Brod Whiting, head of client propositions & marketing at Bankhall, discusses some of the key points to consider for planners considering a revamp.
Building by design rather than by default
Many financial planning businesses started off in the same way. A people person joined Allied Dunbar, Abbey Life or perhaps the Prudential and became successful by selling life assurance, investments and pensions. They then branched out and became an IFA, giving themselves and their clients’ greater opportunities. They got busier and took on admin support, a back office system and some premises. It then seemed sensible to share the risk and cost, so they joined up with another like-minded individual. Business increased and they took on more clients and more advisers, and on it went.
The business grew by default rather than by design.
A common scenario and evolution for many advisory firms, but ask yourself, if these firms were starting from scratch today or if it was a different type of business then would they look the same? For many firms I believe their business plan today would look very different.
So for firms who find themselves in this position, what can they do about it? Here are a couple of areas to consider:
Premises: Is your current location still the right one and do you actually need any premises at all? It probably depends on the style of the business, but new technology means you don’t necessarily have to be on the high street. Premises in a cheaper location, where parking is easier, might be better. Length of lease or ownership is also an issue, particularly if you have one eye on your exit strategy. Alternatively some businesses are located overseas and use Skype etc to deliver a regular and interactive service.
Technology: Is your current technology up to speed with your business requirements? If you have an interactive approach then a client portal and back office system will be important, so that clients can access their own details and valuations at a time which suits them, whilst for the adviser it cuts down on the number of client visits. Building a web presence which reflects your firm’s image and client base is also important; think of it as a virtual version of your office environment.
Structure and people: Think about your business structure and the roles you require. For instance, do you need a skilled practice manager who looks after the day-to-day running of the firm, as opposed to an administrator who has drifted into a role which they might not be ideally suited to? It’s about designing the right roles for your business to free yourself up to do other things: see more clients, host seminars or work on the overall strategy and direction – or maybe just have a better lifestyle.
Just a snap shot, but it may also be about a change in mind set, from one of working in the business day-to-day, to taking the time out to work on the business.