There is understandable frustration with what is seen as a disconnected policy machine whirring ad infinitum up in Canary Towers. This has been, advisers feel, perfectly demonstrated through the difficulty in reconciling the stated requirement for robust, consistent, repeatable processes with the now cautionary tones over centralised investment propositions. ‘Damned if you do; damned if you don’t’ is the sentiment felt and expressed by many. As such, senior management in many advisory businesses are holding off making final decisions regarding their business models.
The regulator will continue to make law and then be pragmatic about its implementation when it reaches the real world. This ‘suck it and see’ approach creates a high degree of uncertainty that doesn’t aid decision making for most businesses. On the one hand there are black and white rules and on the other the small matter of what supervisors decide to do about them. These two outcomes may be entirely different and therein lays the tension: it creates risk for advisers. And there is little doubt that RDR has ramped up the risk significantly.
But as one adviser put it to me: “RDR won’t kill businesses; poor business plans will kill businesses”.
Having started as pseudo sales outfits, and built teams around them to support that mechanism, many advisers find themselves running businesses by accident. The art of advice, and the client-relationship nous that goes with it is in continual refinement, but management skills are a huge gap in the armoury of many. Too many businesses do not have a clear view of where they are heading, hence strategy is not strongly anchored and tactics often spurious.
Everyone agrees we’ve moved (and are moving) irreversibly away from selling and distributing product towards offering holistic planning for which advisers are paid. There is little debate over the fact that different clients will require different services and support at different stages in their journey and that you may not want (or be able) to serve all of these all of the time. Advisory businesses get this and are evolving, but what is still lacking from many is robust business strategy:
Where are you going and why?
What’s your model and who is responsible for making these decisions?
What’s your exit strategy?
When everyone is playing the same game, your strategy and execution of it are critical. Sam Walton was a huge success, largely because he developed a new retail strategy, not because he was better at running a store than anyone else.
Phil Wickenden is the founder of So Here’s The Plan
All interviews with QCF level four qualified advisers from fee-based firms