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BLOG: Choosing an adviser is not a tick-box exercise

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Personality matching and trust are as much a part of choosing the right financial adviser for you as experience and qualifications, says Richard Watkins.

 A truly successful client/adviser relationship has one key component: trust. This can be regarded as a universal truth and must sit at the base of everything that is discussed. Trust consists of three parts – sincerity, competence and reliability. This means that you know your adviser understands the advice you are being given, believes that the advice is right for you and will always offer support.

Trust takes time to establish and can, unfortunately, be misplaced, but a simple framework for choosing an adviser or reviewing your existing advisers can be established. The first stepping stone to consider is what you require from an adviser in the first place, and the key characteristics that an adviser must display.

In most cases, this will include someone who clearly displays professional conduct and integrity, has the relevant qualifications, is ethical and understands you and your situation.

A good adviser will help you discuss and prioritise your key life goals. Observe closely whether they show a genuine interest in you, your values, and standards and can illustrate how they could help you to achieve your goals. Does the adviser show an unselfish interest in you or are they simply sticking to a script? If the adviser is truly listening, they will be able to summarise your objectives, in some cases even better than you can.

To put the ball back in your court, a really good adviser will ask you to picture and describe your ideal life, giving you control over your choices. If they instead launch into product details as the solution then you know there is no genuine interest in you. Likewise, if the adviser links investment performance with service then show them the door. Investment performance is beyond their control, but delivering a service that you really value is entirely within their control.

A good adviser is a good listener and will be able illustrate a profound understanding of your priorities. They will provide you with an experience that goes at your pace, fitting into your lifestyle and capabilities.

It’s also quite alright to allow the relationship to develop in stages. The first stage might be an assessment and opinion of your current circumstances with an opinion of what you may need to do to achieve your identified goals. This can be provided for a fixed fee (anywhere from £250 to £2,000 depending on the work to be done). If you want to proceed further then agree what you want done, what service you want and the fee to be charged.

Do not be afraid to undertake research, ask for references or endorsements and speak to several different candidates. It is important to understand that a good client/adviser relationship can be very fulfilling but it does require active involvement by you, particularly in the early stages of your relationship.

Richard Watkins is a certified financial planner at Close Brothers Asset Management

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