Juggling business with RDR changes

The first diary in this series is by Lisa Chantrey, an adviser with Barry Fleming & Partners. There are three advisers at the firm, including Lisa’s dad Barry, but only Lisa currently has the qualifications required by the RDR. One challenge that the firm faces is ensuring the two older and more experienced advisers reach the required qualifications while juggling the responsibilities of work and family and the fact that it has been a long time since they stepped into an exam hall.

Muddle to a model

Lisa Chantry Adviser Barry Fleming & Partners

Our client asked mischievously: “Are you a New Muddle Adviser yet?”. “Not yet,” I said “but we’re working towards it.” New muddle? Indeed. Our client’s spoonerism correctly implies that this is not the first time that financial advisers have been thrown into turmoil.

Joking aside, it begs a serious question – how prepared are we for the post-2012 regime? While we know we are making headway, there is still much to do and we hope our diary will demonstrate how we will turn that muddle into a model.

We are Barry Fleming & Partners, a small firm of IFAs specialising in investment, tax and estate planning. We offer both a fee and commission offset model. Our main office is in Altrincham, Cheshire. We have three advisers. Barry Fleming is 65 with 35 years experience as a principal in financial services.

Describing what we do made us realise that our website is one of a number of real jewels in our possession

The office is led by Carol Henderson, a qualified adviser, who is assisted by Wendy Hughes, an experienced administrator. I am Barry’s daughter and I am the third adviser. We have a small support group, including external compliance and T&C consultants. So this is us and this is our warts and all journey to 2012.

Where are we today?

The new model is portrayed as a fairytale world, all green and inviting. But how do you get to the end of this so-called rainbow to grab your pot of gold? Well, with no magic pixies, we will have to find the way ourselves.

For us, our first big task is to ask ourselves, where are we now? Where do we want to be? and what do we need to do to get there? We started with the obvious, the business plan. Some of the tangibles were straightforward enough, such as qualifications and fees. The challenge is achieving those qualifications while juggling the responsibilities of work and family. As for Barry, at 65, it has been some time since he’s been in the classroom, which presents some other barriers. We found we could not discuss fees until we had identified and reviewed the services we proposed offering under the new regime.

Identifying our services

Having put pen to paper, we were surprised by how much we actually do for clients.

During the review, we identified many opportunities, our website, for example. Launched in 1995, it provides our clients with 24/7 access to their “live” portfolios, their transactions history and much more. It was and still is cutting-edge stuff, created and managed by us, tailored to our clients, enabling us to stay independent in all respects and in control of our own destiny.

Clients must love having such a bespoke service, right? This begged the killer question. How many of our clients actually know about or use the site? Describing what we do made us realise that our website is one of a number of real jewels in our possession but it is under-valued by us and under-used by clients.

We rest assured that we have a strong proposition and a great opportunity, we just needed to recognise it, package it and label it.
So, our first task is to produce a new brochure and overhaul our website, clearly identifying who we are, the quality, added value, services we offer and the on-going support we provide to our clients.

The future

The future is something we feel very positive about and investing in our clients’ future is our first priority. In our view, everyone is entitled to quality, “affordable” advice, enabling them to protect their families and to save for the future, at all levels of affluence and stage of life.
“A big challenge we face is how do we continue to service our long-standing clients who may not be willing or able to pay for advice after the RDR. We are considering is whether to launch a restricted advice service for certain clients to run alongside our independent offering. We are adamant that we will not shred any clients.”
Describing what we do made us realise that our website is one of a number of real jewels in our possession

Give project a kickstart

Robert Reid Director The Ideas Lab

Lisa’s comments reveal that there is more to the onset of 2012 than just adviser charging and the exams.
Just as many of us realise the benefit of clients having a plan, the firm that seeks to change needs one too.

After all, this is a major project for most firms and that needs to be tracked. I would suggest investing in some software. For project management, I use Project Kickstart. It is low-cost and intuitive and when we are talking software, that is no mean feat. (www.projectkickstart.com).

Using this tool allows you to track your task, understand what tasks need to be done and in what order and it avoids the perils of verbal communication. The plan can be updated and gives the overview that is so necessary when a project has many strands.

Over the next few months, we will be tracking her firm’s progress and doing our best to remove any roadblocks and ensure that the firm’s proposition is a strong one.

Any change needs to be communicated to all staff and some may have a less than positive attitude

Obtaining feedback from your client base is essential and some advisers go as far as to set up client panels so that new ideas and services can be tested pre-launch. Assuming that all clients want online access or that they all want the same type of service is the route to wasted costs and the potential loss of clients.

All firms need to recognise that any change needs to be communicated to all staff and some may have a less than positive attitude to the changes and in some cases even those who are willing may be not have the aptitude to change, even if they want to.