We call our process Clear and FAIR. FAIR stands for Fact-find, Advise, Implement and Review. Fact-finding is naturally the first part of the process. Once we understand your circumstances, we can then proceed to advise you after which we can implement the course of action agreed by arranging any required products. Reviews enable us to advise you on and arrange any necessary fund switches or other changes to your portfolio.
When you first contact us, we’ll take some basic details and send you an appointment confirmation with details of what you need to bring with you to satisfy the anti-money laundering regulations (see below). With our appointment confirmation we’ll also send you our Risk Realities pamphlet and a budget planner spreadsheet to complete and bring with you.
The Anti-money Laundering Regulations
We are obliged by law to positively confirm the identity and address of all those with whom we deal, including Trust-fund Trustees and the Executors of estates. Ideally, please bring with you an in-date passport and driving licence. If you don’t have these documents please tell us in advance so we can look consider what alternatives might be acceptable.
The Fact-finding Meeting
We are more open with our clients than any other firm we know. We have no problem with showing clients how we arrange our own investments and pensions and what funds and products we use. We need clients to be similarly open with us. We conduct a thorough fact-find at the outset of the relationship and we update it regularly throughout the time we work for you. The FCA, our regulator, rightly insists that advisers ‘know their clients’; the ‘KYC rule’ as it’s commonly known. It’s just common sense. The more accurate our understanding of your circumstances, the better we can help you. The fact-find meeting also provides you with the opportunity to ask us any questions you might have. We’re an open book, so you can ask us almost anything you like. We say ‘almost’ because all client information is treated in the strictest confidence, so for example, you can’t ask us about your brother’s investments or those of a friend who’s a client and has maybe referred you to us. You can ask us anything you like though about who we are, what we do and how we do it. Please take time to have a browse around our website though, if you haven’t already, as it will probably answer a lot of your more general questions.
After the Meeting
On average, the first meeting usually takes around an hour. Once we’re done, we’ll send you what we call a ‘Welcome/Engagement Letter’ – a ‘WEL’ in our internal jargon – along with our Client & Fee Agreement Document. The WEL sets out what we can do and what it will cost. If you agree the fee we have quoted and want us to proceed, just sign and return the paperwork. Doing it this way is deliberate – it ensures you have the time to make an informed decision in the zero-pressure environment of your own home.
Some couples make financial decisions jointly, whilst with some couples one or the other partner makes the decisions. So long as there is no apparent coercive control of one partner and their finances by the other, we aim to be as flexible as we can be. Sometimes it is possible to advise partners individually and where some couples are concerned, one partner uses us as their IFA while their partner uses another firm completely. More often though, advising a couple as a couple works better for all concerned and we act for both partners in the relationship. Where some issues are concerned it can be very much to clients’ advantage to involve other family members, especially their children. This is particularly the case where equity release advice is concerned, because equity release invariably reduces and can even completely wipe out an expected inheritance.
Don’t expect us to limit our advice to things like products and funds. We aim to look after our clients in an all-round sense, so, if we think it’s appropriate, we shall advise you to consider action on areas that are not specifically to do with financial services and shall if necessary, signpost you to other appropriate professionals e.g., accountants, solicitors, and professional Will-writers. We do not write Wills ourselves so it’s not a service we’re trying to sell you, but if we believe you’d be better off for having one we’ll recommend you consult an appropriate adviser. We’ve even advised long-term unmarried couples to formalise their relationship by marrying so that one or the other benefits from their partner’s Death-In-Service life assurance cover and/or is thus made eligible for a spouse’s pension should their partner die, and also so that they benefit from the spousal Inheritance Tax exemption. You don’t have act on our advice of course, but we’ll give it where we believe you might benefit. We know for a fact that our holistic-advice policy has resulted in a great many clients being much better off than they otherwise would have been.
Once you have returned your signed Client Agreement Document to us, and after we have completed any necessary research, we shall send you our recommendations in writing. Again, the point of this is to give you time to consider our advice in the zero-pressure environment of your own time and in your own home.
Implementing the Advice
Once we’ve given our advice and had any further discussions that are necessary, and have agreed between us what’s to be done, we can put our advice into practice. (Don’t worry, we do all the form-filling!)
Ongoing Care and Advice
Annually we send every client an ASRO – an annual suitability review offer. As well as updating your fact-find, the ASRO invites you to have a face-to-face review with us if you want one. These personal reviews are entirely at our expense; unlike some firms we make no extra charge for them. If you need to see us however, don’t feel you have to wait for us to call you. Please call us and we shall be glad to see you. We always aim to be flexible and responsive to our clients’ needs. We also issue four newsletters each year. With them we send a covering letter highlighting anything topical and reminding you that you can ask for a face-to-face review if you feel the need, even if the annual review’s not due. Meanwhile, all the time, in the background, we’ll be working away, monitoring your investment funds, and prompting you if any switches or transfers are needed, for example ‘Bed and ISA’ arrangements or drawdown management. We’ll also help out if your accountants need information, for example on the income and gains in your investment portfolio, please ask them to contact us. This is yet another service for which we make no additional charge.
And finally, just a few points as to how to get the most out of being a West Riding client –
Strictly speaking our standard office hours are nine-to-five but we’re often up and running much earlier and later and when necessary we extend our formal hours. When we do major switching operations, we typically stay open until 8pm every evening for clients wanting a chat, and every client gets Neil’s personal contact numbers.
If you and your spouse are both clients of ours, and one of you intends to divorce the other, please tell them before you tell us. We have an ethical duty to treat you both equally and even-handedly. We have worked before with couples who have divorced and so scrupulously fair have we been with both sides of the relationship, all our divorced former couples remain clients of ours to this day. Please do not tell us before you tell your spouse. Doing so places us in an impossible ethical position and makes it much harder for us to help you both as well as we otherwise might.
Tradesmen and Professionals We Trust
We maintain a list of individuals and businesses who have done work for us to the required standard at a fair price. The list includes all sorts of people from plumbers and builders to lawyers and accountants and even one of the UK’s top knee surgeons. This list is available to any client who wants it, by email, so just ask and we’ll send it. The businesses on it get a fair amount of work as a result of our recommendations and all are keen that we should continue to recommend them which means in turn that they keep up their standards of workmanship and value-for-money.
Sadly, from time to time our clients die. When it happens, we’re here to help their surviving spouses inherit ISAs and spousal pension benefits, to make claims on policies, to administer trust funds and where necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate. We can also help sort out the paperwork left behind to ensure nothing is left unresolved. Please see our Bereavement Services.
When you need us, we’re here for you.
Our trademarked FairFees Promise means that our pension and investment charges are all-inclusive with no extra charges for ‘Bed and ISA’ arrangements, fund switches, reinvesting from pensions to ISAs and suchlike transactions. FairFees also applies on switches from one product to another and from one platform to another.