In an industry which is dominated by lots of smaller firms, often one man/woman-bands – who may feel like they are ploughing a lone furrow – the opportunity to converse and network with your peer group, can be incredibly important.
Events and exhibitions can often seem two’a’penny in the advisory sector, however that’s certainly not the case at the moment. Where once, advisers would have had plenty of chances to attend workshops, and the like, now – where possible – those events have moved online but it perhaps doesn’t fully make up for the physical experience of being there.
There is where online forums can prove to be something of a godsend, and I suspect that industry ones – such as Cherry and the like – have probably seen an uptick in activity during 2020.
Whether you are new to the advice sector, or a stalwart with 20-years-plus experience, my view is that every day can still be a learning one.
Take, for instance, a recent thread I saw on Cherry which focused on ‘rate hunters’ – those individuals who came to an adviser for the ‘best rate’ and then left never to be seen again – and how advisers in other practices dealt with them.
The answers were intriguing, from the notion that this was an occupational hazard, to advice on how to sound out clients early on to gauge their commitment, and how best to cope with a spate of these during a particular busy time. I was impressed that advisers were willing to take time out of their day to help what, might be viewed in other sectors, as a competitor. But, to my mind, that’s advisers for you.
Of course, the obvious response to this from many intermediary firms was simply, ‘We charge a fee’, and of course that model works for many practices across the country. There were also variations on this in terms of charging a partial fee for the early research part of the job, through to effectively ‘completion fees’ when the case had got to its end point.
However, for a whole host of reasons it will not work for all, and there is also perhaps a wider point to be made here around how consumers may have got used to receiving their mortgage advice ‘for free’, and the value that advisers themselves put on the work they carry out.
These are the types of debates that have been with us for many years, and I suspect they will continue to be argued over, perhaps until the regulator steps in. However, that will be for another day.
But it did strike me that, for those not charging a fee of any kind, there is always going to be the danger that ‘rate hunters’ or those just testing the waters or those attempting to play off advisers against each other or those who simply have no intention of moving forward with a transaction, could obviously end up meaning a loss of time, resources and revenue.
There were plenty of tales within the thread where this had been the case and where firms had changed their approach after such a situation arose. Disappointing doesn’t really cover it, when you have spent many hours working for a client ultimately for them to take the business out of your hands, for whatever reason.
And of course, at very busy times (like hopefully now), the wasted time and lost income is going to hurt, especially if you have plenty of other cases that could have been worked on and completed. It perhaps also makes the case for ensuring that advisers ‘get the most out of’ every client, and by that I mean ensuring all their wants and needs are serviced, not manufacturing ancillary work where there isn’t any.
Advisers who differentiate and diversify their offering to ensure the client is fully protected, has the right GI policies, has received the necessary conveyancing or legal advice recommendation, can ensure that those ‘speculative client hits’ when they do come, are not as damaging as they might ordinarily be.
Of course, no one wants their work to go to waste, especially if you feel you’ve been ‘had’ – the point is to mitigate against the threat of this and to maximise the advice, products and service you can deliver to those clients who are with you for the long haul. By doing this, you’ll be doing all you can to make all you can of those clients who are worth all the effort.
Mark Snape is managing director of Broker Conveyancing