There’s an ongoing dialogue in the investment industry about what it is that clients are looking for, and in what order. Some say performance, others says service and of course there’s price. As a result, many investment practices have been built on foundations that lean towards one of these schools of thought.

The flaw with this line of thinking is that no client buys price, performance or service: what they’re buying is peace of mind. This may mean different things to different people, but at its heart is trust. Regardless of how people rank the different criteria, what they are really saying is that they trust their chosen advisor to provide them with the things that are important to them – consistently.

So why should this matter to you?

At some point, most people will find themselves in the position of selecting a new financial advisor. You may interview a number of different potential consultants, or simply call someone who was referred to you by a friend or colleague. Either way, you’re a little closer to the right person, but how do you narrow the margin of error and improve your chances of finding someone who will best look after your financial needs for the long run?

The first step is in understanding what is important to you. Time is a good starting point, are you looking for an advisor who will be with you for a long time, or are your needs shorter in nature? Specific requirements: e.g. a risk assessment and insurance policy, a business transition or an estate plan means that you want someone who is focused on those specific areas and has the expertise to make sure you get exactly what you need. If you have a long time horizon, you may want to consider someone who doesn’t have a specialized expertise, but has a solid understanding of the individual components of wealth management, and has access to different specialists as your life changes. Either way, it’s your needs that should dictate the service you choose, not the advisors experience or education.

It’s like a general practitioner – when something hurts, you go to your doctor. Sometimes, they‘re able to diagnose and treat what is ailing you, other times they refer you to a specialist: someone who has the knowledge and experience to go deeper and provide a specific path of treatment.

Imagine you’re having chest pains and upon visiting your family doctor you’re told, “sorry, we don’t do cardiology in this office, but we can help you with the flu.” That would be unacceptable to most of us, yet many investors willingly accept the limitations of their advisors, even when it’s something as important as their financial futures. Ask questions, be clear about your expectations – it’s your money.