Many practitioners will have grappled with an acute conundrum in the past few months. Do you support clients on a pro bono or reduced fee basis – if they are strapped for cash – or refuse unless paid, and watch them disappear from your client list?
This apparent conflict for advisers has been exaggerated by the COVID-19 disruption.
There are endless arguments for and against the notion that you undertake work without being paid. The disruption occasioned by coronavirus has amplified an aged old issue for professional advisers.
Many will continue to assert that clients should know they need to pay for work and indeed, be grateful for your intervention. At the root of this approach is probably the fear of confronting the tacky issue of fees.
At the other extreme are those who dutifully negotiate fees in advance and will not undertake work unless this agreement has been achieved.
In both cases there is probably a disconnect for their clients. On the one hand, clients expecting a helping hand are confronted with unexpected fee notes and on the other are dismayed that their long-standing adviser is not willing to stand by them as they face unprecedented challenges, unless paid from dwindling cash resources.
A possible win-win outcome looks impossible when viewed through the lens of work and financial recompense.
Whether the option to support and not be paid for a specific piece of work could be viewed as an investment in maintenance of practice goodwill is an alternative that may be worth considering.
What is clear, is that practitioners will be obliged to reach their own conclusion on a case by case basis as we tighten belts, heading into a second wave of COVID and with the EU exit thrown into the mix. There may be no simple or across-the-board solution to a dilemma that has plagued adviser/client relationships since the first shingle was nailed to a door post a millennia ago.