Mark Snape is chief executive of Broker Conveyancing
Joni Mitchell was definitely not singing about the pandemic, but the sentiment still holds true, particularly through periods of lockdown that meant we were unable to see family, friends, colleagues and indeed – for all of us in financial services – continue personal relationships with clients.
That point has hit home with particular force, certainly since we began to have more time in the Broker Conveyancing offices and it was possible to chat across a desk, sit round a meeting table, and socialise outside of the business.
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It has been something of a revelation to be able to do just that and it has reminded me just how powerful our personal relationships are, especially within a work environment.
I think for many of us, meeting online via Zoom and Teams was a means to an end, and in our sector in particular, it certainly allowed us to keep on working and perhaps opened up a range of possibilities in terms of how we connect with people.
That six-hour drive across the country to meet a client might not seem so necessary now given all parties can dial in, and there is definitely both a cost and time saving to be had in doing that.
However, what price sitting down with someone, particularly for advisers and indeed within the office environment? It’s not surprising to me that, even with many firms giving employees the opportunity to work from home permanently, many are still choosing to come into the office at least a couple of days a week, because, a) it gets you out of the house and b) it alters the way you work and the benefits you get out of that work.
Zoom/Teams meetings can seem a little perfunctory. An agenda is worked through, and everyone signs off immediately once that is completed.
However, put everyone in a room together and not only can you develop relationships further, but you can spark off each, throw ideas around and generally get to a point which would be unlikely if you were doing this online.
I wonder if advisers feel the same way about client interactions? There is always a lot of talk about the transactional nature of delivering mortgage advice, and that may have a ring of truth to it, but I’ve never felt that the relationship between adviser and client was in any way ‘transactional’. Far from it.
In fact, the best advisers go out of their way to ensure that providing mortgage advice is not a ‘one hit wonder’ in which over the course of the next two/three/five years, you never have any further interaction until that mortgage is coming up for renewal.
To opt for this seems like a sure way to lose clients to me, particularly in an environment where lenders are so keen to secure product transfer activity which ultimately keeps the adviser out of the transaction.
And, of course, if you have a transactional approach to your clients then how can you possibly know about any changed circumstances, changed wants and needs? How can you delve into their financial lives on a regular basis and how can you find those ancillary sales opportunities that always come up when you do?
Nobody’s life stays on hold for two/three/five years, and the best advisers know this and ensure they have the communication strategy to stay in contact with their clients.
That may be offering them a face-to-face regular catch-up meeting, and I’m aware of many clients who would appreciate the opportunity to sit down with their adviser regularly, simply because ‘things happen’ and you also want to know that you’re in the best financial shape possible.
Look at what has been happening over the last few months in terms of remortgage competition. Any client is likely to be looking at the deals currently available and wondering if they could potentially save money.
It may be that they can’t do this right now – perhaps the ERC renders any saving irrelevant and is not worth paying – but being able to work that through for a client is going to be appreciated.
Even if it’s not worth it now, what are the chances they’ll come back to you to sort out their remortgage when they can? And if a shift now is worth it, then you as an adviser need not only sort out the remortgage, but also the conveyancing, and potentially any new protection/insurance, needs as well.
So, evidently, the social nature of our business is returning. We should not simply assume that what has worked over the last 12-18 months is going to satisfy clients in the future.
Give them choices and continue to build those relationships in as many ways as possible – you’re sure to get as much out of this as you put in.