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Finding the client-centric adviser

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-05-2014 Lovaii Navlakhi

The recent Investment Advisor Regulation promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India asking all individuals and entities that provide advice for consideration to be registered has evoked a lukewarm response thus far. At the time of writing, approximately 150 (large and small entities and individuals combined) had registered. The regulation covers qualification, certification and experience required to be a registered investment adviser, which allows everyone to be at the same base level. But what will distinguish one adviser from another?

One of the factors of distinction could be the role that the financial adviser envisages for herself. I am sure that your experience with each personal finance professional whom you have met is not the same. Some have impressed you with their technical knowledge, others with their communication skills and still others with the way they follow up and service your needs. Sometimes, the head may tell you something but the heart may not agree.

At a recent convention held in Bangalore addressing the adviser community, a session on customer centricity attracted positive feedback. It highlighted how an adviser who is client-centric approached her business differently and was more likely to make a positive impact on the clients.

What makes an adviser client-focused and why must you choose her?

Financial advisers can be qualified, successful and good at what they do. It is not for them to decide how qualified or successful they are: the proof of the pudding is in the feedback that her clients give. What is the one thing these advisers have in common? They all talk about the client being first, having the client’s interest at heart and the like. Not just talk, they do.

A client-centric adviser defines everything that she does (or gets executed by her team) in terms of how it affects her client. For example, the operations team that handles the documentation at the back-end does not act as just the postman, passing on mutual fund redemption forms to the registrar. The team members will also ensure that the signatures are in the right place, the amounts are more than the minimum required and even verify if the bank account number given for electronic clearance credit is correct. This will ensure that the process does not have to be repeated with another form in case of errors.

A client is happy largely because of the mindset the adviser carries.

Customer-centric mindset: The front-end and back-end teams are focused on the client, whom they genuinely “own”. How do you experience this as a client? Well, everyone who talks to you from the team will talk to you as if you are her client and not someone else’s. They will go that extra mile for you, sometimes without even your asking for it. They will be proactive in their dealings. You don’t have to send reminders; they remember.

Relationship building mindset: As opposed to the transaction mindset, the adviser’s main focus is on building the relationship. She may not be in a hurry to make investments on your behalf without understanding you, your money behaviour, your experiences and future aspirations. You will agree that these aspects are closely inter-related and do affect decisions about managing your money better. The key is that the adviser is not focused on earning from you; but earning for you.

Listening mindset: How often have you met someone who attempts to give you the impression that she is really busy elsewhere and seems to have condescended to meet you? She keeps looking at her phone or tablet. An adviser with a listening mindset asks questions and actually listens while you answer. The focus is completely on you and such an adviser will note down points that need action. She shows concern by listening you out and then discusses how she can help rather than focusing on what she has to offer. It is obvious that this adviser will offer a personalized service rather than shove a bunch of products down your throat.

Process-oriented mindset: Understanding the processes behind investments and other interactions and explaining them to you ensures that your expectations are managed. It also gives you as an investor the comfort that you are not solely dependent on the adviser. You interact with the adviser and she, in turn, with institutions such as mutual funds and insurance companies. So, if the adviser is up-to-date with the changes that the institutions have made in their processes, you will have fewer surprises.

It is in your interest to find a client-centric adviser. Before you invest your money, invest time in selecting the right adviser and you will certainly sleep more comfortably at night.

Lovaii Navlakhi is founder and chief executive officer, International Money Matters Pvt. Ltd.

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