People keep saying we’ve got quite an unconventional approach,” says Plutus Wealth Management co-founder and partner Georgina Partridge. And well she might.
Money Marketing Award nominee Plutus is not your run-of-the-mill IFA firm. For one thing, its average client age is 37.
She says: “I think we are different from other IFAs in that sense. We are in a very good position to appeal to that younger age group because the Plutus team is quite young itself. We say that we specialise in people who are new to financial planning because there’s a whole generation of these young, affluent people in the City who have never seen a financial adviser. They wouldn’t know where to find one. That’s where we win.”
Plutus is not only young in terms of adviser and client age. As a firm, it is just two years old, having been formed by Partridge and five others in January 2009.
“I was at 20Twenty previously. Although my time there gave me good experience, especially when I became number one producer in 2008, it was fairly sales-oriented.
“What I wanted to do was deliver something on the service side of things. I had a really good rapport with all my clients and so did these five other IFAs, so we set up Plutus as a way to establish long-lasting relationships with our clients.”
And that is exactly what Plutus is doing. Partridge and her business partners put a lot of emphasis on communicating with their clients, providing them with quarterly newsletters and seminars.
“The client goes on a journey. It is all about being active and informing people who may be intimidated by financial planning of what’s going on.”
Plutus’s principal aim is to make financial advice accessible to younger people but it is also targeting other atypical groups.
“There is a perception that you have to have loads of money to receive financial advice. But no matter how much you are earning, you still need to save. We want to focus less on wealthier clients, make advice less intimidating and cut out the jargon.”
In fact, Partridge says: “Our 2011 PR strategy is going to be built around the masses, really.” Unsurprisingly, digital marketing will play a leading role.
Plutus uses back-office system Intelligent Office and launched its online client portal, where clients can update their fact-finds and get current valuations, in 2010. This year will see an increased online presence. “We have upped our use of LinkedIn and Twitter and we are going to increase our tweets.”
Plutus is also part of unbiased.co.uk’s Yahoo! answers initiative, which sees the team answering financial queries posted on Yahoo!. “It means our name is out there. It is useful for existing clients and it is useful for generating business.”
The firm also uses the internet to generate business in a less traditional way. “We send out e-invitations to our seminars and clients forward them on to colleagues. They are great for sourcing new clients. We are in a good position anyway, in central London, right in the City, so if we can get people along to these workshops we can educate them in a non-scary way.”
That is not to say that existing clients aren’t equally important, though. “One of the things we are most proud of is what our clients say. We have done various surveys and we really steer ourselves on what they say.”
This client-centric attitude is intrinsic to Plutus’s ethos and the company has an unconventional approach to keeping its clients happy. “We use external specialism. Everyone keeps saying that is how we are different from other IFAs but we say, ’Well, we want to look after our clients’.”
Plutus outsources work such as IHT planning and will-writing to specialists from Skandia and Legal & General, something Partridge admits is not for all IFA firms.
“It works for us. I think some IFAs might make mistakes in thinking they know best, whereas we are happy to hold up our hands and say that we might not, that we have limitations and that we are addressing those limitations.”
Awareness of the financial service industry’s limitations is something else that informs Partridge’s approach to business.
“As IFAs, we need to make sure we are not overcomplicating things. That’s one of my bugbears. There is a generation of people out there who are scared of seeking advice because it is complicated.”
This desire to see more clarity and transparency is why Partridge welcomes the RDR. “I think it is a very positive thing that will help restore faith in financial services. It is difficult for Plutus to put ourselves in the shoes of the older guys. I don’t know what it feels like to have to go back into the classroom and take exams after years of advising clients. Part of me can see why they are unhappy.”
But she would not want to see any concessions in the RDR. “If you are trying to restore faith in something, then granting concessions will go against it. If you have set rules in place, then you have to adhere to them.”
Partridge also welcomes the increased consumer awareness that the RDR has generated. “Last year and the year before that, the RDR was very much an industry conversation. Now clients are asking us what it means. I think it is good to create more publicity around the RDR, as it gives IFAs a chance to prove their worth.”
Proving its worth is just what Plutus is aiming to do this year. “Everyone is concerned about money, they want to talk about money, they are disillusioned with the banks. They don’t know where to turn to and that is where we want to be.”
Partridge even sees the controversial issue of auto-enrolment as an opportunity to build relationships with the public and Plutus will be holding a project in the summer on the subject.
“We are not saying we agree or disagree, but it is an opportunity for ourselves and other IFAs to talk to people. There is a massive market out there; the general public, consumers. My ambition is to be the new face of IFAs in the UK. It is a big ambition but there you go.”
Born: Torquay, Devon, in 1979
Lives: Battersea, London
Education: Loughborough University, BSc in Business, Economics and Finance
Career: 2009-present: co-founder and partner of Plutus Wealth Management; 2002-2009: top producer and first female partner as an AR of 20Twenty
Likes: Playing in and winning national league netball games, white water rafting, can-do and interesting people
Dislikes: Product providers ignoring the needs of end customer, narrow-mindedness and negativity
Drives: On most days, I am on a race cycle as part of my training for triathlons
Book: Open by Andre Agassi
Film: Crocodile Dundee
Album: Only By The Night by Kings of Leon
Career ambition: To grow Plutus into a household name
Life ambition: To set up a white water rafting company in South Africa and to win a biathlon in Norway
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…Working outdoors involved in sports or in adventure travel, helping others learn extreme sports