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The review from here

Advisers who create a review service that clients will value can also future-proof their business, enabling them to react in a crisis and deal effectively with change. You can also increase the fees you charge for the service

Steve Billingham, Managing director, FP Advance
Steve Billingham, Managing director, FP Advance

Developing a regular review service that clients will value (and therefore pay for) is fundamental to building a recurring revenue stream. In fact, it underpins it. In this article, we will take a look at why a review service is so important. In particular,
What are the main reasons to develop a robust review service?
What makes a review service stand out in the client’s mind?
What should the review service look like?
What happens to my business once the review service is established?

Why is a review service important?
The review service underpinsa recurring revenue business model. Financial advice goes beyond selling a product or providing the initial advice. Advice is “perishable”. Even if it is the best possible advice at the time
it is given, its value will be eroded over time as a result of changes to legislation, tax law, investment markets and changes in client circumstances. At the core of what advisers do is working with clients, hopefully over
a lifetime, continually to ensure that their affairs are in order, based on the financial and legislative conditions at the time. Furthermore, the retail distribution review proposals stipulate that trail commission of any sort can only be paid where there is a documented and signed client agreement in place setting out what service is being provided in return
for such revenue.

The two principal reasons for developing a robust review service are;

  • Business and financial reasons – advisers will make more money if they do it right.
  • Customer service reasons – The type of clients advisers want will expect a review. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Business and financial reasons
A business that relies on today’s revenue to pay today’s bills is not really a business. A proper business has reliable, predictable and, ideally, growing levels of predictable cash flow. The objective is to build a business that has:

  • A superb value proposition
  • Processes that allows the proposition to be delivered consistently time after time
  • A marketing process that promotes the business and attracts a steady flow of good clients
  • A team of high quality people that help manage the process

Now, you have a business. Data from the FP Advance Business Fitness Report suggests that having a well thought through and documented
review process will have a significant positive impact on your profitability.

Clients certainly do not want to educate a new adviser every two or three years

The Profit-per-Principal figures in the table below are after assuming a salary of £60,000 for each principal. The financial impact is evident, as is the impact that involving someone else, such as a paraplanner or client services manager, in client review meetings.

Customer service reasons
Advice is perishable. If one thing is certain, it is that the client’s circumstances will change, legislation and tax rules/allowances will change
or investment performance will exceed or fall short of expectations. This requires any advice to be regularly reviewed to ensure it is still appropriate, suitable and relevant, and that everything is still on track to achieve the client’s objectives.

Clients certainly do not want to educate a new adviser every two or three years

Life tends to be busy for the sort of clients most advisers want to attract. It is also complex, especially when you have a lot of money. These clients want help and assistance and they certainly do not want to educate a new adviser every two or three years.

Results from the same Business Fitness Report show that around 40 per cent of the firms surveyed admit to having lost some A and B class clients in the last year. Poor service and lack of contact are very often the principal reasons that advice businesses lose clients.

Clients do not usually complain, they simply vote with their feet. An effective review service can address that.

By reviewing a client’s circumstances proactively and regularly, you can stay on top of their issues and get to know their needs well. This allows you to deliver the highest possible value over time. As with physical health, the key to good financial health is to follow a simple health maintenance programme and have regular check-ups to make sure everything is working as it should.

Until clients go through a review meeting with you and come out the other side having seen it and experienced it for themselves, they are not in a position to judge its value. However, we can position it as a high-value service by stressing the importance of regular reviews and demonstrating this with a clear, structured approach.

A review meeting agenda’ (we call ours the 12-point financial healthcheck) provides the framework for you and your team to deliver tangible value
to clients in a systemised and consistent way.

What should the review service look like?
Having a client facing structure for reviews is one thing, but if we are going to deliver this service consistently year in, year out, it has to be supported by a highly systemised approach in the back office. Variations add unnecessary complexity and reduce profitability. Having a clearly documented process that describes all the potential steps required to deliver client reviews efficiently, with clear accountabilities
for every step is essential.

Breaking the process down into pre-, during and post-meeting phases helps enormously.

Each task or step should be delegated to the lowest possible level in the business (subject to staff being given appropriate training and support), with admin tasks being carried out by administrators, not advisers. Again, you can tailor this to the needs and capabilities of your own business but there really is not that much work involved in delivering this level of service as long as the process is in place, people are clear about what they are accountable for and that the advisers in particular stick to the process.

By creating the process, you achieve three things:

  • You demonstrate a tangible process to clients – which means that they can see what they are paying you for.
  • You demonstrate to yourself that you have a process that can be delivered year after year, meaning that you can sell the service with confidence.
  • You demonstrate to your staff a clear, simple, scalable process for them to follow – giving them confidence in the firm and a clearer role within the business.

Beware over-engineering – the key issues In our coalface work with advisers, we often find back-office systems (not to mention staff) creaking under the weight of an over-engineered review process. This is often the result of a genuine desire to deliver good value to clients
and to justify charges.

1: The process must be slick and efficient to ensure that it is both consistent and profitable. Many advisers feel they have to provide the client with lengthy review reports full of graphs, charts and fund-fact sheets (which most clients don’t read) to demonstrate why they are charging them so much. Often this is because they have no real understanding of the value they add to their clients through reviews.

2: Do as little as possible. Minimise written material to that which you know clients value (assume nothing), complies and frees up resource. Ask your clients if you can skip the 50-page report this time around. You might be surprised at the response.

3: As suggested above, drive down management of the review service and make it a process that is managed by your administration staff. Once the process is built, your involvement will be in doing only the high value added tasks like seeing clients, writing up file notes post- meeting and handing out follow up tasks that come from it. You can then spend more time marketing your practice to the outside world, to professionals and the media.

4: Hire quality staff that fit the process. Fitting the process around the people is a recipe for mediocrity

What happens once the review service is established?
Client satisfaction increases dramatically. The biggest criticism of our industry is that an adviser sells a product to a client and then never calls again. The review process eliminates this problem.

You can deal effectively with more clients. By creating a process, you free up time. Under the old-style model, client reviews suffer due to the
pressure of finding new clients who, once found, take priority over “stuff” for existing clients that you don’t get paid for.

Stress how important regular reviews are and demonstrate this with a clear, structured approach

You can react in a crisis. To be able to deal effectively with change, such as stockmarket volatility, you have to have a process. Clients need reassurance at times like these and a review service supplemented by other regular contact strategies are vital to this.

It makes your business future-proof. It will take a lot for clients to leave once you have built up their trust through a regular review service. They will not want to start again with another adviser. By speaking to your clients regularly, you are likely to pick up any discontent if it exists.

You can increase the fees you charge for the service. Once you deliver something tangible that adds value for clients, you can charge what you are worth for the service you deliver. Not £20 or £30 a month but £1,000, £3,000 or more a year. Once the service is up and running and clients provide you with positive feedback, your confidence in the value you add will grow.

FP Advance provides specialist consulting and business coaching to advisers. If you would like further information or to get free access to one of our Online Transition Toolkit Modules, visit our website at www. fpadvance.com or email enquiries@fpadvance.com.

Steve Billingham can be contacted by phone on 07802 611643.

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