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There should be no ‘I’ in teamwork for our clients

peterPeter Shand, a Partner with Murray Beith Murray, writes in today’s Scotsman (18 December 2017) that collaborative working will be the key to future success for professional advisors, following a recent joint event run with Mairi Mickel’s Business Families:

“The fact that there isn’t a collective noun for a group of professional advisers perhaps provides a hint that we don’t often get together in a really meaningful way.

We all trade and share information as required, but all too often those in the advisory community safeguard their own interests for fear that others might muscle in on their turf or, worse still, their clients.

With that as a backdrop Murray Beith Murray hosted a thought leadership event bringing together solicitors (not just our own), accountants, wealth managers, IFAs, management consultants, corporate financiers and private bankers. The aim was to have all disciplines and areas of expertise represented. The topic under discussion was advising business families, but with a focus on collaboration, something best-selling American novelist Tom Clancy once described as “the ultimate unnatural act”. How fitting.

If you are looking at past behaviour, Clancy is right, but he might have been pleasantly surprised at the progressive and indeed collaborative nature of our discussion and debate. There was a refreshing willingness to admit our collective faults and a desire from all attendees across the professional spectrum in Scotland for more multi-disciplinary team working.

Our event was ably led and facilitated by Mairi Mickel, of Business Families, who left us in no doubt that behavioural change was overdue. With various estimates showing that family businesses make up 60-70 per cent of the private sector in Scotland, this was a natural group on which to focus.

Mickel said: “There is a pressing need to educate professional advisers and different generations of family business owners that working collaboratively is essential to a better client experience. This gathering was the first step in providing a blueprint for the advisory community that collective thinking can be transformative for business families.

“Collaboration needs to be driven by the business families’ professional advisors and must include that essential ingredient of trust. Business families in particular need advisors who have a unique understanding of the delicate complexities of, and tensions between, the needs of the business and the expectations of its owning family. If a multi-disciplinary advisory team is well educated in understanding this complex dynamic, then they are capable of getting to the heart of this tension. Only a systemic approach will illuminate the complex needs of business family clients and can support the implementation of positive lasting changes during inter-generational transition planning.

”This should also be music to the ears of our respective clients who, on reflection, may well ask why this has not happened before, if indeed they are aware that this is an issue. In the past, business owners invariably used the one firm of trusted advisors for all their needs, but we now live in a world of specialisms, with clients keen to seek the best advice relevant to the topic, irrespective of where it comes from. A natural progression of this should be a collaborative approach with all advisors communicating with each other. A trusted advisor team.

It is rather like gathering a set of experts together to look after an elite athlete’s various needs – strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, physios, etc, provide a mix of talents and views. Indeed the reaction of those attending our event was overwhelmingly positive. There was an acknowledgement that change was coming, although it may lead to a period of what one delegate described as ‘tolerable discomfort’.

This isn’t about revolution, but about making small and important changes. As British cycling’s Sir Dave Brailsford famously said, as he set about improving the fortunes of an underachieving team, it is about the “aggregation of marginal gains”. His philosophy was centred around doing 100 things one per cent better and he talked about compounding the improvements. He went to great lengths, even introducing new hand-washing techniques to help avoid illness and insisting the team took their own pillows on their travels. In short, he left nothing to chance and nor should we in our professional lives. Perhaps looking after clients and elite athletes isn’t so different after all.

Peter Shand is a Partner with Murray Beith Murray”

The Scotsman (18 December 2017)

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