Rebecca Taylor began her financial services career as a bank adviser for Barclays but 12 years after becoming an IFA is now focused on promoting the value of financial planning a public which is beginning to be won over.
This week, Taylor, also managing director of Dunham Financial Services, took over as president from Marlene Shalton at the Institute of Financial Planning’s annual conference in Newport, marking the start of a two-year term.
Taylor admits hers was “not the most usual start to a career.” After leaving school at 16, she qualified as a horse riding instructor working around various competition yards. When her mum became ill, at 20, Taylor went to live with her dad and took up a sales role at Debenhams. She stayed there for three years, progressing to sales manager before seeing an advert for a financial adviser at Barclays. Taylor was surprised the bank took her on, given she had not worked in finance before.
Her role was to visit three branches carrying out customer appointments set up by branch staff, typically for protection, unit trusts and other investment business.
“Barclays was really good at training but awful to work for,” Taylor says. “The training was fantastic but as soon as you got out into the branches, it was completely different. It was a horrible environment.”
She notes the FSA’s recent report on cracking down on sales incentives and,m like many in the industry, believes it is “completely overdue”. Taylor says part of the problem at Barclays was that branch staff moved money around and opened Isas in order to hit targets without understanding they were using up a customer’s annual allowance.
As for the advisers, Taylor says: “You were supposed to see so many people a week and convert so many meetings into sales. You would then get points depending on the product, so large investments would mean more points than a life policy. Everyone, regardless of their role, was on a basic salary of around £15,000 and the points counted towards commission.”
Taylor toughed it out for a year at Barclays then left in 2000 to work for Ivan Massow at his firm Ivan Massow Associates.
“It was very easy to work there because Ivan definitely knew how to publicise the business. There was no question of having to go out and find people, the phone just rang.”
When Massow sold his business to Zurich Advice Network in 2001, Taylor left to join Dunham Financial as an adviser. She became director and then managing director within three years after the managing director’s departure left a power vacuum at the firm. One director left, not wanting to assume overall responsibility, and two years later another director left to help with her partner’s business. That left the finance director, who still remains, and Taylor.
In 2006, Taylor assessed which clients were profitable to continue servicing, now known in RDR jargon as ‘client segmentation’.
“The first time I did it was really wishy-washy because I did not want to upset anyone. So we sent out a ‘nicey nicey’ letter which set out our services but glossed over the fact that if clients did not want these services they would not be able just to phone up and be dealt with as before. The phone calls continued to come in from those clients you heard from once every few years.”
Taylor had to deal with the added complication of clients from a previously acquired business who had been told upfront commission would be taken in exchange for ongoing service.
She sympathises with firms currently agonising over which clients to keep but says “dumping” clients does not have to be done in a nasty way, as advisers are likely to have little if any contact with them. Should these clients phone in a few years time, Taylor says advisers should not feel guilty for saying there will be a cost attached.
“The reality has to kick in somewhere. There is no other business that would operate the way we do, unless you are a charity. And even charities still get paid.
“I am not that callous that I would not have a quick conversation with someone. But if it comes to doing work then it is common sense to charge. There are some people that take advantage and it is those people I will not deal with. If they can afford to pay then I will charge. If they do not want to pay then they can go elsewhere.”
Taylor is now working up to changing her current charging structure to reduce set-up fees and charge more for the report.
“For someone investing £1m, our 1 per cent set-up fee is £10,000. And yet the report fee is maybe £3,000. That is not the right balance. A lot of this is me being brave enough to switch that around.”
She admits it may be difficult to convince clients to pay more at an earlier stage but says it will be up to her to demonstrate the report is where the value lies.
Taylor’s involvement with the IFP began around eight years ago at a Money Marketing Live event, when she stopped at the IFP stand to ask about the certified financial planner licence. She went on to take the CFP and says from there she was “hooked”.
Taylor went on to found the East Midlands IFP branch based in Peterborough, and was elected IFP vice-president in May following Bruce Wilson’s decision to step down.
During her term as president, Taylor aims to build on the consumer awareness of the accredited financial planning firms register, which recognises firms that have reached the highest standards in financial planning. Since the launch last year, the number of accredited firms has almost doubled to 48.
Taylor was heavily involved with setting up the accredited firms register and is keen to use it to get the financial planning message out to the public.
“A few years ago no-one knew what financial planning was. But gradually people are starting to understand what a financial plan is, and are asking for an overall plan, not just for someone to have a look at their investments.”
Taylor also wants to drive up IFP membership and provide more member support to help planners define their service offering and articulate it to clients.
Taylor is hopeful the ‘financial planning’ brand can overtake ‘financial advice’ as the default advice service.
As she told delegates at the IFP conference this week, she believes there will come a time when financial planning “will no longer be the preserve of those in the know, but will become the norm”. Taylor says: “That is the dream. It is probably wishful thinking for me to believe it will happen in my two year term, but long-term, I do think it will happen.”
Education: St Peter’s High School
Career: 2001-present: joined as adviser before becoming director then managing director; Dunham Financial Services; 2000: financial adviser, Ivan Massow Associates; 1999: financial adviser, Barclays Bank; 1996-1999: sales manager, Debenhams; 1991-1996: horse riding instructor, various competition yards
Likes: Animals, sport
Dislikes: Aggressive people
Drives: Land Rover
Book: Anything by Bernard Cornwell
Film: Looking forward to the next Bond film Skyfall
Album: Born To Die by Lana Del Rey
Career ambition: To leave a mark during the next two years
Life ambition: To be happy and content
If I wasn’t doing this I would be… riding a bike