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Profile: ‘Our average client has changed, so we’re reviewing our proposition’

Kymin Financial Planners managing director on giving the firm an update, but keeping accessibility at its heart 

There are plenty of people in the financial advice sector working hard to shake off the stuffy and slightly old-fashioned image that still haunts the profession. Newport-based Kymin Financial Planners managing director Robin Hall is one of them.

As a modern, forward-thinking firm, Kymin does not want to conform to the stereotypes. Its eight advisers, of which two are women, span an age bracket from 32 to 72, with most in their 40s.

Recognising the need to adapt and keep up with the times – and cater for young clients who did not meet the criteria for the firm’s main proposition – Hall was keen to launch an automated investment service. In January 2017, it went live with Kymin Direct, its take on robo-advice.

“We use the Intelliflo back-office system and so developed it with them. We spent more time than money on it but we promoted it heavily through social media including Facebook and Twitter,” says Hall.

“We promoted it to a segment of clients – those with group pension schemes. The idea was that young people with just a pension through us would think of doing an Isa with us. Within the first week, a client invested £10,000, which was great.”

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Despite the promising start, the firm did not allow the service to divert its attention away from its primary focus on face-to-face lifestyle planning.

Kymin Direct continues to run but Hall has put it on the back burner for now. A more pressing matter is to review its main proposition – the Kymin Wealth Programme – which launched as the firm’s post-RDR offering around seven years ago.

The firm markets the Kymin Wealth Programme as a combination of wealth management and financial planning. The wealth management side is outsourced, as Hall believes the best use of a financial planner’s time is to spend it with clients.

“We see 98 per cent of clients at least once a year. They will have annual or bi-annual reviews – some will have four reviews a year – and we look at everything. The more you see clients, the more you get the bigger picture,” he says.

Hall feels the Kymin Wealth Programme needs a bit of an update. “We deal with clients who have upwards of £50,000 and originally we thought that would be ideal. But we are looking to take that up to at least £75,000, as our average client has changed. They have at least £100,000, but it’s usually closer to £225,000,” says Hall.

Hall is not planning to move Kymin any higher up the net worth spectrum as he sees too much competition at that level. He also wants Kymin to remain accessible.

“We are a small, locally owned independent company, so our costs aren’t as high as some of the bigger firms. We’re located on the high street and although we looked at moving to a business park, it’s nice to be in the city centre. That has always been our USP.”

Kymin rebranded following the RDR and became restricted whole of market, but that decision was reversed in October last year because the firm’s advisers wanted to call themselves independent.

Hall has also looked at entering the defined benefit transfer market because a couple of his advisers saw it as an opportunity, but he decided it did not fit the firm’s business model.

“Our model is built on long-term relationships. A lot of advisers charge for pension transfers on a transactional basis, but you risk losing the client and you still have the liability,” he says.

“We were never going to do it. If you look at firms locally that do, they have experienced a hike in PI cover and that’s difficult going forward.”

Five questions

What is the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career?

Always keep things simple – if you can’t understand it, don’t do it.

What keeps you awake at night?

I’m trying to get better at switching off and not taking work home with me, but it’s easier said than done.

What has had the most significant impact on financial advice in the last year?

Mifid II has slowed down our processes and made looking after clients more costly because there is more paperwork.

If I was in charge of the FCA for a day I would…

Get the team to see the advice sector from a client’s perspective. They don’t see that what we do for clients isn’t always a part of our remit.

Any advice for new advisers?

Focus on long-term relationships with clients and their families.

DB transfers review criticises FCA register and Unbiased

Few people can lay claim to going from client to managing director of an advice firm, but Hall can. Before joining Kymin in 2005, he had been a general manager at his family’s car and van hire business but was made redundant. A couple of months later, he went to see his adviser for an annual review and came out with a job offer.

“I’d been a client of Kymin since 1997. In April 2005, I had a meeting with them at their office in Monmouth. My adviser was the managing director, Gerald Davies.

“At the end of the meeting, he offered me a job. I said, ‘what do I know about financial services?’ I didn’t accept the job that day but a few weeks later I called Gerald back and asked if he was serious. Over the years, I learned never to question him; he was always serious.”

Davies, who went on to become Kymin’s executive chairman, sadly passed away in November last year.

Hall’s memories of his mentor show how the long-term relationships with clients for which Kymin prides itself can deepen over time.

CV

2005-present: From company secretary to managing director, Kymin Financial Services

1994-2005: General management, Torcross Car & Van Hire

Tom Hegarty: Keeping client relationships strong

“Gerald was more than an adviser; he was a family friend. He knew my father – he gave advice to the family business – and he’d known me since just after I was born. He would never take on new recruits that had been in the industry before, as they would come with bad habits or ways that were different to us. He preferred to train them the Kymin way,” he says.

Starting in an admin role, Hall worked his way up to operations director in 2010, before becoming managing director in 2012. He says that coming from outside the industry, but with a grounding of business through his degree, growing up in a family which ran a business and his previous experience in the car and van hire industry, has proved useful in being able to take a step back and view the firm objectively.

“I was tasked to look at the whole business from an outside viewpoint. We had two offices when I joined – one in Newport and one in Monmouth. But at that time, we had a team of only seven people. I could see we didn’t need two offices, so we closed the Monmouth office; it was more efficient and saved us a lot in terms of time and costs.”

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