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Under construction

Barry Fleming & Partners adviser Lisa Chantrey on the firm’s continuing journey as it prepares for RDR. Construction has been tough but the firm is confident it will be in the best shape when work is completed

When commenting on our last diary article, Roderic Rennison hit the nail on the head when he compared the enormity of the tasks involved in completing the RDR requirements to building a house. He is absolutely right. It’s a huge project, with a “must move in by Christmas” date, requiring elements of specialist knowledge, a project manager to keep it on track and a pre-planned budget to pay for it because, like the Olympics in the same year, it is going to cost a considerable amount to deliver.

The journey for us has been much more than the odd spot of Polyfilla and a quick coat of paint. Indeed, at the beginning of our journey, it felt more like “DIY SOS” where, if we didn’t comply with the new building regulations, someone would come along and demolish the rather special dwelling we had spent 35 years building.

For us, the decision was simple. We were never going to let “the authorities” demolish our business, not the premises, nor the premise on which it was built, that is, that everyone was entitled to receive quality financial planning advice at an affordable cost. Where we had to make renovations, we were determined to make the experience a positive one for both ourselves and our clients.

We set out on our journey having carefully drawn up an approach document – our written business plan set out our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Without that candid analysis, any business would not only be in danger of failing to comply with the new regulations but would also miss the potential to produce – to continue the housing anal-ogy – the smartest and most welcoming house in the street.

We developed a very simple strategy. A clear, structured vision recorded on a simple document that is easy to review – and we are making good progress. We return frequently to our approach document.

Staying focused amid the many distractions
It’s a funny thing, this “journey”. It’s never quite as straightforward as you think it’s going to be. It’s like peeling off the wallpaper hoping to simply paint the wall underneathbut finding out that a bit of damp was creeping in and that it needs treating before you can finish the decorating. Delay frustration and cost.

This is our experience of the RDR. We have a clear set of goals and a methodical, structured approach to achieving them but every so often we uncover a bit of damp, usually in the form of a new interpretation of the regulations, and that diverts us from our plan and our good intentions.

Our most recent diversion happened as we raced towards the April tax year end. A sudden flurry of activity during February and March had us work working flat out right up to the last minute. Our priority was to ensure that our clients could address all their endof- year requirements but the compromise was that neither Barry nor I could complete the exams we had planned to sit in April.

There are other exam sittings in July and October but there is huge frustration and a loss of momentum resulting from a three to six months’ delay, not to speak of the cost of rebooking everything. And examinations are just one of the challenges of the RDR. Achieving the plan is far more difficult in practice than it is in theory. We can’t emphasize enough the need for thorough planning with sensible timescales and even though it can be difficult, we must stay focused, push on and we will come out the other side for the better.

Like the Olympics in the same year, it is going to cost a considerableamount to deliver

Getting back on track
Despite the frustration, we must not forget what we have accomplished so far. We have prepared our business plan which identified the main tasks that needed to be completed. We have redefined our proposition and we are working through our rebranding, including our website, brochure and other marketing materials.

The team is making great progress in achieving their level fours. Following the tax year end activity that forced us to put our business plan on hold, our team has made a conscious effort to get back on track. We immediately revisited the business plan. The exam delay is sorted and we are all booked in for the October sitting. We also took a day away from the office to get to grips with our marketing strategy.

On this occasion, we did not invest in consultants or facilitators. Instead, we decided to invest in our team. It was uplifting to see how much knowledge our team members have about themselves and about our clients and about the market and the change taking place there.

Everyone had taken time over the last few months to talk to clients as part of the journey to explore how we can improve and tailor our service to their needs.

The day was a great success. We walked away understanding how we can best interact with our existing clients as well as how to acquire new clients .

We all felt part of the process and that each one of us had a role to play. The team was re-focused and re-energised.

Our diary article this month is therefore not about bemoaning the challenges and the frustrations produced by the RDR on our business during these difficult days. It is about recognising how real life can and will affect transition to the “New Muddle World”. We would encourage anyone who, like us, is halfway through their RDR journey, to stick with it. It is a great feeling to arrive at each milestone in good shape and better prepared for the next leg

We must not forget why we are doing this or rather who we are doing this for – our clients and our business. We have total confidence that, by the time we reach the end of our journey, our business will be in the best shape it has ever been in and we, as advisers, will be better equipped to provide a worldclass service to our clients


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