Justin Wysocki is chief revenue officer at Age Partnership

As we see the green shoots of normality returning to our lives there are elements from the past year that are likely to stay with us forever, and in some cases that might not be a bad thing.

A blend of working from home and days in the office. More video calls and less travel. Advice being carried out via video, phone calls, and hopefully face-to-face in the not too distant future.

As the world returns to normal, wherever that advice takes place, there are standards that all advisers should be adhering to, regardless of location.

This is the first of three comment pieces covering how the new way of working affects the key findings from last year’s FCA review in the equity release sales and advice process.

The review highlighted three significant areas of concern about the suitability of advice provided, which could increase the risk of harm to consumers in this market.

Such as, evidencing client interactions to support the suitability of advice.

“We encourage firms to ensure that the customer’s voice can clearly be ‘heard’ in the file. By this, we mean the customer’s own words, phrases and explanations are noted, and not just responses recorded in the form of tick boxes or selected from a list of options.”

At Age Partnership we chose to take this a step further, taking audio recordings of all client interactions – wherever that interaction takes place. These recordings are crucial in ensuring that our advice standards remain high.

The purpose of recording client calls isn’t so that we can spy ‘big brother’ style.

It’s incredibly beneficial for advisers to regularly have their calls reviewed by senior management and by our in-house compliance team as it helps us to ensure that our service and compliance are the gold standard in the industry.

The recordings are also a means of assessing vulnerability and allow the input of a second opinion, where necessary.

As vulnerability is assessed right from a client’s first phone call with Age Partnership, it is crucial that we don’t just record the initial fact finding, but all interactions.

All of our colleagues are trained to look out for verbal cues of vulnerability, in addition to the detailed vulnerability assessment which takes place at the fact finding stage.

Obviously recording calls is not going to be popular with all advisers and when we made it mandatory some advisers did leave.

But those advisers who believe in our ethos of providing the best outcome for each client’s individual situation, were 100% behind the recordings.

And what do clients think about having their calls recorded? Well, we recently surveyed 1,084 of our completed equity release clients and posed the following question to them…

The Financial Conduct Authority has stated that they would like all equity release advisers to record all phone calls and meetings with their clients.

What are your thoughts on this? – less than 8% of respondents did not agree that all client interactions should be recorded.

It’s a no brainer, industry wide all client interactions should be recorded as it helps you to provide the highest standard of advice for clients.