As the only member of the Financial Advice Market Review panel to be a practicing adviser, Keyte Chartered Financial Planners director Robin Keyte is uniquely positioned to comment on widening access to advice.
Keyte – also founding director of lower cost advice firm Well Money Clinic – was appointed to the Financial Advice Working Group tasked with implementing three of the FAMR recommendations in 2015.
However, he believes this is only the start of tackling the thorny subject of the advice gap.
“Too many consumers do not understand whether they need advice. FAMR was designed to help them understand when they need it and how to get it, but the advice gap will not be solved by one review,” he says.
Talking to Keyte, you can see how there are various strands to the problem, including financial capability among consumers and the increasing cost of advice, with no quick fix.
Lower cost digital propositions or robo-advice can be regarded as part of the solution. Improving access to guidance and advice through the workplace is another part. But there needs to be a concerted effort to solve the problem, says Keyte.
Take the workplace – in many ways employers are ideally placed to help employees with guidance and advice, yet some are wary of facilitating it.
“Employers are very enthusiastic but often nervous of doing anything for fear of falling foul of the regulator. They are also cautious because of the time and effort it might take to be involved. I would like to think it will be a slow burn with employers getting out there and being a key source. We need to reassure them and give them the tools to deal with their fears.”
Where cost is a barrier, Keyte believes digital methods, if undertaken responsibly, allow high quality advice to be distributed more widely at a competitive price.
“Most advisers take the view that the RDR provided the quality of advice but reduced the distribution of it. Most will conduct a fact-finding meeting but finding a way to do it remotely lowers the cost associated with the advice process. Less face-to-face doesn’t necessarily impact on the adviser-client relationship, as long as it is face-to-face when it needs to be,” he says.
2009-present Founding Director, Well Money Clinic
1997-present: Director, Keyte Chartered Financial Planning
1994-1996: PhD in Chemistry, Loughborough University
Indeed, Keyte – a member of the FCA’s Smaller Business Practitioner Panel since 2014 – sees client home visits being a thing of the past fairly soon.
“Two or three client visits a day is as much as I can do if I’m travelling. But if I’m hosting client meetings from my office I can do six, easily. It’s about the efficiency of labour and the associated impact on costs. Advisers are not as tuned to this as they might be, as they don’t record their time on the whole.
“Recording their time will give them more insight. Combine this with the increased use of digital and you have reasonable potential to drive costs down without reducing the quality of advice,” he says.
Qualifications can give customers assurance
Quality is something Keyte takes seriously. Not only is he chartered and certified, he also has the ISO 22222 certificate. This internationally-recognised financial planning certificate, which Keyte helped to draft, is awarded by Standards International annually. It focuses on firms’ business processes and treating customers fairly.
“It never fails to amaze me how useful it is to have this, as it makes you look at the systems and processes that support your financial planning service. It’s also a qualification that gives prospective new clients reassurance, especially where they have had previous experience of international standards.”
So why does Keyte think ISO 22222 is not more popular?
“It’s disappointing that it has not been better taken up but I think there is a lack of awareness by advisers and some are unwilling to invest in any additional costs. There is also a case of ‘if the regulator doesn’t require it, why do I need to do it?’ But that view is short-sighted, as clients value it. We find some of our new clients refer to it and say it was the reason they came to us. It’s still a useful differentiator.”
Like many people, Keyte got into advice by accident. “I applied to a graduate trainee course for equity analysts in the City and the feedback was that I needed some experience. My father was a chartered accountant and had set up a fee-based financial advice firm, Towers of Taunton. He suggested I join them.”
Keyte joined the firm, which eventually became Keyte Chartered Financial Planners, nine months before the Personal Investment Authority introduced uniform minimum standards for training and competence.
“The senior consultant didn’t want the additional complications of this and left, so I didn’t feel I could the same. I took the Financial Planning certificate and started helping with clients.”
Keyte is well-known for his expertise in ethical and socially responsible investment. As a former chair of the Ethical Investment Association and board member of the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association, does he feel clients need to compromise on performance if they want to align their investments with their principles?
“There has been quite a lot of research done on this and, over the long term, there has not been much difference. The focus on the performance difference is in the short term. If a fund excludes oil and fossil fuels and that’s a large part of the market, that will benefit the fund or not depending on what the sector does,” he says.
He believes some advisers are scared off from ethical investments because it requires an extra bit of fact-finding, but says it is also about value and demonstrating the lengths they are prepared to go to ensure the client’s needs are met.
“A lot of advisers miss that point,” he says. “And we are better served today with a wide choice of investment funds covering multi asset classes. The Ethical Investment Association holds adviser seminars on delivering advice on ethical investments for those who want to find out more.”
What is the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career?
To learn by doing, or action research. It means if you have an idea don’t let anyone say no, you can’t do it. Do your own research to check it out.
What keeps you awake at night?
The outlook for children at retirement. I fear we have disenfranchised a generation who find it difficult to get onto the property ladder and build up retirement pots.
What has had the most significant impact on financial advice in the last year?
Mifid II – the focus on charges will have a lasting impact.
If I was in charge of the FCA for a day I would…?
Help financial advisers and product providers to understand the FCA’s overall position in the hope that it would lead to better engagement rather than resorting to sniping.
Any advice for new advisers?
Include advice on ethical investment as part of your service – it’s a valuable differentiator.