Retirement and escape in Gertie beckons so on Friday we meet the first of three potential financial advisers. He arrives early, his voice so strident that it somehow penetrates the peaceful deafness of our ageing Border Collie who obviously thinks there’s an enormous punch-up going on. She paces, concerned, and unusually for her avoids the visitor.
We have all our projections and pension information ready. The meeting begins but doesn’t exactly follow the path we were expecting. Instead we learn that he plays rugby ‘Like to keep trim’ he beams, patting a not insubstantial stomach. We learn that he doesn’t travel from his local station because he doesn’t want to be ‘at the mercy of those RMT b*****ds. Oops, lady present, pardon my French’. We learn that he and his second wife have a ‘double D relationship, she drinks, I drive.’ We learn that he has three children and was left to look after them when his wife did a moonlight flit, which I’m beginning to think was an eminently sensible course of action. We learn that although he doesn’t exactly say ‘Put the kettle on mother and leave the men to talk’, I am not expected to ask questions, especially questions like what his charges are and how many clients he has. Next to me I feel John twitching.
Me: So how many clients do you have?
Me: How many?
Me: How many hundreds
Me: Five hundred?
Him: Of course not
Me: Four hundred?
We finally settle on ‘around 200’ which seems like a lot to us, considering he says he believes in doing everything himself so doesn’t have any help.
The next hurdle is the fees. We ask what they are. A simple question, yes? No. Sentences like High Current Income Mutual Fund, Law of Large Numbers, Bear Market, time value of money (he kindly suggests that I might want to look this one up later), Quick Ratio trip easily, and loudly, from his smiling lips. We finally interrupt:
‘Yes, but what fees do you charge?’
‘Ah now, that depends’
‘Every client is an individual’
‘Yes, but do you have any documentation showing your fees?’
‘Well, you can have this’ as he slides a printout across the table. This is his firm’s client agreement. ‘But those figures aren’t what I’d charge’
Next he asks for John’s national insurance number. John asks why he needs this. ‘Well, we won’t get far without it, will we?’ ‘But this is just an initial meeting, we’re interviewing other financial advisers too, obviously.’ Smile disappears. ‘Yes, well it goes two ways. I’m interviewing you too.’ Then we realise that he assumed from the start that we were taking him on. We’re not.
Oh dear, two more to go.