Much fuss has been made over how advisors get paid, how much they get paid, and whether their services justify the costs borne either directly or indirectly by the client. This brings to mind the saying that ‘cost is only an issue in the absence of value.’
If an advisor is earning commissions or a fee for his services, then the client should expect to hear from this advisor on a regular basis, which I would suggest be quarterly in the first year and at least semi-annually thereafter, or as extenuating circumstances warrant.
I prefer these meetings to be face-to-face, addressing issues that are material to the client’s affairs, which may include but are not limited to:
- Changes to the client’s personal circumstances (job, housing, debt, health, etc.)
- Changes in the client’s family affairs (children’s schooling, parent’s health, etc.)
- Changes to the client’s future aspirations, goals, financial objectives, etc.
- A review of investment portfolio performance across all client accounts
- Review of estate, taxation, banking, mortgage, and insurance requirements
- Review of client’s current cash flow experience
- Review of workplace benefits and government entitlements
In terms of value received, my clients should know that I am an ‘independent’ advisor, thus able to ‘shop the market’ for the best performing and most cost effective solutions. My clients enjoy a long-lasting, stable relationship with me, being able to easily contact or meet with me even outside of normal business hours.
A concern many clients have with bank-based advisors is that their contact is temporary, as the bank often rotates staff through various positions. Unless your account is of sufficient size, you are not likely to be in contact with a seasoned advisor. In addition, many bank branches work on a quota basis and a bonus structure. It’s possible that the advice you receive may be geared towards purchasing bank sponsored products and not be truly independent.
I believe that when this discussion is all said and done, clients want to be satisfied that their advisors are listening and responding to the client’s own unique financial challenges and aspirations, that the advisor is knowledgeable in the many considerations that impact the client’s financial affairs, and that the advisor is competitive, fair and honest when it comes to charging the client for these various services.