In my view, the ability to listen and understand is what separates the elite from the average professional. Over a number of years, I have listened to the needs of hundreds of clients and found that, in the majority, what clients actually need is often different from what the prevailing idea of what they need is. For example, a tech –focused company might focus only on AI and automation to solve problems whilst, in reality, a large percentage of clients might still want ‘the human touch’. I have also found that, time and again, a large number of clients are best served via inter-disciplinary teams rather than specialists which is why I wrote this article.
The Example of a Guest at a Restaurant
Let’s take a simple analogy, that of a guest at a restaurant. In most cases, there is a menu of services but what if there was something missing on the menu? A guest might ask the chef to prepare something specifically for him/her (the bespoke option) but, should nothing available, then the guest would be forced to travel elsewhere to look for alternatives (at a cost and inconvenience). For an ideal evening he/she would have to travel to various locations.
Which brings me back to clients in the wealth/investment/legal/accountancy space. What do they really need? Very often I have found that they actually require professionals who are, well, some combination of all of these professions together and more. A client might need an adviser, for example, who helps with tax advice, can structure a trust, is great to talk to and can provide investment advice as well as help their small business to grow.
Licensing and Qualifications – They Can Be a Hindrance
The problem can be that it usually takes years to become a chartered professional in the UK. This can be a good thing in that clients can trust in the reputation of the professional body and its code of ethics and assume a high level of competence. On the other hand, it can also be a hindrance. Many fields are inter-related (e.g. an accountant and a wealth adviser should both be conversant regarding inheritance tax), however, it would take a lifetime to acquire expertise in multiple disciplines. Also, for example, licensing would prevent the accountant from providing regulated investment advice or legal advice.
A Solution – Virtual Teams– A Family Office Approach
One of the concepts I helped organize recently was a group of inter-disciplinary professionals called The Professional Circle. The concept was that, at any point, any Professional Circle member could call upon the expertise of other members to ‘form a team of experts around a client’. They could use technology such as video conferencing but would also, of course, meet in person. The idea was that this could function almost like an instant family office and provide a bespoke and flexible service which, ultimately, would service a client’s need the best.
In the family office space, such concepts already exist where the office does not focus solely on investments but may also handles tasks such as property management, accounting, and payroll activities, financial and investor education and the coordination of philanthropy.
What I have also found, after detailed analysis, is that a similar team approach (albeit a rudimentary one) has already been in existence for hundreds of years in many communities. In this example, a local village accountant or lawyer would normally reach out to their local network of professionals when a client came to him/her for help. It would be a natural and human way to interact and best serve clients.
This ‘team’ approach has the following benefits:
- Professionals in virtual team can add huge extra value to their clients through the effects of genuine synergy.
- Clients, of course, have their needs met ‘in one place’ with time and costs saved.
Using technology, it is now possible to have a ‘local’ or ‘community’ of experts (even if they are not located nearby like they were in the past). Post-Covid it is also now more acceptable than ever, even for HNW clients, to meet via video conferencing.
Equally, we are seeing a trend in that many professions are becoming commoditized and perhaps feeling the negative or looming impact of automation and AI. Providing extra value via teamwork can be a way in which they can uniquely and positively differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace.
Finally, in summary, a for a little bit of motivation, I will leave you with a final quote from Vince Lombardi (the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers)