We’ve all done it. We call a service provider to confirm something or make an enquiry and, these days, the auto-response we hear goes along the lines of, “All our consultants are busy right now but your call is important to us. Please select from one of the following options …”
While waiting several more minutes (if we haven’t hung up by then), we are usually ‘entertained’ by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and it’s all but guaranteed that if we start in Spring we’ll most likely still be waiting by the coming Winter.
Service providers who treat their clients in this way will state it’s the price of progress: whether called outsourcing, downsizing or rightsizing, the fact is that, despite technology’s many benefits, it is also capable of delivering less than optimal service standards. Such practices might serve their interests … but hardly ours.
What has this to do with financial services? A lot, as this piece will explore in a little more depth.
In a previous article (on vigilance) we outlined some of the key functions of the Investment Committee at Joseph Palmer & Sons, and, as stated then, the committee was created to provide an extra level of oversight on the procedures in the firm.
It might be argued that such protocols evidence an overly protective ‘belt and braces’ approach to compliance and, in some ways it might even be seen as overkill.
This attention to detail, however, is an innate component of the firm’s approach to client service standards, which have been part of its DNA for over 140 years.
As thorough and forensic as the Investment Committee’s execution of responsibilities is, its job is made easier by the very fact that extremely high levels of customer service are inherently part and parcel of what the staff at Joseph Palmer & Sons do every day.
They don’t boast about it and for that reason you have never seen (nor ever will see) a self-congratulatory advertisement proclaiming the virtues of client care; these are intrinsic to the firm’s quotidian processes that protect and promote client interests.
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” Adam Smith
Why so? For the simple reason that what serves clients well also serves this venerable firm well.
Joseph Palmer & Sons does not have an advertising budget; money that would otherwise be spent in the press is instead directed towards technology and training in order to deliver high levels of client care; for this reason, almost all new personal and commercial clients come by personal referral; in short, by the very best promotion of all – word of mouth.
In recent years, many clients who historically had used only the firm’s stockbroking and administration services, have now taken the opportunity to transfer investments to highly efficient (and effective) managed discretionary accounts (MDAs).
In this scenario, clients talk with a staff member to draw up an agreed strategy tailored specifically to each client’s circumstances. Discretion on which securities to buy or sell within the resulting portfolio is then assigned to the particular member of the firm’s staff who handles that client’s account.
This, by definition, is a highly personalised service; staff members and clients know each other by name; they are aware of the nuances that emerge in such relationships; clients speak to people they get to know and, just as importantly, over time, staff members get to know their clients’ preferences very well.
During the course of weeks, months, and years, portfolios, whether non-superannuation or in superannuation/ pension phase, they experience the vicissitudes of the market; and, with the right strategy in place, they withstand the onslaught of extremes, whether tempests at one end … or bubbles at the other.
It might sound paradoxical but the firm’s account managers follow the all-but boring rules of time-honoured protocols in order to provide both the steady growth and protection of the portfolios for which they are responsible.
The test of well-tuned engine is the reassuring hum it makes as it generates output; this metaphor reflects the workings of the firm’s staff. Whenever you have visited the offices in Sydney or Melbourne, you will have experienced a similar quietude as bright, disciplined people stealthily pursue their responsibilities. It’s in the firm’s interests to do this … and they do it well.
And while on the subject of client engagement, you will have noticed that whenever you call to make a point or make an enquiry, a real, live human answers the phone. Whenever a member of staff says, “Your business is important to us,” they mean it.
Disclaimer & General Advice Warning
This publication has been prepared by Joseph Palmer & Sons (ABN 29 548 490 818) an Australian Financial Services Licensee (AFSL 247067). Whilst the information contained in this publication has been prepared with all reasonable care from sources, which Joseph Palmer & Sons believes are reliable, no responsibility or liability is accepted by Joseph Palmer & Sons for any errors or omissions or misstatements however caused. Any opinions, forecasts or recommendations reflects the judgment and assumptions of Joseph Palmer & Sons as at the date of publication and may change without notice. Joseph Palmer & Sons, their officers, agents and employees exclude all liability whatsoever, in negligence or otherwise, for any loss or damage relating to this document to the full extent permitted by law. This publication is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase or subscribe for any investment. Any securities recommendation contained in this publication is unsolicited general information only. Joseph Palmer & Sons are not aware that any recipient intends to rely on this publication and are not aware of the manner in which a recipient intends to use it. In preparing our information, it is not possible to take into consideration the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any individual recipient. Investors must obtain individual financial advice from their investment advisor to determine whether recommendations contained in this publication are appropriate to their personal investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs before acting on any such recommendations.