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Correspondent&#39s week

After possibly the worst seven days I can remember as a Newcastle fan I couldn&#39t wait for this week to get started.

My first mistake was to take my wife&#39s car for my trip from Leeds via Newcastle to Scotland. No point in putting all those miles on my own car. On my way to Fife, the brakes lock and my wife&#39s car goes into a spin. The RAC man professes his amazement that I did not hear anything before the spin as one of the back brakes had seized. Car will be out of action for a few days.

The highlight on Monday was a few hours I spent with a fairly big IFA firm. They realise that to preserve their position as a premier provider of financial services to Scotland&#39s high-net-worth and mass affluent they will need to devise a fee-based planning proposition. We spend two hours going over some of the major hurdles they will face.

As with most IFAs, the challenges they will face have nothing to do with the quality of their advisers or clients. They simply need to decide exactly what their client proposition is and then put in place the infrastructure to deliver it. The success of the transition from commission-based advice to fee-based planning lies in the ability to deliver a service that is value for money to the client and profitable to the firm.

I left with a good feeling. This firm has the ability and the desire to make the transition and the momentum towards a fee-based financial planning profession will be enhanced by its presence.

Tuesday is spent in the offices of one of our member firms, helping them to work on their business. One of the problems that most IFA firms face is they spend so much time working in their business they do not find the time to work on their business.

One of the key factors that true financial planning deploys to help manage a firm&#39s transition to fees is that we spend time reviewing their progress and help with the challenges they will face.

JRD is a smallish IFA practice but is making great progress very quickly.

There are two main reasons for this. They have two very committed support staff who have an excellent know-ledge of the 1st software system that provides the infra- structure to deliver a fee-based service.

The second reason is that the planner who heads the organisation has all the attributes necessary to become one of the top planners in the country.

Wednesday sees me back in our Leeds office with my office door closed which means do not come in. Deadlines are approaching for my talk at this year&#39s Institute of Financial Planning conference and my command of PowerPoint is only slightly better than my three-year-old daughter&#39s.

The best part of Wednesday is reviewing the latest release of True&#39s bespoke cashflow modelling tool. Cashflow modelling is at the heart of a profitable fee-based financial planning service. The problem is that most of the systems on the market are either overly complex, which means they take too long to build and are expensive for the client, or they are overly simple.

It has taken us tens of thousands of pounds and a year of frustration but we now have a tool that gives our members a context within which to design the strategy for their clients and gives their clients a context within which they can make decisions.

On Thursday, an IFA firm interested in joining True Financial Planning arrives at the offices of Baxter Fensham, our IFA firm. Firms that meet the selection criteria for True and pass a telephone interview are invited to our IFA practice so that they can see for themselves how the True Financial Planning systems and processes work on a day-to-day basis.

This is a medium-sized IFA of the highest quality. Its involvement with the Institute of Financial Planning means it already knows what financial planning is all about and how it differs from financial advice. It has already taken considerable steps to introduce a fee service to clients. We have a productive meeting.

On Thursday afternoon, I receive the results of the compliance audit carried out on another firm. As with most IFAs, the report shows a commitment to acting in their clients&#39 best interests but exposes some deficiencies in recording this. Firms like this are easy to convert because they have the genuine desire to put their clients first.

I spend Friday in phone interviews with firms. Some are excellent and I am excited about meeting them. Some are woeful and have no chance of being successful fee-based financial planners.

The day ends with a team meeting to reflect on the week&#39s achievements and then we retire to the pub.

John Baxter is director of True Financial Planning


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