The Client-centred Blog

Should you take notes in a financial planning meeting?

How can note taking affect a clients ability to think clearly?

What is the right approach to taking notes in a financial planning meeting?

This is a question that often comes up in my coaching programmes with financial planners. So, let’s take a closer look.

Clearly, an essential aspect of a client relationship is the gathering and recording of all the relevant information to give sound advice and also creating an audit trail.

Yet how can note taking impact the quality of a meeting?

Should you take notes in a financial planning meeting whilst your client is thinking deeply about their life goals, making critical life decisions, or expressing their fears and concerns about the future?

An experience I had caused me take a closer look at this.

Being on the other side of a conversation

A while back I had booked an initial discovery conversation with a business coach. So, instead of being the professional I was the potential client.

I appreciate that coaching and financial planning are different but a deeper conversation with a financial planning client requires precisely the same kind of environment as a coaching conversation.

Your client needs:

*To feel comfortable to open up and share personal thoughts and information

*Time and space to reflect and think

*To know you are listening to them without distraction

*To feel you are completely focused on them with no hidden agenda

So, I was in this conversation with the coach and whilst I was speaking he was also taking copious notes.

My experience of this was that I found his note taking very distracting. So much so that it interrupted my flow of thought and the conversation became disjointed at times. Ultimately, I did not enjoy the meeting and got little from it.

This made me realise how the quality of our attention will impact the other person’s ability to think clearly. There is something about being very present with someone that improves the quality of their thinking.

If you are taking a lot of notes your attention will be compromised because you are switching back and forth from listening to note-taking. As I found out, this can be distracting. Also, as the professional you can easily miss parts of what someone is trying to communicate if you are taking a lot of notes.

Where does this leave you?

The concern is that if you listen without taking notes you won’t have the information you need. It is a legitimate concern but there are workarounds that many advisers use successfully.

Some advisers record meetings and listen back afterwards (or the para-planner listens back). This leaves you free to fully engage in the conversation. It goes without saying that you must get permission to record a meeting but I have never heard of a client refusing this.

If you want to take notes in a financial planning meeting then only take a small amount, such as noting key words. Again, it is important to ask your client if they are ok with this and explain why you are doing it. These brief notes can act as prompts for anything you want to clarify with your client later.

Another way you can approach it is to make your notes immediately following a client meeting. In this way the information is still fresh in your mind. Some advisers then send a summary to their client and ask them to confirm that the information is complete.

Test different approaches to note taking in financial planning meetings

There is no universally right way. So, you can test different approaches to find one that works best for you and your clients. The ‘acid test’ is whatever approach you take, you are able to fully focus upon your client and help them do their best and clearest thinking (read more about meeting levels and how our state of mind impacts clients – click here).

P.S. Here is a shorty video I made on, ‘The more present you are, the more presence you have’. Click here to view.

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