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Life planning lessons bring benefits

Case study James Harvey Associates

James Harvey is the principle adviser at James Harvey Associates, a boutique advice business based in Ealing. He talks about the company’s
business model:

As our business model matured, I was keen to stop doing the free work that often went with the initial advice given to clients. It’s not that we missed too many but it just became a matter of principle to charge something for my knowledge and experience – I didn’t want to just give it away. As a registered life planner, I was also keen to be charging where I felt I added the most value, which in my process is in providing the initial strategic advice and at each review. The implementation phase is really a lot of formfilling and so I didn’t want to be trying to make my margin there.”

The improvement in my monthly cash flow allows me to spend more time servicing my existing clients rather than chasing new clients which is a win for them and a win for me

What I did:
The only way to address this profitably was to increase fees at the first and last stages and to reduce the implementation fee. So that’s what I did. But that makes it sound like it was dead easy and it wasn’t. To increase those fees, I had to improve my skills at initial meetings with new clients so I did George Kinder’s life planning workshops which really took my questioning skills to a new level. I also worked hard on the review stage with existing clients making sure that I was showing the value I really added in a way
that they could understand.

Typically, I am charging as follows:

Plan fee: £2,500-£3,000
Implementation fee: 1%-3% of assets invested
Ongoing review fee 1% of AUM (but with a minimum fee of £2,500 pa)

The benefits:
Every time I secure a job, I know I will make money because I can deliver the initial advice for less than the cost of the plan fee. A smaller implementation fee makes it easier for clients to jump from advice to implementation and makes more sense in their minds. 1% pa is a premium price for ongoing advice but I can prove that I’m worth it to every client (and if I couldn’t I wouldn’t charge it). The improvement in my monthly cash flow allows me to spend more time servicing my existing clients rather than chasing new ones; a win for them and a win for me.

Is the pricing right?

Uncertain about your pricing strategy? Then try these questions in a quiet moment:

l: Does your fee-charging method sit well with the value you add and can it be explained at each step of the advice process?
2: If not, what needs to change to make it do so?
3: Are you fearful of charging what you need to charge to become adequately profitable? Why?
4: Is it because the packaging and communication of your value to clients is not yet good enough?
5: Is it because your back office is inefficient, making you a high-cost producer of advice?
6: Is it because you are not convinced that clients will pay the fees you want?
7: Is it because you don’t believe you really add that much value?
8: If confidence in your business is an issue, don’t panic. Every businessowner can have these moments as they try to improve or change their business.
9: Take small steps in increasing your fees. If you cannot make the jump to where you would like to be instantly, then increase your fee levels one bit at a time.


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