Not double-checking things like the client’s details

Many advisers write a lot of SOAs. Some write very few. In our experience, advisers at these two extremes are especially vulnerable to making errors to do with double-checking.

Amazingly, it is not that uncommon that we have an SOA submitted for review that has not changed the “insert date”, “insert client name” and “insert adviser e-mail address” that was contained in the standard template. That is, the adviser has not inserted the actual date, the client’s actual name and the adviser’s actual e-mail address as required. Luckily this mistake is typically caught by our compliance team’s initial review. But imagine if one slipped through: what are the chances of the client being confident enough to accept the advice and act on the recommendations? This would be a very expensive mistake.

Remember, the client does not know how templates work. In particular, the client does not know that the adviser also adds the actual advice to a template. When they see that fields need to be completed, they may well think that the whole advice is an off-the-shelf document in which their name is the only thing that has to be inserted. This is a serious impediment to credibility.

There are different ways to check for this kind of error. One simple way is to do a search on the word ‘insert’ before sending an SOA in for review. This will highlight any uses of that word in the SOA, and give you the chance to identify any uses of the word that have not been removed. Another is to highlight the words [insert name] in yellow on the original template, only removing the highlight when you actually change the text. The yellow text stands out like yellow text and makes the oversight much easier to identify.

The other, more old-fashioned way is to simply read the document.

While we are at it, please make sure that figures that are supposed to add up actually do. This error is surprisingly common, and typically arises when something is added to or removed from a list that is not self-adding. For example when we asked that an adviser remove a model car collection allegedly worth $5,000 from the assets column they were happy to oblige (they agreed with us that just because their client had spent that much himself, that was not really what the cars were worth. The second hand model car market is notoriously bearish). But they forgot to adjust the total assets figure when they did so.

The Dover Group