Stuart Wilson is CEO at Air Group

The adviser-client relationship continues to intrigue me.

We talk a lot in the mortgage and later life lending market about ongoing communication and dialogue between the two but there remains a lingering persistency that, because the dealings are often transactional, deep-down we therefore only need to be in contact with clients when they absolutely need us.

But when might that actually be? Is it three months before the end of their deal or should it actually be regularly over the course of the year? If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that needs can change rapidly and having that ongoing communication can be beneficial and positive for both advisers and their clients.

And the stats seem to show that clients actually want to hear from their advisers – a recent survey by fintech provider, DPR Group, found that 35% of mortgage consumers expect an annual review from their adviser, while 26% want regular communication.

I suspect that when it comes to later life lending clients those numbers would be much higher, especially during an uncertain period or when their financial situation might have changed significantly in a short space of time.

Ordinarily, would advisers be the first port of call for later life clients who are attempting to understand what their options are, and what they could achieve? Hopefully yes, but not necessarily. However, a communication – whether e-mail or call – might act as a trigger for them to present their current situation and any predicament and may well make all the difference in terms of getting them to a solution.

You cannot know what a client is going through if they don’t tell you, but by the same token, we could also say ‘don’t ask, don’t get’. In other words, unless you are proactively communicating with an existing later life client, they may not feel you are the right person to be bringing their problems to.

It has been a long-standing concern of mine – particularly at this time of year – that we have large numbers of our older population who consider themselves in a financially perilous predicament. Perhaps even more so this year.

Who feel they are struggling to make ends meet, who have to ration their central heating use or cut back on essential items, when all the time they are sitting in a property worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, whose equity could be accessed in order to make all the difference?

This is probably not the predicament of existing equity release clients so much given they have already accessed their property’s value and should know what is achievable, but you never really know.

How many existing clients might believe they can only use equity release or later life lending for specific reasons? How many might think that having been down this road before, they are not able to return to the product solution? How many might not know that they can drawdown further amounts?

I think we’re all guilty of sometimes believing our clients are fully informed of their options and aware of what they can do, and sometimes believing our clients have no idea of what is achievable.

In reality however, they mostly lie somewhere between the two and it’s actually ongoing communication that can make all the difference in providing the information and acting as a catalyst for what they can do next.

So, while we might only be a couple of days away from Christmas there’s still time for advisers to reach out to existing later life clients, who – you never know – might actually appreciate a message and the contact.

After all, the Christmas holidays is not just one day and, given the situation that large swathes of the population are currently in – and are likely to be in for some time – then some form of communication might go down well over the next couple of weeks.

Whatever the response it is clearly a good habit to get into and one which might actually set the foundations for your future interactions with them. Much like a dog shouldn’t just be for Christmas, a client communication should be on a far more regular basis.

And with that, may I say a very Merry Christmas to you all.

“Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”