We are pleased to share a wealth of resources and tips designed to increase your profitability and delight your clients. Learn from the UK’s most experienced financial planners. If you require any guidance on issues not addressed here, please contact our friendly team for more information.
Paul Etheridge, chief executive of Prestwood® Financial Planning and founding member of the Institute of Financial Planning explains how to help business-owning clients make money, creating plans that balance the needs of the business, the client and the adviser. New Model Adviser, Nov 2012.
Paul Etheridge explains how to select the best clients for your business. In this interview he explains the importance of selecting a client whose outlook and finances can sustain a life long working relationship. New Model Adviser, Sep 2012.
Paul Etheridge’s 10 Top Tips for a Profitable Planning Business – New Model
Adviser, Sep 2012
Paul Etheridge explains why IFAs’ focus must shift from exams to skills – New Model Adviser, April 2012
Paul Etheridge explains the vital importance of dependable systems. In this interview he reveals how his business has constantly improved its systems and processes over the years, creating an ever improving client experience – Model Adviser 2012.
HOW TO BE MORE PROFITABLE
It’s really very straightforward, but that doesn‘t mean it‘s easy.
Get your service and your terms of business right
Offer a fee-based comprehensive financial planning service. Adopt non-negotiable terms of business and put them in writing in a Client Agreement. Both spouses should sign the Agreement.
Guarantee adequate profits by a sensible mix of Initial Fees, Retainers, Time Based Charges, Commission, and Fund Related Fees. Build recurring income.
Include on your agendas now an item giving clients notice that commission rates may fall and fees may have to rise (e.g. ‘Advance Warning: For many years, we have been able to keep fees within moderate limits by taking commission and offsetting that commission against fees otherwise chargeable. With the introduction of Stakeholder Pensions, a move has begun towards lower commissions and the benefit of commission to clients, by way of lower fees, may not continue indefinitely.’) This has gone down well with Prestwood® clients.
Get your client criteria right
Recruiting and retaining the right clients is probably the most important element in achieving optimum profitability. Just because someone is breathing does not make them a commercially attractive financial planning client. Prospecting for new clients is a lot to do with eliminating unsuitable clients. Recruit clients who can be expected to generate ongoing profits, not just a good ‘first year’.
Before accepting a new client, always ask yourself the question ‘Do I really want this person in my life?’ Don’t create tomorrow’s problems out of today’s solutions. Once a messer, always a messer.
If you have more than a few (special case) unprofitable clients reduce the number asap. They take up time needed for recruiting and looking after new profitable clients. Time is the scarcest resource.
Get your systems and procedures right
Avoid having to have original thought in routine situations.
Work out the best way of doing everything and do it that way first time, every time. Develop standard operating procedures that enable those who have the knowledge, skills and experience to be Financial Planners to spend the vast majority of their time advising clients and generating revenue. Virtually everything else can and should be delegated to support staff. Use Check Lists.
Get your use of technology right
Use technology to the full. Prestwood software users who would like some ‘refresher’ training should telephone Simon Rogers on 01384 273736.
Get your time management right
Always agree an appointment for the next review meeting at the previous meeting. Endeavour to start most meetings at 9am, thereby enabling a meeting to last 3-4 hours if necessary, and still leave sufficient time to get the Minutes and an updated Financial Plan mailed to your client the same day. That’s the Prestwood standard.
HOW TO SPEED UP PLAN PRODUCTION
Develop Financial Plans from templates
The core elements of a Financial Plan (e.g. introductory narrative; statement of capital assets and liabilities; details of current and future cash flows; tax calculations; chapters on risk management, investment (including pension provision) and estate planning plus details of objectives, planning assumptions and clients’ data) are common to most Financial Plans and can be incorporated in templates provided they are comprehensively edited to meet the specific needs of individual clients. Templates avoid the need to start each Plan with a blank sheet of paper, thereby saving a great deal of time, an important point if clients are being charged for the time taken to prepare a comprehensive Financial Plan.
Some Planners manage very well with just three basic templates – one for a married couple, one for an unmarried couple, and one for single clients. Too many templates can create maintenance problems.
Develop Financial Plans with clients rather than for clients
If clients are closely involved in developing their Financial Plans (using a logical process of defining objectives, deciding planning assumptions, drawing conclusions, developing an action plan and checking affordability) implementation follows naturally and quickly. Involvement with the ‘building bricks’ of a Plan enhances understanding of the planning process and helps clients reach decisions quicker than wading through a ‘report’. However, it’s important that Planners develop good keyboard skills and become fluent in using their computers and software in front of clients. Confidence grows with practice.
Arrange to have a large screen or a white wall in your meeting room so that what is on the Planner’s computer can be projected and clients can participate more easily in the financial planning process. Allow sufficient time for a full planning meeting (3-4 hours), ideally starting no later than 9am. This will make it easier to produce and despatch the minutes of the meeting that afternoon, often with the completed Financial Plan, especially following ‘review’ meetings with established clients.
Avoid developing more scenarios than absolutely necessary
Lots of ‘what if’ scenarios are time consuming and are rarely necessary if fact finding is done properly and a clear understanding of objectives and constraints is achieved before starting to develop a Financial Plan. ‘Digging deeper’ questioning is a skill inadequately developed by many Planners. It’s important to understand not only what a client is seeking to achieve but why. Too many scenarios may confuse clients.
Finish Financial Plans while everything is easy to recall and despatch to clients as soon as possible
Many key decisions can be reached during a planning meeting with clients, especially if the meeting is held in the Planner’s offices so that illustrations and key features documents can be obtained as required. However, there is almost always additional work to be done after the meeting, especially in relation to preparation of written recommendations and ‘reasons why‘. This work can be done quickest immediately after clients have departed and it’s desirable that the Financial Plan is completed and despatched to clients before key elements of what was discussed at the planning meeting are forgotten.
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Paul Etheridge, MBE, TD, MBA, FIFP, FCII, CFP (Certified Financial Planner & Chartered Insurance Practitioner)
Prestwood Software & Systems — probably the best available for serious Financial Planners