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Diary of an IFA in transition: Personal matters

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Continuing our articles following company transitions into the RDR era, Georgina Partridge of Plutus talks about early forays into Twitter and the personal touch. The Ideas Lab director Rob Reid offers his advice below.

In common with all advisers, we have been busy in the run-up to the end of the tax year. However, we have found it a useful way to get clients in and get them talking about their finances.

We ran an end of tax year seminar, which was a good way to talk to clients and get referrals at the same time. We got a number of outside specialists from the providers to come in and talk about possible investments. We also covered basic things such as Isa allowances and pension changes for the new tax year. We extended the invitation to all clients and the names on our database and said they were welcome to bring friends.

We have got a database that we have been building up for a number of years from people who have gone onto the website and requested information. It is now quite substantial, so has proved a good source.

In terms of marketing, we have made our first forays into social media. We have started to use Twitter a lot more although we are at a very early stage. At the moment, we are tweeting articles we have been in but we are just getting to grips with it and how we can use it. Nevertheless, we are increasing the number of tweets and the number of followers. Every time I log on, there are a few more, usually brought about by recent press or publicity, especially since winning our first award.

We have also started putting our Twitter address on the bottom of emails and letters. It is all part of starting to focus on the social media side. We like it as a way of getting clients to see things that have appeared in the trade press. It is more reassurance for them.

We have got a marketing company involved, which has been advising us on our overall strategy. As a result, we have been making more of our LinkedIn profiles and we are developing the website and sharpening up our logo. As we said in the last article, we have found that most people go straight to the “people” page on the website and with that in mind, we had new photos done this month. We wanted people to see us in active roles. It gets our branding out there and reinforces the idea that we are fresh, active and offering something new.

All this helps create more of a personality. Potential clients can see that we are normal people who do things outside work. Money is very personal. People do not want a faceless organisation. This is particularly important for the younger clients that we are trying to attract. We want to play to our strengths and emphasise to people that we share the same interests.

We are still waiting on our direct authorisation. We expect it to come through towards the end of this month. This is important for us and will hopefully move forward as quickly as possible.

We have taken on a new team member a qualified adviser, who already has QCF level 4. He adds to our client bank and funds under management. He approached us. We knew him from previous companies and he saw what we had been up to and wanted to be involved with a company that was doing something new.

We felt he had a lot to offer us and he felt that we had a lot to offer him. He fitted the company and our ethos. It is very difficult to try and go out there and recruit someone that fits, so we have been extremely lucky. It brings us up to nine and means we are in a much better position in terms of qualifications and experience.

On the qualifications side, one of our team is now doing the Step exams. One of our next goals is to build connections with accountants, solicitors and other professionals. We want to create a new brand for that; Plutus Connections, as well as creating a dedicated section on our website. We have had some connections in the past but it has not created the free flow of business that we had hoped.

We want to make sure this works better and develop these relationships properly. We think that this Step qualification will help that happen.

We have been making inroads to establishing relationships with Loughborough University and its business school and Sheffield University.

Ross and I are both graduates of Loughborough and are working with the business school to provide students with help and advice on enterprise.

This will involve us going to the university and giving talks and seminars on business as well as providing students with ideas and ways to manage their money when they start earning.

Loughborough is also looking to involve Plutus in its year in industry placement scheme. Robert, a graduate of Sheffield, will be providing seminars to students who are to graduate and enter the world of work.

 

Phased approach would avoid the rush

It is refreshing to read about a firm which is anxious to try new things and is attempting to communicate to clients in a variety of ways that reflect the way people live their lives now as opposed to how they have operated in the past.

As with all of us, Plutus found itself looking at an increase in activity as it moved towards the end of the tax year. This is going to become even more of an issue now that we have another set of “use it or lose it” tax allowances in the form of pensions, particularly for high earners.

As with Isas, I think that what we need to start to do is to get people to phase their investments to ensure that they are not all trying to rush at the very end. We will then avoid the situation where people miss deadlines.

Over the last couple of years, I have had more than one case where individuals forgot to transfer funds into current accounts only to find their cheque for their Isa was not cleared and they then found themselves unable to make an investment into an Isa for that particular tax year. The important point here is that the Revenue does not see any need to be lenient as it should be cleared funds that have reached the provider at that point.

Perhaps, therefore, there needs to be some thought given to running seminars a lot earlier in the financial year and trying to get people to take a more phased approach as opposed to organising these events as everyone does close to the tax year end.
Another point made in Georgina’s diary was the reference to building a fairly detailed database of individuals who have accessed the website and requested information.

’Moving to direct authorisation is a brave move at this stage. The timing is probably not bad in that it has avoided all the problems of Keydata. Another incident is always a risk, however’

Not many advisory groups use these systems as effectively as they could. In fact, many back-office systems have poor customer relationship databases and it is clear that not many providers have decided to expand the flexibility of those systems.

In my own planning firm, we are testing a web-based system which allows us to have up to 15 people using the system but for a low cost of under $100 a month. When you consider the cost which is currently being charged by back-office systems in the UK, I think this kind of solution is a real threat to the UK software houses. ’Moving to direct author-isation is a brave move at this stage.

The timing is probably not bad in that it has avoided all the problems of Keydata. Another incident is always a risk, however’Moving to direct authorisation is a brave move at this stage.

The timing is probably not bad in that it has avoided all of the problems of Keydata. Another incident is always a risk, however.

Moving to direct authorisation does increase the workload for any firm, particularly where they have been part of a network. I do not believe that all firms actually recognise just how much that changes things, though Plutus appears to be aware of the issues.
Georgina has also gone on to touch on what will be a key problem, that is, in the recruitment of individuals and being able to expand by gaining the right types of people.

I am sure there will be a lot of young people out there who will be qualified to level 4 and beyond but whether they can actually close a sale or manage clients relationships is a different matter.

In closing, I note that Georgina referred to the fact that some professional connections have not worked as well as they might have hoped.  Can I suggest that one of the reasons professional connections generally don’t work is that people think it will all happen in a very short time frame, you have to stay the course if you to make it work.

Rob Reid is a director at The Ideas Lab

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