Smarter Business Innovators: Informed Choice’s Martin Bamford



What sets your business apart from its peers?

We are different from a lot of our peers by virtue of being family owned and managed, but it is our self-awareness that really allows us to stand out from the crowd.

We know exactly what we do, who we enjoy working with and where we can add the greatest value. This means we always have the confidence to charge profitable fees and engage in the kind of self-promotion that is required to succeed in an increasingly noisy market.

What three parts of a business are most important to get right in order to be successful?

I believe success is down to a combination of brand, people and processes. Back in 2014 we invested a great deal of time and money in updating our brand standards, so they would truly reflect what we stand for. This has been an enormous help in securing and retaining the right clients, and also when it comes to raising our profile locally. Processes are another essential element, especially in a regulated business, as it is important to do things consistently to get them right every time.

How would you advise peers wanting to make big changes? Where do they start?

It has become a real cliché but you need to start with your “why” and understand your reason for being in business. A great starting point is refining your proposition: what you do, who you serve and how you deliver your service. Without a strong client proposition everything else is weak.

I would hire an experienced coach and work through the big questions in a workshop format before taking action on proposition, brand and processes.

Where do you get your business inspiration?

I love to read widely and devour podcasts, TED Talks and YouTube videos. My regular sources of inspiration include Gary Vaynerchuk, Casey Neistat, Darren Rowse, Lewis Howes, Pat Flynn and Tim Ferriss.

What is the best lesson you have learned when it comes to running a business? 

It has been one long learning experience but perhaps the best lesson is that you need to take care to work with the right people. We have made some howlers in the past when it comes to recruiting but each time we have become better at trusting our instincts. Without a happy, competent and motivated team it can be impossible to achieve business success.

What is your biggest business achievement? 

I am most proud of the fact we have created a business that serves its clients, supports a team of employees and their families, and has been able to contribute to important causes in the local community. With business success comes the privilege of allocating time and money to charitable causes, so our fundraising for The Jigsaw Trust over the past five years is a direct consequence of our other business achievements.

What are your ambitions for the firm over the next 12 months? 

After achieving operating revenue growth of nearly 35 per cent last year, our ambitions this year are slightly more modest at around 20 per cent. We always focus on operating revenue and profit rather than the vanity figure of turnover because you cannot spend or invest turnover. Our two big challenges this year are supporting the promotion of a new director and implementing a new back office software system.

What are the biggest risks ahead for adviser firms and how are you preparing?

We operate in a very strict regulatory environment, which can sometimes be unpredictable in terms of costs. My biggest fear is always an unexpected levy from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The only way to prepare for this is to continue building cash reserves, ensure our advice is always suitable and do what we can to share best practice across the rest of the sector.

What do you think the advice market will look like in five years’ time?

There are huge opportunities for advisers over the next five years, as a result of the demographic shift that sees the UK population continue to age. While there is a lot of talk about robo-advice, we are bullish about the growing demand for high value, face-to-face advice, which helps clients make complex financial decisions. I have no doubt technology will play an important role in making our business and delivery of advice more efficient.