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Working relationship

Financial education in the workplace is a niche market in which Fluent Independent Financial Advisers’ brand has become well known.

Our work offering financial guidance to members of the Trades Union Congress, local authorities, various charities and the NHS shows you do not have to focus on high-net-worth business to create a sustainable advice business.

The market for providing sound financial guidance has never been better. If ever society needed the help of quality IFAs, it is now.

For the past five years, Fluent IFA has worked with public sector workers, educating them about finance and the importance of planning. We have a solid track record in more than 40 county and local authorities across the UK.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber provides his employees with the opportunity to attend Fluent’s financial education seminars during working hours.

Financial education presentations are held on a range of topics in the organisation on a regular basis. Employees know how to access Fluent’s financial advisers for independent advice when needed.

In addition, an adviser visits the offices at regular intervals throughout the year and staff simply book to see them when needed as part of their additional employee benefits.

Barber says: “The recession is having a huge impact on people’s lives and the need for help with managing their finances is greater than ever. Employers can look after staff by offering free financial education seminars which can help to alleviate some of the stress that surrounds dealing with financial uncertainties.

“The TUC has used Fluent’s free educational seminars and financial advisory services for many years and it has always been hugely popular with staff.”

Persuading employers to provide IFA services is no easy task. Many fear involvement and the responsibility that may bring but Fluent has broken through the barriers and established a solid reputation in the employee benefits marketplace, creating a client base where an ongoing, solid relationship is at the core.

The downside to this approach and the reason why many shy away from this way of working is that it is hard work. Much of the adviser’s time is spent with people who may be in dire need of advice, without being in a position to provide any business for the IFA. This is where a quote by Sir Winston Churchill should be remembered: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Having worked closely with employees in the public sector for several years, raising the profile of financial education in the workplace, the results continue to amaze.

Fluent’s other partners include the fire brigade, police force, NHS, charities and those in the private sector who have emb- raced the new financial education culture and the advisory services that Fluent has to offer.

The service has changed the lives of many for the better, simply knowing how to work out when they will be able to retire, what their income will be, how to maximise tax benefits and essentially managing their money better generally.

The basics about money management, the key areas to focus on at each life stage and how to go about making important life-changing decisions are all things that people read about in the press. It is that extra level of encouragement that is needed for the public to take the plunge. People know they should do something about it but not many have the encouragement or inclination to proceed.

With a quick educational course in the lunch hour or, with some more generous employers, part of a course during the working day, suddenly the idea seems a bit more palatable.

Our work within these sectors is enjoyable and stimulating, as educating people that have so far believed independent financial advice to be beyond them or unaffordable is incredibly rewarding. Our firm and its approach puts an end to this perception.

The secret of our success is to keep costs as low as possible and build enviable distribution channels. My biggest issue at the moment is recruitment. I need motivated self-employed advisers to pick up the thousands of leads we generate each year from our extensive distribution base. It seems at this point we have an unusual problem, we are struggling to keep up with demand and service all the leads we have.

With the climate of threat hanging over smaller IFAs due to the retail distribution review, many are choosing to exit their businesses, with a trend towards joining networks or bigger companies where they hope to be cosseted from additional responsibilities looming.

The Government extols the virtues of ensuring the public seek quality independent financial advice before making any decisions, with the FSA roadshows across Britain supporting that view, yet industry actions are frightening many away from the industry. Fluent is observing the masses and doing the opposite, keen to expand and grow, prepared for the extra responsibilities that come along the way.

Fluent regularly generates more than 200 quality leads a week from this work and with a company cost to income ratio of 20 per cent last year, Fluent’s approach, providing quality advice to the general public, is worth considering.

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