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Adviser Workshop: How to manage client relationships

Adviser Workshop: How to manage client relationships

Cliff Patterson (pictured), Tom Annear and Lee Waters explain how their firms use administrators and paraplanners to manage client interactions.

Cliff Patterson

Director, AV Trinity

Four years ago we started using the title client service associate (CSA) instead of administrator.

We have encouraged the people who would originally have been called administrators to manage clients directly where they can.

Offer the option

In the past, a client would ring in for an adviser who would not be available and the adviser would ring back. Later it would transpire it was something quite straightforward that could have been dealt with at the point of contact.

The difference we have noticed is the client will ask for the CSA if they are longer standing clients. At the beginning it is more about working with the advisers, and later the CSA will be introduced as a back-up point of contact.

The other role is the paraplanners. They are involved more in the research or reporting, but they sometimes meet with clients if they can add value to the relationship.

Encourage development

The team are very clear what they can and cannot deal with when it comes to advice.

We encourage and pay for CSAs to do exams. We encourage continuous professional development. It widens the role and gives a clearer career path as well.

By developing a paraplanner or an adviser, we can grow our own rather than recruiting from elsewhere.

Tom Annear

Head of marketing and business development, Epoch Wealth Management

We still think we are a fairly small company despite having 32 bums on seats, so we have a very collegiate way of doing things.

Create a cocoon

When someone calls into the office everyone’s phone rings. Everybody takes calls and helps where they can but the best-placed person to answer a question that is not advice-specific is the administrator.

What we do not have is advisers merrily signing up clients then passing them over to a client relationship manager. We have pods of advisers, paraplanners and administrators that the client is cocooned within at all times.

Offer sufficient support

A business might not want to communicate the fact they only have one paraplanner working with six advisers, but clients thinking the paraplanner is only dealing with one adviser.

Because we have turned that on its head and we have three support staff for every fee-earner at Epoch, we do state on our website which support staff works with which adviser. In very few instances do our support staff work with more than one adviser, whereas in other firms you would often find support staff working with more than one adviser.

The paraplanners rarely speak to clients so although they know pretty much everything about them, as they are researching and writing reports, they will have much less contact with them.

Lee Waters

Chief executive, Barwells Wealth

We adopt a team approach rather than having one person responsible for client relationships.

Use resources wisely

Proactive outwards communications tends to come from the paraplanners and advisers. Which one can depend on the complexity of the topic. Sometimes a paraplanner can be good technically but not as good at explaining something.

We have a process where it tends to be administrators who deal with inward queries and communications. Everyone has access to the back-office system.

If it is slightly more complicated it will be dealt with by a paraplanner. In 95% of cases it can be dealt with by one of those two stages.

If it is particularly complicated it will tend to go to the adviser. Most of the time the administrator will know if it needs to bypass the paraplanner and go straight to the adviser.

Play to your strengths

There are certain clients who are quite happy to talk to the administrators whereas other clients prefer to talk straight to the adviser.

In the past we have talked about paraplanners taking over some of the more basic tasks and taking ownership of those, such as a Bed and ISA or cash management.

We had a great administrator who was very nervous about making phone calls so we worked around that. Instead of having a strict model for managing client relationships, the key is to work with the skills and strengths of your team.


  • Cliff Patterson: Emphasise administrators’ role in client management to widen their career path.
  • Tom Annear: Have a good designated support staff to adviser ratio.
  • Lee Waters: Manage client relations according to the strengths of your team.

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