Is it just me, or do clients in general just not really care as much as planners do about their own financial wellbeing? Having put myself out there as a planner, I know how difficult it is to convince clients that it’s important to take an interest in the status of money in their lives, let alone pay for services that guide them through the process. Mulling over the reasons, one could be forgiven for thinking that the primary cause is that clients don’t trust us. Maybe it’s perceived conflict in our business models, you know, fees based on assets gathered / product sold? Could be they think we don’t know what we’re doing? Maybe they think the solutions are all rubbish? My experience has been though, that even if all of these potential barriers are taken away, clients are still hesitant to engage with money in their lives. It follows then that “paying for advice” is a statement to which most clients simply cannot relate.
It’s hard for me to understand this position, having been trained by the industry since I got my first “Autobank” card when I was a kid. And I’ve toed the party line since. I started saving early. I have retirement annuities, disability cover, medical aid and all the important amenities as testament of the fact that I believe it’s important to be conscious of one’s financial situation.
This isn’t the same though with other areas in my life. I don’t give equal priority to every aspect in my life. Flip over to the way I “manage the tyres on my car” and it’s a very different picture. I am vaguely aware that it’s important to do things like wheel alignment and rebalancing on one’s tyres every couple thousand kilometres. I know that there are a whole bunch of service providers that could easily help me to manage my car tyres to prolong their life within easy reach of my office or home – at least four, SupaQuick, Tiger Wheel and Tyre, HiQ and Dunlop. I could quite easily pop out to get the full monty every few months, but I don’t. And it’s not because I don’t trust them. I don’t particularly think too hard about their business models and whether or not they’re “conflicted in their services” or not. Don’t care enough to bother, really. And even though their services would likely save me thousands of Rands over the life of owning a car, I still don’t take time out of my life to pop in. The net result is my tyres never last as long as they should. I always have major decay on one side over the other, front versus the back and left versus the right. That’s the story of this one tiny slice of the big pie that is my life.
Another important reflection, is that I’m not saying I never get to the point where I have to stick my head into a SupaQuick. It’s just that the times I deem important are different to the times the tyre industry deems to be important. They’d like to see me every 10,000 kms. I like to see them, only really, once the wheels have fallen off – excuse the pun. Then I go crashing into the nearest dealer for urgent assistance. Sounds a bit like clients we’re trying to convert to a story of financial planning? We want them to check in with us every few months, they want to check in with us if they’d had a baby, resigned from their job, or are ready to retire.
I suspect that we need to get used to this. Just because money, planning and financial products are so primary to our existence, doesn’t mean it’s the same for our clients. Instead, we need to be really smart about being there for them when the thread on their tyres becomes exposed. We need to be connected enough with them in times of their indifference that once they really do need us, they know to whom to turn. Those moments need to be so rich in experience, that the shelf “financial planning” is stored on becomes relatively more important than all the other moving parts in a client’s life, notwithstanding rebalancing one’s tyres on their car.
I also suspect that the more we are able to integrate planning as a service that belongs to the client, rather than one that belongs to the Financial Services Industry, we’ll be on a better footing to move up in their rankings.