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Bang to rights

Prepare for IFA-charging by getting to grips with intellectual property

Hardly a day goes by without something happening to turn even the most mild-mannered adviser into Dr Jekyll. While the causes of our rage would lead to mass protests in other industries, we are so used to poorly constructed regulation and bad service from providers that our anger peters out as we resign ourselves to things not getting any better.

So it was almost a joy when earlier this week I got hit by a curveball known as the Getty letter. This is a demand for payment, typically in the order of £1,000, for an image found on your website whose rights are owned by Getty. We have five so you can imagine the amount the company is asking for.

I know we have five because I paid several thousand pounds to Getty in 2007 for the usage rights. Somewhere along the line someone neglected to tell us this was an annual fee and we received no renewal notice.

If you want to avoid a Getty letter you need to check who owns the rights to any images on your websites.

This got me thinking about intellectual property, who owns it and what it is worth. As IFAs we are good at building value in other people’s businesses and not so good at creating much in our own. We do not own the funds our clients invest in or the ongoing revenue stream we call trail. Neither do we really own client relationships and despite the injunctions by Towry Law against Edward Jones advisers, it does not prevent clients walking away if they want to.

But with barely 30 months to go before adviser-charging kicks in, IFAs should be getting familiar with the concept of intellectual property.

Rather like a photographer, we create a snapshot by looking at people’s lives and financial situation. We then show how the future might look and provide the tools to manipulate the outcome to suit. The reports and solutions we produce are our intellectual property and we should be charging an appropriate amount for them.

Yet there are some adviser businesses that take the concept of intellectual property further than simply getting paid for the advice given. Books are an easy example to cite and several advisers have put their thoughts in print and leveraged off the back of that. A few others have gone a step further and built services and processes they sell to other advisers in a win-win situation. The more we segment and specialise, the greater the opportunities for leveraging our intellectual property. A worthy challenge for sure.

Dennis Hall is Yellowtail Financial Planning managing director

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