Rob mentioned in his last comments that it would be useful if clients were able to update their fact-finds online. Since our last diary, we have got this functionality up and running and have soft-launched it with clients, who can now go via the website and get valuations for their investment portfolios.
We decided initially that we would only soft-launch it because it would be a huge project to launch it to all clients at once.
As it was, we sent a newsletter saying that we were soft-launching it and a few clients rang up and requested access. It has gone down really well.
Clients really like the opportunity to be able to see valuations as and when it is convenient. They often work long hours and want to be able to log in when it works best for them.
I expected to have lots of knock-on queries – why is my portfolio doing this or why am I invested here? But it has not happened like that.
We have ensured that we have had a discussion with every client using the service on the telephone as well. We urge them not to get too obsessive about it, not to check things every day.
We have not had anyone who has been shocked by what they found. We were updating them on a quarterly basis anyway and the early adopters have largely been clients who know what they are doing. There should be nothing out of the ordinary or stressful.
We did it to add to our service proposition rather than expecting it to be like online banking.
The fact-find technology is extremely useful from our point of view. Clients can log in and update information prior to a meeting. This will hopefully save us valuable man-hours.
Of course, implementation was not without its headaches. We use Intelligent Office as our back office and we had to get all the information onto the platform for it to pump out the right results. That said, once it was up and running, it was great.
It creates a password for all clients and automatically emails them their login information. We have also created a pdf that we send to clients after the phone call, with screenshots showing how to use the system.
We are also looking into becoming directly-authorised. At the moment, we are part of a network, Financial Ltd, which is a small boutique and we act as an AR. This was very handy at the beginning when setting out but we have recently spoken to Rob about how we might shift our status. We feel that we are a new-ish organisation and this is the next logical step. we want to be seen as doing something new and brave. We want to be our own entity. We believe good practices are embedded in the Plutus ethos, therefore being directly authorised is not something we would shy away from. Instead, we feel it is something we can embrace.
Once that decision has been made, the next question would be who we would look to for compliance. The answer is almost certainly whoever best understands our business model. I suspect that by the next time we write this diary, we will have made our application to the FSA.
In examining whether this is the right solution for us, we have had to look at the potential changes to the capital adequacy rules and how they might affect our cashflow forecasts. We even considered holding off until the FSA had made its intentions clear, but as this has been postponed once again we have decided to get our application underway and plan as though the capital adequacy requirements will be raised.
The other main thing that we have been doing is working on our website. We have been generating a lot of leads through the website but we don’t know why. We have scheduled in a review at the beginning of December although we are doing all the usual things of making sure that we ask where these people have found our name.
Another interesting thing we have found is that almost everyone goes to the “people” page first. They want to see our faces. As such, we thought we would develop the news section of the website and establish a Plutus World area, which might show us running marathons and raising money for charity. It would include all personality-driven things. It seems to help people decide whether they want to work with us.