A client adviser relationship always starts with a signature. Building and maintaining that relationship may take years afterwards and it’s key to the success of the adviser’s business as well as their reputation. But that challenging and rewarding process needs a name on the dotted line.

And for the client, signing that agreement, which is one of the first stages in sorting out their finances, is a big deal too. There is trust on both sides. It’s just a shame that a shedload of paper usually is involved too. It’s something everyone could do without.

A new way of getting clients to the dotted line

In 2018, what would be ideal is taking that trust and good relationship and starting a new way of working – one that doesn’t require chasing clients for a signature, which is an administrative headache and a sure-fire way to get your relationship off to the wrong start.

An e-signature is a quick, clean and easy alternative – and it stands the test of time. Technology means we can say goodbye to signing paper with a pen, sealing envelopes with wax or carving contracts into stone. We’ve fully emerged into the modern age in most areas of our lives, and financial advice should be no different.

Saving 72 hours and beyond

One of the most important benefits of the e-signature is that it saves time. A lot of time, in fact. A recent client survey showed us that advisers save an average of three days by automating client agreements and signatures alone. Automating the boring, traditional stuff means you can scale your business, attract new and younger clients, and spend more time creating proper financial plans and giving advice.

So, what could you do with an extra 72 hours?

While we leave some advisers to stare wistfully into the sunset, planning their next long weekend, let’s talk legal implications for a second. There is no need to fear a knock on your door from the FCA, as the regulator says: “Any requirement that a document is signed may be satisfied by an electronic signature or electronic evidence of assent”. From the horse’s mouth: An electronic signature is just as secure and legally binding as a so-called “wet signature” i.e. a client physically writing their name on paper.

E-signature is legally binding

Paper and pen work very well for me, you might say. But paper gets lost or damaged and ink fades over time. The FCA says advisers must store their client agreement for the duration of the relationship with the client, which could be decades, and if that agreement includes something like a pension transfer, the adviser must keep it “indefinitely”. (The client, according to HMRC, also has to keep their advisory documents for at least six years when they fill out a self-assessment tax return.)

By signing the client agreement online, there is also no chance that anyone loses their copy. In fact, all the adviser’s staff and colleagues can have access to the same portal, and anyone can print a copy if required.

Prioritise the relationship, not the admin

Online, the system is smooth and the adviser is notified of the client’s progress at every step.

Once the adviser has created their own client agreement, they can invite the client by email to join the portal and sign the document online. The client can take as much time as he or she needs to read through the various sections of the agreement in the comfort of their own home or office. As soon as they’ve signed, the adviser gets a notification, and the client can proceed with the next important steps, such as filling out a risk questionnaire, bringing them one step closer to the right financial plan for them.

There is a lot at stake for the adviser and client when getting those first important details right. But while building a good relationship with a client is definitely a long-term project, it doesn’t mean every interaction or transaction has to be. And hey, the e-signature has just given you a free 72 hours, so time to get out there and make the most of it.