Building a great relationship from ‘nothing’

Steve Pennington is Director, Head of Wealth Planning at Arbuthnot Latham & Co., Ltd, Fellow of the Personal Finance Society, a Chartered Financial Planner and Chartered Fellow of the CISI.

In this article, he tells us about building a great relationship from ‘nothing’.

“I’m sorry, I know nothing”.

It’s interesting how many of us loathe to admit how little we know about a particular topic, but I have started some of the strongest client relationships with a similar admission – and it can be from either side.

The crucial starting point is to listen. My team are experts in wealth planning, but our knowledge is nothing without application and it’s crucial to spend time getting to know the client, their needs and their aspirations.

What may surprise some is that more often than not, the client makes the admission. For example, we work with many entrepreneurs. On the whole, they are sharp, focussed, often risk-takers, eternal energetic optimists, experts in their field. Sound familiar? But they are also often woefully under prepared in their personal wealth planning. Some have never thought about it, some simply don’t have the time.

If the client is on a financial journey from A to B, we’re the navigators providing the flight instructions and safety checks; all they need to do is tell us the destination.

This is why forming a close personal relationship is crucial and it’s something we pride ourselves on at Arbuthnot Latham. Many eventualities befall us, some more inevitable than others, and when you’re balancing a burgeoning business with the wellbeing and future prosperity of those you love, having someone who understands your journey is incredibly valuable.

We see huge value in building a close knit community with our clients where they feel understood and where we are physically present and available for consultations at the point they require our services. One of the things I’ve noticed when dealing with clients away from the capital is that relationships tend to be less transactional and that initial relationship is built more effectively in-person.

At a time when many banks have retrenched to London, we have made three key hires in our Bristol office, seeing an opportunity to build on the Wealth Management presence in the South West and support the relationship-led approach that so many still seek. Paul Clifton joined the Bristol Team as a Wealth Planner in July after 17 years with Hargreaves Lansdown and is supported by Amanda Blakeley (Senior Paraplanner) who joined in January and Stephen Taylor (Paraplanner) who joined in September. All three team members are Fellows of the Personal Finance Society and Chartered Financial Planners. While we are basing that additional intellectual firepower in one place, we do cover a huge distance: from South Wales, through to Birmingham, the Thames Valley and along the south coast to Cornwall. Yes, the events of 2020 mean we have had to change how we do things in the short term, but we expect good levels of demand for face-to-face meetings again in 2020, not just via video conferencing.

Although we have noticed a continued demand for a personal approach, each of those relationships can be very different, there is no ‘one size fits all’. One person might decide they want to sell their business and retire – that’s not an easy process and requires expertise. For many, 2020 has been a time of reflection, many have taken a look at their retirement or legacy plans and realised that they need updating. They’re difficult conversations, but business continuity planning is also something many have asked us about. If your business partner dies, how do you ensure business continuity? There are a range of options available for almost every circumstance, but you can only get a bespoke solution that works for you if you have the right relationship with your relationship team. To some extent, that involves a journey of discovery where you’re both clear about the destination.

I think that’s the key to our proposition. We’re not just wealth planners, we’re a full service proposition, offering private and commercial banking, wealth planning, investment management and specialist finance. We also work with a wide range of partners from legal to accounting and we are able to introduce you to specialist advisers to address your needs.