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Dear Rob&Roderic…

Our resident agony uncles and The Ideas Lab directors Rob Reid and Roderic Rennison answer adviser questions

Q: I am the owner of a 10-strong adviser firm and while six have achieved level four status or are progressing towards it, the remaining four are dragging their heels. What do you suggest?

A: Roderic: To show the difference in the firm post-RDR to pre-RDR, put them under two distinct labels – a post-RDR firm and a pre-RDR firm. The focus should be skewed towards the post-RDR firm. Make it an objective of individuals yet to commit. But be ready to accept that some people won’t want to commit. You may decide to segment the business in a way that you are happy for these people to be a part of it but taking a different role. You must address this at two levels – strategic and practical. Have you a clear and articulated (written) strategy and business plan? Do you know the services you want to offer? Have you undertaken a detailed segmentation of clients to see if they match your aspirations? Have you done a skills audit of all staff – not just advisers – to identify needs and gaps? The advisers may need help to organise themselves to get the qualifications. What you must do without delay with each of them is agree an action plan. Otherwise they may have a negative impact on the remaining advisers. Be proactive, not reactive.

Q: I am being besieged by consul-tants offering their services to help me migrate my business but having moved to a fees basis already, I cannot see what I would need from them. But I am also slightly concerned that I may be missing out on something significant. How do I address this dilemma?

A: Rob: Ask the consultant for references,that is, firms where they have operated and had success or even where they have been unsuccessful. It is important to know if the consultant walks the walk. Beware of those with no current financial planning expertise or whose experience is not necessarily in the IFA market as much of this experience may be historical or not first hand. The IFA firm should not fit the consultant – the consultant must fit the IFA firm.

A: Roderic: Sit down with your fellow directors if you have not already done so to review your strategy and business plan – assuming that you have one – and then agree if you have any unresolved issues. Only then should you meet any consultant so that you can be clear what your possible needs are in advance. Such meetings should be structured. Even if you have no apparent needs, there is no harm in having an exploratory meeting as there is an oppor-tunity for you to hear fresh ideas. You will also be able to decide if you need or want to address any particular issues.

Q: I am an adviser in a firm with 25 advisers and am one of only two to have achieved level six status. The directors don’t seem to have a strategy to take advantage of the opportunities for those with this qualification but rather every adviser is left to do their own thing. What do I and my colleagues do?

A: Rob: Advisers must determine and seek assurances from principals that they have a clear vision of where the firm will be post-RDR. You can always assist them in determining this vision. If the directors are not prepared to move forward, at least you have determined that your future lies elsewhere. What you should not do is be dragged into a period of indecision by people of whom it was said previously: “We were indecisive but now we are not quite sure.”

A: Roderic: The need to take decisions in relation to the RDR and change is not just for directors or principals of a firm but for the advisers. Directors should be able to show where you fit – or in some cases, don’t fit. Treat this situation as an opportunity. You can approach the directors with ideas to help move the firm forward. If they are unre-ceptive, you will have still gained clarity about what you want. And level six advisers are in demand if you decide your future lies elsewhere.

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