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Editor’s Column: Face to face meetings should return

Should Financial Planning firms insist that staff are vaccinated before returning to face to face client meetings? It’s a question that many planners will be wrangling with but one firm has taken the lead.

Lifetime Financial has already set out a policy this week that all its Financial Planners should be vaccinated before they return to wide scale face-to-face client meetings. 

The firm also believes clients should have the right to know if their adviser had been vaccinated before any in-person meetings and wants to see this policy become an industry standard.

I haven’t seen any word from the FCA but it may be something they give guidance on. It does, however, open up a can of worms.

Can firms insist staff get vaccinated, possibly against their wishes? Is it right for firms to introduce strict rules for staff on matters such as this? What about those planners still waiting for a vaccination, possibly the majority?

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Lifetime seems to be taking a practical approach. It’s retaining online meetings for clients who prefer that but accepting that some, perhaps older, clients will prefer face to face meetings. For these staff will need to be vaccinated.

As the vaccination programme for the UK rolls out rapidly I suspect more Financial Planning firms will need to devise a policy.

It is, however, difficult to see how someone who refuses to get vaccinated could meet up with clients face to face without other draconian protective measures being taken.

Vaccination is just common sense. Until someone finds a pill to cure Covid-19 or treatments evolve to a level where they eradicate the virus, vaccination is the best choice. It will give planners the best way of ensuring a return to face to face meetings with clients.

As I’ve written before, the future of the Financial Planning profession will not be one where an online Zoom call is the only choice or indeed even the main choice for clients who want to engage with a planner. Removing the face to face ‘human’ element from Financial Planning would be a risky strategy, allowing competitors to exploit this weakness.

The ‘secret sauce’ of Financial Planning has always been the ability of planners to get to know clients and form a strong, trusted relationship with them. And that’s best done face to face, for at least a large part of the process. Online engagement is great but it’s not what brings people to planners.

I expect more Financial Planning firms to follow Lifetime.

Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and a financial journalist with 30 years experience.  This topical comment on the Financial Planning news appears most weeks. Follow @FPT_Kevin 

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