How to position the presence of a third party in planning meetings

How to offer third party to someone over 85 without sounding rude? How do you position the vulnerability question to a client who is clearly no longer fully “with it” but thinks that they still are? What if a client refuses to have a third party?

These are some of the questions that have been posed ahead of a fireside chat I’m having on the subject with St. James Place today.

I have outlined some principles below with more to come on the subject. Sign up to my newsletter to be first to know when they’re available.


I’m a big fan of advisers calling clients ahead of their meeting and asking: “What would make this an excellent use of your time?” In this way, you signal this is their meeting and time will be spent addressing their topics, questions and plans.

Depending on your relationship, it is also a good time to ask: “Who else will be coming with you?” Bear in mind, this assumptive ask will work for some and not for others.


First of all – get into the right mindset.

It is VERY normal to give out next of kin details when we go to the doctor, dentist, go on certain holidays etc. This should be no different. So try to normalise this. If you feel really awkward about raising this, it will be conveyed in your tone and body language.


Imagine your client is astute and independent and you feel that this is going to be a sensitive issue.

YOU: “Clearly I know how sharp you are and how much you value your independence (demonstrate respect and empathy). And at the same time… I do think it would be a good idea if someone came to the meeting with you.

“This is because…(list reasons) when someone else has a good understanding of what’s important to you, your relationship to risk and what you need…you’re more likely to live a rich, easeful and happy life in your latter stages. So that’s why I encourage many clients to bring someone they trust along.”

Can you share any useful EXAMPLES?


When someone is GRIEVING

Phrases to USE

  1. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, or how much pain you’re in.
  2. I’m so sorry for your loss.
  3. I don’t know what to say, I wish I had the right words to comfort you.

Phrases to LOSE

  1. I know exactly how you feel.
  2. I guess it was their time to go
  3. At least… (he didn’t suffer/she’s in a peaceful place)

Here’s how you might raise it:
“I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how much pain you’re in… (pause). And what I do know is that when we are doing our best to cope with pain our ability to process a lot of information is compromised. 

“It’s the same when we receive a scary diagnosis. We need someone with us to help absorb the information and work out what to do – for the best. What I’d suggest is that you bring someone along to the meeting with you so that they can be another pair of ears and we can help you navigate your next steps. How does that sound?”


“You might fire me for saying this, but you should definitely fire me if I don’t”

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention it.”

“I bring this up in the spirit of being helpful…”

“It’s all the same to me…”

“Of course, it’s your decision and absolutely no skin off my nose…”


“You might fire me for saying this but you should definitely fire me if I don’t… I have worked with you for xx years and so would like to think I know you pretty well.

“Over the last couple of meetings, I have noticed a couple of changes in your thinking and so I’d like to suggest you bring someone along with you to your next meeting. This is because I want to be 100% sure that how we manage your affairs is in your best interests. As I said, you might disagree, but I want to make sure your wishes are properly fulfilled.”

“If that’s not an option, then I’d like to suggest we record the meeting so that you can play it back or share it with someone close to you.

“We don’t have to go into great details – such a pounds and pence – if you’d rather keep that private but we’d talk about your wishes for how your assets are allocated and how your relationship with risk may alter as your needs change.”


  2. LEARN
  3. LEAD

Listen to what they’re saying and what they’re not saying.

Learn: Reflect back what you’ve heard and try to learn more:
I get the sense you’re… uneasy about xx/ concerned about
It sounds like you’ve got some concerns about..
I get the impression that there isn’t anyone who immediately springs to mind

Lead: How about as a first step, we record the meeting? That way, you can listen back to it as we will probably cover a lot a ground? It also means that should someone spring to mind – you could ask them to listen to it. If you’d like to keep the figures private then I can show you these and we don’t have to mention them?

This is a big topic with a lot more to say!

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