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Suitability writing in the current crisis – being personal and human

13 May 2020

In the current climate, it is more important than ever that suitability reports are personal to the client and provide the reassurance they need, says  PFS Paraplanner Panel member Rebecca Tuck.

This article was first published in the May 2020 issue of Professional Paraplanner.

Paraplanners are often involved with clients in different capacities. Some sit in on meetings, some routinely take phone calls, while others have only meeting notes or fact finds to try and understand who their clients are, what they want, and how we can best help.

You will have heard it a million times already, but we currently find ourselves, by all accounts, in “unprecedented times”. It’s clear to me that, over recent weeks, the focus of client meetings has definitely changed – with clients much more concerned about keeping safe (and sane!) than their money.

A friendly and understanding conversation with clients is often all it takes to provide some reassurance here but, when it comes to then documenting any advice, do our reports do this too?

A confession

I’ll be honest – when I first started paraplanning, the client probably wasn’t at the heart of everything I did. Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to do excellent analysis and type it all up into a brilliant report, but was it entirely client focused? Not really. I was on a mission – a person with a point to prove – hungry to learn, develop and be the best. If the client was happy too then that was a win-win, but it wasn’t my main motivation. I know. I’m sorry!

You may tell by the fact I confessed all that in the past tense, it’s no longer the case. So, what changed? Confession number two: I thought about becoming a financial planner.

A change in mindset

Now, I realised very quickly that I didn’t want to be a financial planner, but as part of “dipping a toe in” I joined a client meeting, for the first time ever, and blimey… aren’t clients nice?! Real, living and breathing people, with hopes and fears and goals and dreams.

Suddenly, it was all about them. Nice Mr & Mrs Client who have put their unfailing trust in our team, me included, to make those dreams come true. I had to do a brilliant job, for them.

A change in action

Since my revelation, I’ve made a real effort to “be more human” when writing reports. Particularly in times such as this, it’s the human touch that will get us through. So, although we might not always be on the front line when it comes to looking after clients, there are still some things we paraplanners can do to help keep them happy and reassured:

  • Get more involved: You won’t be able to physically sit in on any client meetings at the moment, nor will the planner but if you’re looking after clients using video calls, then why not ask if you can join in with those? Or if the meeting can be recorded for you to watch later? It doesn’t have to be for every client every time, but if you’re there when the planner is conveying the key message (hopefully “don’t panic!”) then it will be much easier to both gauge how the client is feeling, and to tone the report just right. On that note…
  • Rip up the template: Okay, maybe not completely, but definitely critique it. Is it really saying what you want it to say right now? Give those “standard paragraphs” a once-over. If it’s not all sunshine and rainbows don’t pretend it is, but empathise, reassure, do a little written hand holding. Often, the report is the only tangible thing that the clients get following a meeting, so make sure it shows that you understand them – it really will make a difference.

All clients want to know now, more than ever, is that they are in safe hands and that you care. We have the power to show them this through our reports and give them the reassurance we are there for them – both now and in the future.

Rebecca is Certified Financial Planner with Magenta Financial Planning and participates in the Initiative for Financial Wellbeing.

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