nuanced roles in our client’s lives, beginning with understanding their deepest held values around money and clarifying their most important goals, irrespective of what is going on in the world.
Indeed, there are at least seven hats we wear to help clients without ever once having to look into a crystal ball:
The expert: Now, more than ever, investors need advisers who can provide client-centred expertise in assessing the state of their finances and developing risk-aware strategies to help them meet their goals.
The independent voice: The global financial turmoil of recent years demonstrated the value of an independent and objective voice in a world full of product pushers and salespeople.
The listener: The emotions triggered by financial uncertainty are real. A good adviser will listen to clients’ fears, tease out the issues driving those feelings and provide practical long-term answers.
The teacher: Getting beyond the fear-and-flight phase often is just a matter of teaching investors about risk and return, diversification, the role of asset allocation and the virtue of discipline.
The architect: Once these lessons are understood, our advisers become architects, building a long-term wealth management strategy that matches each person’s risk appetites and lifetime goals.
The coach: Even when the strategy is in place, doubts and fears inevitably will arise. At this point we become a coach, reinforcing first principles and keeping the client on track.
The guardian: Beyond these experiences is a long-term role for the adviser as a kind of lighthouse keeper, scanning the horizon for issues that may affect the client and keeping them informed.
These are just seven valuable roles our advisers can play in understanding and responding to our clients’ whole-of-life needs that are a world away from the old notions of selling product off the shelf or making forecasts.
For instance, a person may first seek out an adviser purely because of their role as an expert. But once those credentials are established, the main value of the adviser in the client’s eyes may be as an objective voice putting the client’s best interests first.
Knowing the adviser is putting the client’s interests first —and not plugging product—generally leads to a trusted relationship where the clients believe the adviser is someone with whom they can share their greatest hopes and fears.
From this point, the listener can become the teacher, the architect, the coach and ultimately the guardian. Just as people’s needs and circumstances change over time, so the nature of the advice service evolves.
These are all valuable roles in their own right and none is dependent on forces outside the control of the adviser or client, such as the state of the investment markets or the point of the economic cycle.
However you characterise these various roles, good financial advice ultimately is defined by the patient building of a long-term relationship founded on the values of trust and objectivity and knowledge of each individual.
Now, how can you put a price on that?
Stephen Lowry CFP, DFP, FAIM, is a representative of Alman Partners Pty Ltd, Australian Financial Services Licence No: 222107.
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