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Phil Wickenden: Providers still getting it wrong on business support

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A few weeks ago my family and I were unsuccessfully navigating our way to Piglets Farm Park in York. 

Unsuccessfully in that a) my hunch that I knew better than the satnav was proving, again, entirely unfounded, b) my son was fed up and communicating his feelings powerfully, if not sweetly, and c) so was my wife.

So I did what I always do in these situations – I sped up, thus accelerating the rate at which we were getting lost and further from our intended destination in the vain hope that if I went fast enough the law of averages would start to work in my favour and eventually we would come across Fat Mat’s Circus, pig racing and the maize maze.

I was desperately trying to correct a wrong situation and, in so doing, making it “wronger”.

So too are providers and platforms when it comes to the provision of business and technical support.

Against a backdrop of dwindling field support, the importance of centrally based teams (either telephone or online) continues to rise, with three-quarters of the 15 central support measures now averaging more than 8.5  out of 10 in terms of their value to advisers, according to our latest Profit through Partnership adviser study (see table, right). Getting it right here is critical.

On the flipside, there is no shortage of events, calculators and collateral, which have contributed to the marginal decline this time in the value advisers place on them.

Yet what we have seen over the past six months from providers is the reverse: providers and platforms have invested and improved performance in the areas that matter least and seen performance fall significantly in the areas that matter most.

Central support (valued at 8.53 out of 10) dropped in quality by 0.73 points. In fact, 59 per cent of providers saw performance fall across all central support functions.

Conversely, central resources (valued at only 6.58 by advisers) saw industry performance improve by a huge 2.35 points.

Many of our current problems are the result of managers busting a gut to do the wrong thing right. 

Too many projects get off on the wrong foot because of this tendency to not ensure we are doing the right things in the first place.  

Should we be doing this at all?  Why are we doing it?  How do we know this is getting us where we want to go?  

These questions are not asked frequently enough, largely through fear and possibly because we do not allow ourselves enough time to think.

Wickenden

Phil Wickenden is founder of So Here’s the Plan

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