Smarter Business Innovators: Lift-Financial’s Joel Adams

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For Lift-Financial joint founder and chief executive Joel Adams the workplace is the perfect hunting ground for new clients. The firm, born out of a management buyout from Chartwell in 2007, now has more than 50 staff, many of whom are engaged in delivering advice and services to the members of the corporate pension schemes it oversees.

And while the private client focus will always be on the top earners, employees of all types are becoming personal clients of the firm.

What are the benefits of finding new clients in this way?

The workplace is a fantastic way to build up your private client bank. We have found it is far easier to get one client who employs 100 people who could all become private clients than go and target 100 potential private clients directly.

Coming in through the workplace also gives the employee a sense that we have the tacit endorsement of the employer. It suggests they have done some due diligence in selecting us. Many employees in City firms understand more about financial services than a lot of financial advisers, so you have to demonstrate the highest professional standards. Being a chartered firm with chartered advisers has proved invaluable for us.

What are the key areas of engagement? Is it all about auto-enrolment?

The pension scheme has been the lead conversation in recent years but nowadays we are leading on financial education. Saying that, the biggest draw recently has been seminars around the annual tapering allowance. Out of 60 people who have registered for our latest annual tapering allowance session, 33 have requested a one-to-one conversation as well.

We also have sessions for younger members of staff where we look at repaying student debt and saving for a house. Whether the conversation is about mortgages or pensions, we create the opportunities through financial education sessions.

As dynamics such as smarter technology, robo-advice and the potential for advice-lite from the Financial Advice Market Review play out, how do you think the firm will have to adapt to remain relevant?

The Financial Advice Market Review is looking at simplified advice and we think it has a place. It is a market we are very interested in. We could use this to scale up our operations to see more people.

Regarding technology, we have invested in a bespoke system through Intelliflo, going live in January, which will help us get closer to clients receiving full advice. If the time comes when the world is dominated by robo-advisers, we will be so close to our clients that they will not want to move.

The new system means we will be able to operate more efficiently and more cheaply. It will mean we will have a full transaction history and we will be able to give time and money-weighted returns. At the moment, we cannot give a clear picture of the overall return we have given the client, but in future we will be able to demonstrate the value we have delivered.

What do you think the future holds for adviser charging?

We believe one day all firms should have to operate in a way that is fully aligned with the client. Adviser charging requires the adviser to sell something to get paid, even if not buying something is the best thing to do. Having to make a product sale means you cannot be 100 per cent independent.