I am based in the UK.

I have an appointment with an HSBC Wealth Advisor next week to discuss a question.

My question, is whether or not there is something more intelligent that I can do with a £200k portfolio split between Berkshire Hathaway and a Vanguard Global FTSE tracker. It's in a general investment account and my ISAs and pension contributions are maxed out. I've zero debt, do not rent and my salary covers my expenses.

I do not have considerable investment skills.

In the pre-screening call, they asked me about my financial situation, such as mortgage status, ISAs, pensions, family status etc...

I'm now a bit concerned that the wealth advisor might just spend a long time asking me about my financial details without adequately answering my question.

What's a good strategy to keep the conversation on topic without being rude? From my understanding of the industry, regulations require them to get a picture of my finances before they can recommend anything.

  • 6
    The thing is, they do the fact find precisely in order to be able to answer your questions correctly. The answer to "is there something more intelligent" depends on what you think that means, which depends on your attitude to risk, goals, assets, liabilities, budget, etc etc.
    – AakashM
    Jan 29 at 10:16
  • 3
    Why are you worried about whether the conversation is on or off topic? More than the person who is trying to earn their salary by having it? Are you concerned they will use up the whole hour learning about you, then not advise you because "time is up?" Or is the issue that they will somehow use this information in a way that doesn't serve you, so you would rather not reveal it. Each of these concerns requires a different approach from you to keep things going how you want them to. Jan 29 at 14:31
  • @KateGregory I'm concerned because I've spoke to a couple in the past. After spending a lot of time asking about my details, they present me with something vague and high fees, but nothing concrete.
    – Cat Terry
    Jan 29 at 15:21
  • e.g. a guy from St James Place told me to consider Investment Bonds. But when I put the numbers into a spreadsheet, they didn't look like they'd be better after fees (unless they really over performed). The 2nd guy said he'd help me save hundreds of thousand in tax for about £3k in fees. I didn't understand how I was going to pay hundreds of thousands in tax on a £200k portfolio unless I took big risks and got lucky.
    – Cat Terry
    Jan 29 at 15:23
  • 3
    Seems to me like your real question is, "What if the financial advisor doesn't know what he's talking about and wastes my time talking about irrelevancies?" Or maybe, "What if the financial advisor is more interested in selling me his company's products than in figuring out what is best for me?" In either case, the only answer is, "Find another financial advisor." If you're asking someone for advice and he doesn't know what he's talking about, I don't know what you could do to make him smarter. If he's trying to take advantage of you, there's little you can do to make him more honest.
    – Jay
    Jan 29 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


Our financial advisor seems quite happy to talk about things that don't appear directly relevant to the purpose of the call. I think it's relationship-building or something like that. One approach might be to relax and let the other person steer the call. After your alloted time, if they haven't made any sensible and useful suggestions, or if they're making claims of savings that exceed your total expenses, well, they didn't earn your business, on to the next one.

Another, and one I'd be more likely to suggest, is to know what you want from the meeting. You want a plan that exceeds the performance (as defined by you) of your current strategy, by more than enough to justify the fee this person wants to charge you. You don't want a new best friend, nor someone who can calculate how much you need to live on, nor tips on knowing if it's time to retire. So when they ask a question, answer it with that in mind.

Say they ask "do you have grandchildren?" If you were just building a relationship with this person, then the ages and names of those grandchildren, along with some of their recent accomplishments, would be a lovely topic of conversation. If you needed advice on setting up trusts or inheritances or whatnot to ensure those grandchildren will be provided for, then at least their existence and ages would be relevant. But it has nothing to do with whether there is less risk, more return, better tax treatment or whatnot in plan A compared to what you're doing now. So answer it as quick as you can, or better still, take a trick from media training, answer it and then bridge to your message.

Why yes I am lucky enough to have two, and to see them a lot. Their parents are well set up meaning I don't have to worry about covering their education and such like. That's why I'm focused on [the thing you define as better performance] and am looking for suggestions that will beat what I'm doing now.

You don't need to do the bridge-to-message in every answer, but you can just quickly answer what was asked, and every few questions remind them what you are here to talk about: a plan that will do better than what you're doing now, with a nice crisp definition of better that is specific to you.

Don't refuse to answer stuff, but they don't need 15 minutes on your dream to buy a home in the country or how much you hate traffic. They need to know what you want from them, with some crispness, and to be sure they aren't recommending things that are wrong for someone in your position, which requires understanding what your position is in addition to your definition of better performance.

  • Thanks. Made me laugh. I'll give that a go.
    – Cat Terry
    Jan 29 at 15:52
  • They need to know enough about your needs and goals to advise you. Legacy for grandkids can be a legitimate planning item. Treat all such questions as "should we consider this"; if so go into enough detail to get good advice, if not then just say "that's already been dealt with" or "that isn't relevant" and move on.
    – keshlam
    Jan 29 at 20:14

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