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Claire Walsh: Why advice firm bosses should be hands off

Claire WalshI have noticed a new trend among advisers at conferences lately. Instead of boasting about the number of clients they have or the size of their cases, all the talk now is about how little they are working.

This struck me the most when I was listening to someone extolling his recent yachting trip. The point of his humble brag was to point out how his business was working so effectively he could simply step away and sail across the Med, safe in the knowledge it would remain ship-shape for his return.

This business model is a significant shift from that of the past, where the adviser put themselves at the centre of the process and clients were led to feel that everything rested with that one person.

Today’s model relies on robust and repeatable processes, where clients can expect the same service from any adviser at the firm. Indeed, many interactions are not with advisers at all but with suitably equipped support staff.

Emphasis has grown on the importance of building client relationships but the adviser should not be seen as an island. Encouraging clients to interact with other people does not undermine that relationship. In fact, it should help build their confidence in the business as a whole.

My background before financial advice was in project management for a large corporate, where my remit was to review processes, identify faults, come up with solutions and deliver improvements. I often find myself looking at the world through this prism. I am routinely evaluating myself and how I spend my time, looking for opportunities to make efficiency savings.

If you can hire someone or outsource something, you are freeing your own time to do something more lucrative – whether that is advising clients or focusing on long-term planning. Or perhaps, like the sailor, it is about making more time to not be at work.

Given the demographics of advisers, this is particularly important for those with a view to their own retirement. If you can keep your business running like a well-oiled machine while you withdraw your day-to-day involvement, this should also make the business highly saleable.

You would think I have got this all cracked, right? Unfortunately, it is a continually moving target. We all have different ideas on which areas we should be involved in and what we can delegate.

For example, I arrange the majority of my client appointments. I consider phoning clients I have not spoken to for a long time a good touch point, and find this lays the ground work for the meeting itself. My colleagues, however, see the valuable conversations being in the meetings themselves.

Another example would be that my assistant is a bit of a whizz at investment analysis and loves looking into all of this, whereas many colleagues see this as part of their role. We all have different strengths and preferences.

Many of you will be familiar with Strategic Coach, who says there is often a strong correlation between the areas of your business you enjoy, are good at and which drive revenue. Those are the ones we should be focusing on, stripping everything else out as far as possible.

Whatever it is within your own business, make the time to do this. Work out which areas you are passionate about and where efficiencies can make total sense.

Claire Walsh is a chartered financial planner at Aspect 8

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Comments

There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Great thoughts, Claire. I’ve got no aspirations to go sailing in the Med (perhaps I should aim higher!) but I do believe in the importance of building a team within a financial planning firm, rather than relying on individuals to do everything. Our clients love this approach too, as they know there is always someone here they can talk to when they call us, who knows about their situation and goals. The old model of the lone wolf adviser doing everything from fund selection to completing the application form is, hopefully, long gone as it poses some large compliance challenges too!

  2. Claire I couldn’t agree more. In addition it is hard to effectively manage risk in your business if you are the at centre of everything.

  3. I agree, its hard to see why most acquirers of single person businesses buy them- when their exit will lead to client attrition as rarely do all clients remain.
    I also think that some firms are overstaffed and would be better off outsourcing especially where their skills are not needed every day.

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