Plymouth-based Continuum (Financial Services) LLP is a national IFA and Financial Planning firm. In 2020 income rose by 17% with an 11% increase in new clients. Assets under influence also rose 24% to over £1.2bn.
In 2020 the firm went on a recruitment drive after seeing 25% growth in business volumes in the first 4 months of the year. The firm now employs 54 advisers, including Chartered Financial Planners, and holds Associate firm status with the Personal Finance Society.
During the first Coronavirus pandemic lockdown in the UK, the firm launched its Staying Connected Hub. This offers clients access to an adviser booking facility, virtual live chat discussions, financial education and a well-being programme.
In January the firm was awarded with an ESG Kitemark
In November 2018, Continuum completed its move to Directly Authorised status from the CAERUS Network, where it was the largest IFA business with 36 advisers.
Financial Planning Today: How has the pandemic affected your business?
Martin Brown: We were able to rapidly adapt our operating model to the unprecedented challenges of 2020. Through singularly focussing our efforts on protecting the financial and emotional wellbeing of our clients, advisers and staff, we further established our reputation as a responsible, innovative and dynamic business. The pandemic has meant that we evolved our advice processes and adapted our use of technology to enable client engagement to continue in a natural way. We also innovated with the launch of our ‘staying connected hub’.
From the outset clients were extremely comfortable in using our technology and that adviser engagement was made to feel similar to their previous experiences
We also established a strong learning and communication programme for our advisers, our clients and our staff as soon as the pandemic and its impact were known.
We offered clients access to our Wellbeing programme, which was incredibly well received, we extended our Brand Loyalty programme to client’s family and friends and we adapted our weekly education newsletter to acknowledge the changes in the environment each week.
How are you helping support any staff who are once again home schooling around work?
MB: We recognised the additional pressure that lockdown has on all our staff and advisers from the outset. Close contact is maintained on a regular basis, providing the opportunity to listen to staff and advisers needs for flexibility and by working together as a team to share workload across our available resource.
A professional wellbeing service is an integral part of our business and is open to everyone in Continuum to seek professional guidance when needed, in managing any concerns they may have, regardless of the reason or circumstances.
Having hired during the pandemic, including during lockdowns, what lessons did you learn?
MB: We evolved our processes to create least impact on potential new advisers by developing our induction programme into a robust effective course delivered via a virtual medium. Feedback from new recruits has been incredibly positive.
We also have an established strong support culture that maintains high standards of regular communication to help new members to Continuum in developing their own business into their new environment.
We see major recruitment opportunities in 2021 as we are receiving feedback that some competitors are struggling, fail to provide the business support offered by Continuum and just do not have the depth of client relationships we have. I am extremely optimistic about our 2021 growth plans.
What are your plans for this year?
MB: We are focussed on growth and confident we can deliver another record performance. Our proposition is increasingly attractive to high quality experienced advisers and we have a growing pipeline of advisers wishing to join us. Having spoken to all our advisers individually every single one is optimistic that they will experience profitable business growth in 2021.
Our business growth has always been organic, and we do not see the need to run the risk of acquiring other businesses, where legacy issues are unclear.
There is a lot of M&A activity among Financial Planners at the moment, do you think this is set to continue?
MB: The short answer is yes. I think the market for well-managed advisory businesses who focus on consistently delivering a great service to their clients will become increasingly valuable. Strong client relationships build loyalty and underpin organic growth.
It has been two years now since Continuum left Caerus. Looking back, was it a smooth process?
MB: Successfully establishing a new operating model is always complex, however this was a long-planned part of our overall business strategy. We had a clear action plan and an exceptionally good team. Our key focus was to minimise the impact on our advisers and their clients. I think we achieved that.
What is one thing about you that people may not know?
MB: In my spare time you can find me dressed as ‘Bob the Builder’ living out one of my favoured past times of building and renovating properties.