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Pattern Matching versus Doing Maths

I cannot tell you how many different fact-finds I have seen in the last twenty years – and how rarely are they completed in full.

Monday, July 10th 2017, 9:24AM

by Russell Hutchinson

I sometimes wonder how much effort has been put into a document which is so often greeted with a groan by those that should use it, both adviser and client alike. The unseen author seemingly looms like a shadow.

One adviser said that between fact-find, needs analysis and recommendation, in one particularly onerous approach, they could spend 15 to 20 hours. There was a lot of maths. Every adviser and client that went through the process deserved a medal, in my opinion. This is like the budgeting tools which require you to record every receipt and spend an hour every evening entering the data into your computer. It was really great – for a very small number of people. Sometimes one has to do all that detail, sometimes that would not even be enough. But if advice is to be affordable for the customer and profitable for the adviser then as a rule, it should be a lot shorter.

Of course, I have seen some good ones, and some very diligent advisers and clients that use them. They tend to be the shorter ones, and are deliberately focused around the financial information that they collect.

One way to speed up the process is to match patterns – or size up the general scope before applying some specific tweaks to get the process exactly right. In an ideal world, we might all buy made-to-measure suits, all the time. In this imperfect world, most people buy off the peg and get small alterations done to get the fit right.

Pattern matching happens everywhere. Is it still personalised advice? It can be every bit as good, and better for not taking hours, days or weeks.

Matching patterns isn’t a short-hand for prejudice, where you make assumptions and impose them on the client. The client can make the choice collaboratively with you – choosing the starting point for an engagement by selecting from common sets of objectives could be a good start: I’m in business, we’ve just bought a house, we’ve just had a promotion, we’re thinking about starting a family. All conjure up a set of ideas and a different approach to the meeting. That’s the benefit of spending a bit more time on scope. Conversion falls when you’re too ‘fast to the form’ – when that phrase was coined, they meant the application form, but I think it applies to the very closed questions common to most fact-finds as well.

Tags: financial advisers Russell Hutchinson

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