We revise our business plan every month to see what we have done and whether we have achieved our targets. The last time we wrote this diary, our priorities were recruitment and our website. We have made progress on both of these.
The recruitment aspect was not easy we found it tough to find like-minded advisers but we eventually recruited two additional financial planners. In the end, we used an agency that had been recommended to us by our compliance specialists. We arranged interviews with around 10 people and we felt very comfortable that two of them were experienced enough already to be able to handle our most knowledgeable clients. They were both client-oriented and fee-oriented in their approach.
For all new recruits, when we build their remuneration package, we ensure that there is a significant uplift to their income for every relevant qualification they pass. This can be as significant as 25 per cent of their salary in one year.
We decided that we would employ all our staff on a fully salaried basis at a higher value level instead of offering a more industry-typical standard of a lower basic salary and a “bonus” top-up. We are also building a share incentive scheme which we hope will give our planners in particular a real sense of ownership in the company.
For us, it was all about making people feel part of the business, to ensure they are acting for the business rather than for their individual gain. We also chose not to operate individual “targets”. Instead we have taken a community approach whereby we all work towards a central target and share the responsibility for achieving it.
As part of this, we have three advisers on every case. There is always a lead planner but we want to ensure that there is someone that clients can go to at any time and that there is a clear line of succession. Clients seem to like our approach it makes them feel more secure. Our planners also feel comfortable with this approach because of the collaboration within the team and the shared level and scope of experience that can be employed on any one client. We have done a lot to ensure that clients are clients of the firm rather than being attached to one particular adviser.
On the website, we are going through a tweaking process at the moment. We completed the redesign of the public-facing website but felt the result was a little austere. We have two in-house technicians who are helping us with this and with our in-house platform which needs constant developing and building
Our transition to fees is now complete. Clients know we are fee-based. The transition has been not only much easier than we expected but unexpectedly positive.
Our clients understand that being fee-based can mean that they get more for less rather than less for more. It may take a little time for the penny to drop but it has helped us recruit new clients. I thought it would be sticky with a number of our clients. But a transparent fee proposition helps build and maintain trust.
Until recently, we had only built our business through referrals so going into marketing was a new experience for us. We have started to implement marketing strategies directed towards our existing business partnerships. Some are now coming to us as we succeed in getting the word out there. A lot of our new business is now done in London. We find that it is in London where things are coming apart at the seams, where many wealthy people have had poor, over-priced advice.
However, we have also recently opened an office in Berkshire, which we intend will be a more community-based practice. At the same time, the rate of referrals has increased significantly because we are delivering a proposition that is understandable and affordable, and everyone is telling their friends and colleagues.
ince we first reported our diary one year ago, we have almost doubled the number of active clients. We have also more than doubled our turnover in that year.
What has been most important has been groups of clients and companies talking to each other and referring back to us they are talking about how we do pension planning for the company and personal financial planning for the executives. We can now deliver solutions for companies from 30 to 13,000 employees.
A key feature of our success is that we have been absolutely clear about what we have set out to deliver. We really believe that it need not be the same old thing.
It need not be knocking on doors. One of the most exciting things that we are doing at the moment is “channel” marketing. This is where we focus marketing on a group of clients with a common interest. It is an innovative approach to marketing and, based on our success to date, we think it will help us double in size again over the next 12 months, all on the back of the same infrastructure that we have carefully built over the last year.
This approach is aiming for certain target markets and introducing us to new clients. You need groups of people with a substantial common interest. This should all come together next year at a very big public event, where we will be marketing ourselves, with the intention of building our new and exciting client base.
For us, it is breaking new ground and we look forward to reporting on its success in our next diary entry.