the-value-of-advice-thumbs-upOngoing Adviser Services – The Value of Advice

Ongoing adviser services ensure that the financial goals and objectives you are working toward and the strategic plan to achieve them, stay on track – or are revised to adjust to your changing circumstances.

By maintaining regular communication with your adviser, the experiences of the growth and development of your portfolio (unfortunately, not always in a positive direction) can better be weathered as you learn from the communication just how your strategy is playing out to your better good.

Whilst it is not uncommon to relate value to our perception of cost, that is only one element that goes into determining whether something ‘is worth what you pay for it’; other elements tend to be more subjective – and include more emotive characteristics:

  • Was the experience respectful of your understanding and needs?
  • Is the service provider appropriately educated, experienced and empathetic?
  • Has entering into this arrangement been a good, reassuring experience?
  • Is the price contracted for, acceptable and fair?

Ongoing Adviser Services – Visible -v- ‘Behind the scenes’

Visible services provided by financial advisers include face-to-face meetings, responses to email, eNewsletters, periodic reporting (in some cases, including market comments) and occasional seminars.

Whilst responses to emails or phone calls are somewhat direct and clearly recognised as a valuable service; and the receipt of a regular newsletter containing alerts to wealth management updates, tips and ideas can be seen to be of value when there is an attempt by the provider to address needs of the client audience; it is the services behind the scenes (sometimes called ‘the back office activity’; or administration processes) that are less apparent in the value context.

These administrative processes can range from responding to requests from administration platform providers, fund managers and/ or insurance product providers for various clarifications or rectification of information that has for one reason or another become outdated. It can also include responding to accountants and lawyers, banks and finance brokers to provide authorised information from time-to-time.

One ‘background’ service that is valued by investor clients, is the time advisers spend with fund managers and their representatives staying abreast of changes and development within the various funds (and markets) in which our clients’ funds are invested. These can take place in private meetings, or by attending group functions with other adviser firm representatives – and for each different fund, can take from an hour to a couple of hours, and usually up to three times a year (occasionally, more often).

Review of investment products

All investor clients have investment products included in their portfolio. Most investor clients expect that their adviser is reviewing their portfolio on a regular basis: and most expect to be contacted to be advised of the progress of their portfolio – especially if there is a weakness that should be addressed.

How are these portfolios ‘packaged’ in each case? How are the individual needs of investors catered for in the products in their portfolio? How frequently should an investor expect to speak with – or meet with – their adviser?

Throughout our website and regular client communications (including our monthly eNewsletter; and when relevant to the topic, in emails and letters), the message regarding the way Continuum Financial Planners Pty Ltd manages investor portfolios is consistent:

  • Individual needs, goals and objectives are defined – reviewed according to the schedule agreed with ongoing service package clients;
  • Investor Risk profiling is undertaken – and periodically reviewed;
  • Investment strategy is formulated and modelled – and in arranged circumstances, reviewed as to continuing relevance;
  • Investment product is selected (- and reviewed, in each case to fulfil the strategic objectives):
    • Asset allocation over different investment asset classes;
    • Diversification appropriate to the investor risk profile; and
    • Efficiency and effectiveness for the funds involved;
  • Advice recommendations are documented and discussed before taking Authority to Proceed (and to Implement the agreed recommendations);
  • Investment managers are monitored (as are their separate and individual managed funds) on an ongoing basis;
  • Where a fund manager fails to meet the ‘true-to-label’ test; or persistently under-performs their peers – they are flagged for change and affected clients advised accordingly;
  • Depending on the service package negotiated with the client, meetings are held to review aspects of their financial position, growth and development.

The activity around monitoring and reviewing the activities and performance of the various fund managers and their portfolios, relating them to the individual goals and objectives of our clients – and when change is warranted, communicating that through to implementing the change (usually involving a formal advice document to record the change and the reasons for it) – is significant and absorbs a considerable amount of the time of members of our team.

All of the services we offer involve time, professional judgement, product and technical learning (legislation, regulations and strategic application) and resource costs to deliver. We have taken care in calculating the cost to deliver the various services offered in the packages taken up by our clients. We are willing and available to discuss them with you at your convenience.

What your financial adviser can/ cannot provide

What your adviser can’t assure you about within any short- to medium-term, is the financial performance of your investment portfolio: where we have been engaged to make the strategic asset allocation within the portfolio (and are regularly engaged to rebalance and/ or review it critically) we can do our best to raise your level of comfort as to the performance over the long-term.

Remembering that investment portfolios are constructed so as to provide the likely possibility that the financial goals and objectives enunciated by our clients; and clarified and agreed by us, should lead to reasonably expected outcomes over the prescribed timeframe.

Paying for financial advice

As our clients appreciate, we have offered our services on a ‘fee for advice’/ ‘fee for service’ basis for many years now. Some of our clients still elect to pay for the service they receive by way of a percentage of their investment account (determined adequate to meet the package of services they select). We encourage you to engage your adviser in a discussion about moving from a percentage of assets under management calculation, to a flat dollar ‘fee for service’ model.

If you are concerned that you are not receiving appropriate advice (nor adequate service) about your investment account(s), contact us for a review of your account by one of our experienced advisers to discuss the various options open to you. Our team works to the mantra of personalised, professional wealth management advice – delivered in response to a series of meetings where: ‘we listen, we understand; and we have solutions’.

(This article was originally posted with the September 2010 eNewsletter; it has been occasionally updated and refreshed, most recently, in January 2019.)