When might you need a babel fish?

A babel fish is one of the oddest things in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain. The practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.

Anyone familiar with The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy will be familiar with the babel fish. A bit like family law, the language employed in the financial services profession and the acronyms we use can often feel like it’s from a far away planet. At times, it can be hard work keeping up with the continual change within your own area of work never mind those of associated disciplines.

At the start of a recent presentation to a group of family lawyers we had a little bit of fun with acronyms. The list is below. How many do you know?

GAR, COMPS, MIP, AVC, GMP, GILT, LIBOR, NAV, SSAS, SIPP, FIB

Did you get them all? (See here for the answers.)

I suspect some you found straightforward and some not so. The one you may not get is GILT, and that's because it actually doesn't stand for anything, sorry, it’s a red herring. The aim of the presentation was to discuss how we as financial planners and our audience of family lawyers could work better together to help improve the clients experience.

Breaking down barriers

When it comes to discussing the financial aspects of a divorce, separation or pre-nuptial agreement, typically, the first hurdle to get over for you and your client is the financial language barrier, gaining a full and comprehensive picture of your clients current financial situation and importantly what it all means and what options are available.

Typically, you will:

  • assess the financial information to find out what may be missing, what else may need to gathered and whether there are any inconsistencies
  • assemble the financial information in a concise, simple and straightforward manner
  • present this to your client and explore all potential scenarios with them

If you go by the name of Zaphod Beeblebrox you need do little more than pop a babel fish in your ear to cross the language divide. I'm yet to meet, however, a family lawyer called Zaphod, never mind Beeblebrox and so the next best alternative could be to work with an interpretor. The interpretor, your financial planning babel fish, being someone fluent in the financial services language who can collate, decipher and communicate.

Like our own profession, the world of family law has changed significantly over the past few years and both continue to evolve. Our clients are more demanding than ever, a good service is taken as a given and value for money is expected. Being able to deliver a very efficient and very effective service from outset when dealing with financial matters could be a differentiator that enhances a client’s experience. Fortunately, you don't need to search a far away galaxy for a translator, as planet Earth is inhabited by a good number of financial planners who focus on family law work.

Paul Gorman is a chartered financial planner and founding partner of Beaufort Planning.  He is accredited by Resolution as a specialist on financial planning matters related to divorce.

Twitter: @PaulGormanCFP  

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