“You’re simply the best,
Better than all the rest,
Better than anyone,
Anyone I ever met.”
— Tina Turner, IFA Compliance Consultant of the Year 2019
What’s the big deal?
The Statement of Advice is important, obviously, but the best advisers understand that file notes are perhaps more important for minimising risk and maintaining client relationships in any professional setting. Not only do they record important information about a client’s background, preferences, and previous interactions, but they serve as a reference point for future conversations, allowing advisers to pick up conversations where they left off, provide context, and tailor their communication to the specific needs and nuances of the client.
They bring clarity and structure to client relationship management.
By understanding the significance of these notes, advisers can provide better service and build stronger, long-term relationships with their clients.
Most advisers understand this, at least on some level, but the advisers who consistently surpass their compliance obligations know it. In our view, there are a few things to remember.
Comprehensive file notes play a crucial role in maintaining positive client relationships.
Firstly, they help to avoid any misunderstandings between the client and the adviser. Accurate file notes act as evidence in case of disputes or claims, ensuring transparency and accountability. Secondly, file notes can be used to identify any patterns in a client’s behaviour, which helps an adviser to anticipate their needs or identify issues before they escalate. This can lead to better communication and a more personalised approach which clients value. Lastly, comprehensive file notes assist new staff members to catch up on a client’s history and issues, which can reduce errors and lead to timely action.
Great advisers take the time to maintain robust, detailed file notes from their client interactions. They take time and ultimately benefit from improved client relationships, greater client retention, increased referrals, better compliance practices and positive business outcomes.
Accuracy is King
This may seem obvious to you so let’s skip the entree and focus on the main meal. Your file notes should be factual, objective, and clear of any biases or personal opinions. Your notes should be timely and document any relevant information as soon as possible to ensure accuracy and completeness. Lastly, your file notes should be organised and labelled, making them searchable and easy to understand for anyone reviewing them.
Business performance benefits
Without proper records of client interactions, important details such as deadlines, promises made, and obligations can be forgotten or overlooked. This can lead to missed opportunities, incorrect billing, and even potential AFCA complaints. Effective file note keeping minimises your regulatory risks, it improves your business; deepening client relationships, improving decision making and defending you against complaints, claims and compliance reviews.
Clients feel heard
File notes can be a great tool for building long lasting relationships with clients.
Effective note taking can help to ensure that a client’s needs are identified and acknowledged, and that they feel heard and understood. Additionally, keeping detailed notes of past interactions can help to create a sense of trust and accountability between a client and an adviser. By demonstrating that you take the time to focus on your client’s individual needs and preferences, you build a reputation for attentiveness and care, which is particularly important for businesses that rely on clients for referrals. Make no mistake, detailed file notes can help to foster relationships that are built on trust, communication, and mutual respect.
Key file note elements
We’ve included a sample file note template here to get you started.
Please understand that templates are just guard rails and that great file notes are contextualised specifically to clients circumstances. Start with the basics. Be sure to record the date, time, venue, attendees and description of the meeting held, including the client’s name and any relevant referenced documents. Avoid shortcuts and remember that recording inaccuracies, or entirely irrelevant information, is both inefficient and detrimental to your interests. We’ve seen with templated file notes that contain copy-and-paste errors that are embarrassingly only discovered at a later date. Ensure that your file notes are contemporaneous so that information is fresh in your mind when you document and contextualise the clients’ thoughts, feelings and needs. Lastly, keep file notes securely stored to ensure that your clients trust and confidentiality is protected.
Get techy with it
There is a broad range of software available such as dictation software, voice-to-text apps and customer relationship management (CRM) tools that are specifically designed to manage files notes. These tools allow advisers to easily organise, share, and access client files notes, which ultimately leads to improved compliance, more efficient business practices, customised client centric advice documents and ultimately enhanced client relationships. Additionally, advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to impact file note management significantly. With the help of AI, practitioners can automate the process of filing and categorising notes, thus saving time and increasing efficiency.
Managing client complaints
Not only do they provide a detailed record of events, but they can also assist in the resolution of complaints if necessary. By thoroughly documenting client communication, including any concerns or issues that arise, a business can better understand how to effectively address any complaints. Furthermore, file notes can be used as a reference in future interactions with the client, ensuring consistency and transparency in the complaint resolution process, thereby reducing the chance of the complaint going to AFCA and losing the client entirely. In addition, this process can help you modify your compliance processes going forward to help prevent the same client errors occurring in the future.
“And we can build this dream together
Standing strong forever
Nothing’s gonna stop us now”
— Starship Financial Planning
Contemporaneous, consistent and accurate file notes are crucial in building strong client relationships. The ability to review past discussions, actions, and decisions is essential for providing quality advice and building trust with clients. Additionally, proper documentation can help avoid misunderstandings, conflicts, and potential legal issues.
Therefore, it is crucial for advisers to prioritise effective file note keeping practices and invest in adequate resources to support this aspect of their work. In doing so, they can enhance the quality of the services they provide to their clients, strengthen their reputation, and foster compliant, long term relationships.
If you would like help with how to improve your file noting processes, please reach out to us here.