Have you ever been lost and asked for directions, but been baffled by the reply? Perhaps you’ve nodded politely and hoped enough information will sink in for you to find your destination.
Navigating financial advice can be even more confusing than finding your way around a new town! Simply nodding along though, is extremely risky.
The beauty of Consumer Duty (the Financial Conduct Authority’s higher standards of consumer protection) is that nobody needs to just ‘muddle through’.
In our previous article, we explored two of the three rules recently set by the FCA to ensure clients’ interests are at the heart of everything we do……
‘Act in good faith’ and ‘Avoid foreseeable harm’.
Now it’s time to take a closer look at number three:
‘Enable and support your customers to pursue their financial objectives’.
… it’s all about you!
The key to rule three is that YOU, the client, are in control of your financial journey. Our job is to keep you informed and help you make better decisions.
This means that we as financial planners need to take the time to know more about you and your needs, move at a pace that suits you, and give you hollistic, well-rounded advice.
Well, as with everything relating to Consumer Duty, it’s not enough to just say we do it. We need evidence that we have the resources and expertise necessary. Here’s how we do it:
Let’s look at how we endeavour to improve consumer understanding, and how we support our clients to make more informed financial decisions.
Improving consumer understanding
- Communicate clearly
Financial services is full of jargon and buzzwords. We try to remove as much of this as possible from our communications and present everything in everyday language.
Sometimes, a technical term is unavoidable because it’s used so much elsewhere (such as ‘uncrystallised lump sums’). When this happens, we do our best to explain what it means.
Clear communication also applies to presenting information, such as graphs that make sense (and don’t require an economics degree to interpret!), and our written communications feature simple headings, images, and diagrams to help bring them to life.
- Keep it relatable
Our communications also need to be relevant – related to investment experience and level of understanding and taking account of any vulnerable circumstances. Someone with impaired vision, for example, may benefit from our sessions being recorded. No two clients are the same – and that’s why regular reviews and client questionnaires are important – they help us understand what you need and what makes you tick!
Read more here about how we have committed to helping clients in vulnerable circumstances by signing up to the Financial Vulnerability Charter.
There’s more than one way to communicate. We use whichever means is most appropriate for what you need, whether that’s through our secure Client Hub email or post.
If you want to move quickly, we let you sign documents digitally, using DocuSign or positive affirmations to progress recommendations. But there’s also the more traditional methods for those who are more comfortable moving at a slower pace.
- Give breathing space
Giving advice isn’t about bombarding you with information. We build time and space into the process so you can consider important, potentially life-defining decisions. This means not rushing you to sign paperwork, letting you talk it over with a family member or trusted friend first. You can have as many meetings as you need in line with your investment knowledge and experience. You’ll have our undivided attention.
- Setting clear objectives
We challenge our clients to think about what they really want:
Is it a comfortable retirement you’re aiming for?
Securing your business?
Financial protection for your family?
Whatever the combination, we help you visualise your objectives and we check in regularly to see whether you’re on track. We send questionnaires ahead of our regular review meetings so that you can update us, measure progress against objectives and help you ensure you’re still on the right path (because goals can change over time!) – And, if you’re not on course, we can help you understand why and take action to fix it.
Lots of firms use cashflow modelling, but only superficially.
What sets Sutherland Independent apart is that cash flow modelling is not just an added extra, it’s a core part of our financial advice.
Using this scenario and life-event modelling we help you put context around various options, visualise goals and objectives and think more clearly about what the future looks like.
This is vital from a client support perspective. Modelling helps show what’s possible in the future and what you need to do to get there (Find out more about our cashflow modelling here).
- Everything in one place
We aim to give our clients the information and access they need – when they need it.
Alongside our regular market reviews and insights, our Client Hub means your finances are accessible from your smartphone or desktop. You can check in on-the-go, quickly and efficiently.
You can also access educational videos on the most relevant investment from our website.
And when relevant, we bring in third-party support – lawyers, accountants, and other specialists, who help you achieve your objectives.
Seeing the Big Picture
Everyone says they put clients first, Consumer Duty is an opportunity for us to show how we do just that.
We let clients set the pace, but we’ve got the structure and resources to make sure they’re covered. And we’re constantly challenging ourselves to improve. Whether it’s staff training and workshops, new technology, or benefiting from third-party. Read all about our commitment in our Client Service Charter or…
To find out more about Consumer Duty and what we are doing to support clients, get in touch today.
 UFPLS is a means of withdrawing directly from your defined contribution pension that hasn’t previously been accessed (hence uncrystallised).