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Why your advice firm should consider branding itself a wealth manager

Tony Byrne

I was recently having a chat with a friend who runs his own accountancy practice. He is quite a progressive accountant and likes advising clients on how to run their businesses more efficiently, including using cashflow forecasting. The problem is he is a victim of his own success: once he transforms their record keeping his firm’s fees fall substantially.

I suggested he consider creating a second company with a name associated with, say, financial directorship or business development instead of any mention of accountancy.

We discussed how clients tend to tar all accountants with the same brush: boring, unadventurous and expensive. I advised him to differentiate his firm so much that clients would not be able to compare his service to any other locally. This would mean he could charge the higher fees his firm’s services deserve. He quite liked the idea.

On one level it is a little sad that an intelligent and well qualified chartered accountant feels hampered by being labelled as such. After all, it is a difficult qualification to obtain that requires hard work, dedication and intelligence. But if it ain’t working, you have got to fix it.

It then occurred to me financial advisers face exactly the same challenge. Anyone known as an adviser or planner, whether chartered or certified, independent or restricted, is tarred with the same brush. I am convinced that people who do not have an adviser still perceive us to be commission hungry salesmen to be avoided at all costs. Such people probably rank us on a par with double glazing salesmen.

Ironically, there is much proof that advisers add value. It is something Vanguard calls “adviser alpha”. Certainly, clients that have financial advisers generally rate them very highly. It is the great unwashed I want us to attract.

I am convinced that people who do not have an adviser still perceive us to be commission hungry salesmen to be avoided at all costs.

Moving to wealth management

So why not change your description? We no longer call ourselves “independent financial advisers”. Nobody truly believes we are independent anyway, so why waste time trying to convince them? We are now known as wealth managers, which in many ways is a more accurate description of what we do anyway. It helps that our firm’s name is Wealth and Tax Management, too.

Of course, wealth management is a very profitable business. If you have ever visited a fund manager’s offices in London you will know what I mean. Even banks offer private banking services to clients, which is code for discretionary portfolio management. Their clients are even known as private clients. And even a brand such as St James’s Place benefits from portraying itself as wealth managers rather than as an insurance company.

So whether you are a mortgage broker, a protection specialist or an investment specialist, consider very carefully what you describe yourself as. There is a lot in a name, after all.

Tony Byrne is financial planning director at Wealth and Tax Management and author of Wealth Magic


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There are 6 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. As I was unsure how the Independant v Restricted stickswould fall psot RDR, I chanegd my job title on my businesscards nearlya decade ago to say “Money Coach and Financial Facilitator”. As Harrty Katz then said …. “whats this rubbish mean” (or something similar), but as I pointed out, it’s no more silly than “Wealth manager” and it does cause clients to ask “whats that mean”, which then allows me to explain what we do rather than what my title is! INeither do I have any of my qualifications on my business cards, just who I am regulated BY and the areas I can help coach and facilitate clients with.
    My trainees, being younger have their qualifications on their business cards as that works for them and adds reassurance that they have the qualifications even if not the excessive experience of decades of regulatory changes!

  2. I don’t agree with your comment Phil. Financial Advice is a profession not a gimmick. Whenever FA’s or IFA’s use other difficult to understand and obscure descriptions, it can potentially weaken our professional recognition rather than strengthen it. We should be proud of our qualifications, integrity and professional expertise and in my experience, when provided in a clear manner, the clients are more than happy to pay reasonable fees for a quality service.

    Having been in the industry for over 20 years, I’ve seen good and bad press around what we do. you are only as good as your last client interaction or advice, make it count.

    • Having been in the industry for over 30 years, my experiences appears to be different from yours. People buy people, not the letters after their name although they often seem to be charged more for the extra letters.
      I have seen plenty of supposed professionals who are either less professional than many tradesmen. If you’re one of those advisers who aspires to being seen as a profession, when good for you…. I give common sense advice and it doesn’t matter WHAT I call myself, it is what I do and how I help my clients which matters, so we will have to agree to disagree I am afraid.

    • I forgot to ask, what do you call yourself Phillip?

      I refer to myself as an adviser as I give advice, the job title on my business card is because I don’t want to be called a “Wealth Manager” and IFA as a title has been devalued by it’s misuse. I am very Independent (directly regulated and if I disagree with the FCA I will challenge them and stand my ground where I believe I am correct and the FCA are unable to show me otherwise) .
      I guide my clients and ultimately advise my clients when they are still unsure when I have presented options to them. I am NOT a wealth manager as my clients don’t have to have significant wealth, I help them plan and better understand what they want and need to achieve and the different methods by which they can achieve that, so “Money Coach” and Facilitator is actually a better description of what I do than joining the herd and calling myself a “Wealth Manager”.

  3. I have a lot of sympathy for Phil Castle’s point. What we do is rather more important than what we are called. The concern I have is really what is implied or inferred in a name.

    To my mind “Wealth Manager” really implies someone that is managing money and to be blunt anyone doing a bit more digging might expect that using such a title implied that you are actively managing money with discretionary powers…. rather than building an asset allocation and selecting investments to suit.

    Search engines (which is what real people use – though I suspect most of us gain most of our clients from referral) reveal that many terms used liberally within our field are largely irrelevant. The days of simply arranging stuff are clearly numbered, so anyone that offers a service that is about the result of the looking after the money (planning) rather than merely the mechanics of an exchange seems likely to have a more certain future.

    Community environmental service provider
    Protector of Earth
    Dustbin man

    Why it matters is many say that the IFA label is redundant because people do not believe it or that it doesn’t accurately describe our new world… yet we readily seem to believe that people would understand what is meant by rather more vague terminology… which to my mind suggests further problems down the road…

  4. Forensic Analysis 3rd December 2016 at 11:16 am

    Money Coach…? Sounds like a job title at the Citizens Advice Bureau. Wealth Manager sounds far superior and more professional.

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