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