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Smarter business tips: Three advice firms putting a new spin on old ideas

The best business ideas can often involve reworking something that is perhaps not being explored to its full potential

Advisers that want to solve a business problem for the benefit of themselves, their clients or peers do not need to reinvent the wheel. The best ideas can often involve reworking something that perhaps is not being explored to its full potential. So what are advice firms currently doing in their attempts to update and improve the industry?

The adviser directory Ray Adams

Niche IFA director Ray Adams is set to launch directory AdviserBook in the next few weeks. He is investing £22,000 a year to buy a weekly data feed from the FCA.

He says the industry is in need of such a solution following the demise of Unbiased’s Bluebook from a genuine directory into a lead generation service, before closing last month.

With no central register of all advisers that consumers can easily search according to location and areas of expertise, Adams says it is difficult for people to find the right one.

“I’m a pension transfer specialist and I’ve had people coming to me saying thank goodness they had found us. One told me we were the 17th company they’d contacted about pension transfers,” he says.

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AdviserBook will list all advisers alphabetically and charge advisers only if they want to “personalise” their profile by adding photographs, biographies, links to their websites and details of what they specialise in, for example. This will cost £10 a month plus VAT for the first adviser and £5 plus VAT for each additional adviser.

Adams has calculated that, even if a small percentage of the 25,000-adviser population signs up, he will be able to make a small profit in running the service. However, he says he is not doing it to make money.

“If we had 10-20 per cent of advisers wanting to do this, it could bring in £180,000 to £350,000 a year, which is enough to run the business, make a profit and reinvest in the promotion of the service,” he says.

Graduate recruitment Richard Ross

Norwich-based advice firm Chadwick’s is taking graduate recruitment further than most, as it is central to its expansion plans. All graduate recruits complete research projects that feed into the business and those with good ideas can receive financial backing to get them off the ground.

It was a disastrous attempt to expand by recruiting experienced staff that led managing director Richard Ross to put his faith in graduates. Pre-RDR he had found that experienced employees were driven by self-interest. “Without exception, they took their salary for two or three years, built their own client banks, left and churned the policies they’d written,” he says.

Ross rebuilt the business by investing in new talent. “I posted a note on the University of East Anglia alumni LinkedIn group saying we were looking for a graduate to join us. We got two responses and this set the standard. Good people attract similar people,” he says.

Using funds under advice as a measure, Ross says Chadwick’s has grown at 40 per cent a year over the past five years. “We retain our people by making them part of our growth, giving them a high degree of responsibility early on and giving them a clear vision of what we are trying to create,” he says.

Chadwick’s second graduate, Daniel Harvey, is a case in point. Early on, he was given the responsibility for a big company pension scheme and came up with an idea for an auto-enrolment service. He was given £100,000 to set up The Pension Counter, which initially ran as a pilot, and he is now its chief executive. “If graduates come to us with good ideas, we will support them,” says Ross.

Blogging Matthew-Pete-2012-700.jpg

While most advisers were taking their time in getting on board with standard written blogs, Jacksons Wealth Management managing director Pete Matthew was making great strides ahead on non-traditional platforms.

Having established MeaningfulMoney in 2009, Matthew has produced 309 videos, which have been views almost 200,000 times, and 217 podcasts, which have been downloaded over one million times.

Matthew says: “When I started MeaningfulMoney, it was a hobby; a bit of fun on the side. It’s now a massive part of my life, giving me a reach which would be otherwise unthinkable.

“I speak to tens of thousands of people every month and receive emails of thanks and requests to work with me every single day. MeaningfulMoney now accounts for about 20 per cent of the new business production of Jacksons Wealth, and has helped us to double our turnover and profit in the past five years.”

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