Woman tapping a contactless credit card. Credit card reader with very shallow depth of field.

A lot has been said and written about the cost to access financial advice in this country. Perhaps the focus has been too much on the cost, and not enough on the value.

It is correct to say the cost of accessing advice is increasing – there are many reasons for this that are well known, and there’s no need to repeat them here.

But clients are not forced to obtain advice. They acquire it for various reasons – be they needs, desires or both. Some specific examples of why individuals have sought advice, which we have noted as we’ve worked with advice firms to help them price their services, include:

• Buying more time back to spend with family or the pursuit of personal goals.
• Protecting the financial wellbeing of the family group if something happens to the main “CFO” client.
• Securing and then maintaining a target level of income in retirement.
• Avoiding making irrational or emotional financial decisions that may erode wealth.
• Fulfilling philanthropic and/or charitable desires
• Managing complex structures to legally minimise tax and maximise revenue generation.
• Acquiring lifestyle assets beyond the family home.

There is an investment in “me” or in “my family” in every one of these scenarios and if these aspects of the value of advice to the client are forgotten or are not mentioned by advisers, then in the client’s mind access to advice does become all about cost.

However, the cost of not investing in these scenarios can be very substantial and often significantly greater than the cost of the advice itself, as all financial advisers are aware.

We believe every engagement with a client should be framed in the context of being “an investment in oneself”. Cost is a factor of course, and must be considered when pricing advice, but cost alone should not be allowed to make up an individual’s mind to obtain advice or not.

We know from working with firms to successfully price advice services delivered to more than 9000 individual clients that the benefit of an ongoing advice relationship has well and truly delivered a net positive return to the end client. And that return is often multi-layered.

It’s not only the return on any investments an adviser may recommend. There is so much that clients receive when they invest in themselves through a financial adviser, and we believe they should be reminded of this as often as is necessary.

Like any investment, what you pay for it today is important, but it is only part of the story. The other part is what that investment is likely to be worth to you in future. If you’re clear on what the future value or benefit of advice is likely to be, the cost today is not the major issue.

One of the strategies we adopt when changing the level of fees clients pay their financial adviser is to frame the reason the client became a client initially, the value they have received from the relationship, why advice is still valuable now and why it will remain relevant in the future.

When we do this the response from clients is overwhelmingly positive and it “reconnects” them to the value of advice – not just the cost of advice.

And if you are wondering whether you can put a price on that value, the answer is a resounding yes. If you follow the right process, tangible and intangible value can be calculated fairly, communicated clearly and charged for appropriately.

As we do that as an industry, we are seeing a shift from financial advice being seen as a cost, to being seen as an investment.