In this article, I explain how our business model works and how we have been successful in supporting high quality independent financial advisers all over the UK, all with organic growth.
Further, you don’t have to be a financial adviser to benefit from this article. Any new or established business or prospective client, could draw some insight from our specific business model. So I have added specific tips on how you could enhance your own business too.
We are very ambitious and more recently, we have made happiness our core business model.
Yes, you read that right.
It’s a bold move, but there’s a new breed of companies choosing happiness before profits. However, what’s remarkable is how, in putting happiness before success, these companies are becoming highly profitable.
By creating a business model around 3 core values of happiness, we have been able to focus on determinant’s which will lead to happier financial advisers in the first instance and therefore happier clients too. The 3 are:
- Connect with more people – Effective marketing for new clients = more money
- Make a difference – Efficient business processing using advanced technology = more time
- Enjoy more freedom – Provide quality support that being independent needs = less stress
Financial advisers who join us have a strong belief in the traditional values of providing high quality independent financial advice. Our systems, services and support functions empower our advisers to spend more time doing what they do best; being in front of their clients and providing them with a ‘truly independent’ advice experience.
Given that many firms are selling out and switching to ‘simpler’ restricted models, joining us is a way to remain independent. Everyone associates independence with whole of market but independence of ownership, of control, of funding and of other influences is sometimes lost. That is why we are branded as being truly independent because we satisfy all definitions of independence.
All the evidence points to the fact that if advisers focus on aspects to make them happier, they will be more successful as a result. We believe that to be true. Success follows happiness; success for our advisers as measured by having more money, more time and less stress.
Equally, successful advisers make for a successful firm. Since our authorisation in 2010 we have always had big brand ambitions and we have successfully transformed some of those ambitions into a reality. We continue to develop a dynamic, cohesive community of like-minded IFAs who enjoy the more traditional face to face approach to delivering independent financial advice.
How do we go about delivering happiness and can any business do it?
In short, yes. A business model based around happiness as a target for staff and clients/customers is not only a good idea, it is achievable.
To achieve our core happy determinants, we set about devising a 6 step journey to ensure all business operations are covered and I have listed these in both my book and our new brochure. These 6 steps are balanced between being more efficient while being equally more effective.
Structure – Success follows happiness:
We offer our advisers a cooperative, directly authorised, self-employed, home based, ‘contract for services’ IFA business model based around the principles of maximising their ‘marketing effectiveness’ while also maximising their ‘business efficiency’.
While many firms exist to make profit, we exist primarily to support advisers who understand and appreciate that our ethos is always to embrace the values of independence: being unrestricted, unbiased, not governed or owned by others and free from product influences. We do not earn from any source other than by helping our adviser’s own businesses to progress.
Okay, of course we make a profit and a good profit too, but the principle of happiness comes first, success follows and then the profit.
The happy financial adviser is happy because they choose to be so and does not rely on others to make it so. They recognise that happiness should not be treated as some future emotion as a result of a successful activity or business venture, and that happiness can be achieved today with a little change of attitude, direction and determination.
We provide the environment to be happier, yet it remains the effort of our advisers to embrace it, work with it and then experience it.
Tip – Whatever your business structure, selecting the right people to work with is vital to your success. In our case, our advisers and staff want to be part of a happier firm. One where everyone benefits and working as one, in a structure that is not hierarchical. This model you need to promote a culture that will allow your staff to work together and develop your business for you. In turn they are actually providing space for their own future growth. Being happier at work means setting challenges for them which will empower your staff. By encouraging challenges and giving control to your staff, with your guidance, training and trust, your staff will be happier at work. Remember this, success follows happiness.
Strategy – What are we ultimately trying to achieve?
Our aim is to grow a national IFA with strong affinity values, IFA support and a unique payment structure at the core. Imagine a world where no matter the financial circumstances, any individual, anywhere, would have access to a financial adviser that is local, affordable and offers financial advice tailored specifically to them.
We have steadily recruited financial advisers year on year and have ambitions to expand our national coverage to well over 100 advisers producing an average revenue of over £150k per adviser. Staff numbers will grow too; all dedicated to helping, supporting and guiding these advisers. Our aim is to maintain a business efficient ratio of 10 advisers to one member of staff which means that advisers retain more. If they can retain more, they can charge less to their clients making them affordable.
As well as seeking advisers in different geographical locations, Truly Independent is looking to ultimately promote our IFAs, through an extensive marketing programme, to everyone, in every location throughout the UK.
Tip – Whatever your business structure, if not immediately, all companies will eventually become marketing companies. Their structure has to be such to embrace the need to sell something to someone, somewhere. The less you rely on others to market for you, the more control you will have and being independent gives you that control. Start with the end in mind and set goals, create a vision and your mission will be your journey towards that vision. Set out significant development target points and work towards each one. Never give in.
Systems – What IT systems do we need to deliver our strategy?
A variety of technology systems are needed to maximise efficiency and minimise business time. There is no one single IT solution unifying everything, especially when independent advice is needed. However, while we benefit from having access to many technology systems, what is needed is a main back office system that is both powerful and comprehensive. The main system we use runs automatically: it’s a single data entry all the way through and completely paperless. Any IFA, anywhere in the country can use it with a simple login which allows us to expand UK wide.
Clients can login to their own personal web portal too and obtain ‘Real Time’ valuations from a variety of product providers and firms. Our clients are provided with an App for this.
Good communication is vital to our success. In this highly interactive world, we expect advisers and staff alike to engage in quick replies to telephone calls, emails and text.
Our intranet brings together people who share the same goals, traditions and ambition so that collaboration just happens – even on the go. A smart phone is now essential to business success and through our Yammer App all our advisers are always connected to information and conversations.
Tip – Any business owner, not just in financial services, should embrace and master the right technology that ensures their business is efficient and your client experience is also effective. Think about added value and how your technology can efficiently provide your ongoing support proposition. Technology can be both cheap and expensive. However, buy the technology that best suits your business and then, and only then, factor in the cost. Making inferior but maybe cheaper technology work is a futile business practice. It’s worth remembering this phrase “First find efficiency, then market effectively”.
Service – What service principles do we actively promote?
The service we provide to our clients is 100% controlled by our advisers. In effect, clients are theirs. So much so, that if they ever decide to leave, we prefer them to take their clients with them. We provide our advisers with as much control as the regulator will allow.
This way, our advisers can focus all their energy on their clients and not on the regulatory relationship and heavy administration needed to run a modern IFA business. Our job is to take away all the non-client specific business and regulatory needs that is common to be an IFA in the UK today. Our service to clients is therefore a partnership.
We encourage our advisers to focus more on ensuring clients are accumulating assets, rather than allocating and re-allocating funds. Fund performance is less important than ensuring clients save and invest more. Think about it, 10% growth returns more money on £100,000 than £10,000. So clients need to provide the bulk of their target.
Our advisers focus their clients on setting achievable goals and overcoming shortfalls, rather than relying on advisers selecting ‘magical’ fund performance, which ultimately is the responsibility of the fund managers.
Tips – Your service has to be realistic and not full of empty promises. Your clients should be made fully aware of exactly what they are buying and what their part is in achieving goals. Be clear about how your product or service will help your customers. A service proposition should be an agreement between expert and coach. To give an alternative example. Have you ever joined a gym with the aim of being fitter and to lose weight? Probably yes. Was the gym realistic about what commitment, you the customer, had to do to achieve that goal? Probably not. Provide lashings of information, brochures, websites, news feeds, articles, magazines, leaflets and campaigns to deliver it all.
Support – What support will our advisers need to help them achieve their specific goals?
While clients look to their IFA for support to achieve their goals, IFA’s must recognise they too need support to develop their business. We provide all new advisers, with local ‘mentoring’ support. Our mentors are all existing Truly IFA’s who have already achieved the company’s minimum standards of advice, competence and training.
We provide a dedicated ‘help desk’ called the ‘Action Team’. This team is specifically set up to take new advisers from their induction course straight through to being signed off as a Truly Competent Adviser (TCAS) and beyond. The team support all company functions such as training, case checking, pre-approvals, mentoring, supervision and IFA advice.
Our advisers will tell you that the greatest experience of being part of Truly Independent, is the support we provide. So much so, we have produced a specific leaflet of testimonials confirming our high standards of support.
Tips – Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved in isolation. You cannot grow a great business on your own, you need both help and expertise in all areas. Knowing how, where and when to obtain help will save you time and money when you most need it. The best support comes from within. Build a culture of ‘helping each other’ which helps the greater cause. Encourage their development within and look to promote creating space for others to enter the firm, each pulling another up. Instead of hierarchical promotion, work towards building a culture of increased responsibility with increased remuneration.
Succession – We will support you in helping you plan your retirement.
Our contracts and successor agreements ensure smooth and uncontested client relationships at successor handover.
Our succession strategy ensures our advisers can plan for their retirement within our walls and with ease. once the buyer and seller have agreed terms and signed the agreements, we simply ‘flick the switch’ to action the change. It’s that simple. This means their clients will receive continuity of available advice and ongoing support without any disruptive transitions, transfers or other clumsy interventions typically associated with the external sale of an IFA business.
This means, that when an adviser joins Truly Independent, they are joining with one eye on their seamless retirement too.
Tip – Identify your buyer well in advance and don’t rely on others to sell your business for you, especially a few weeks before you need to. In fact, not all businesses need to sell. Succession planning is not just for the seller, but vital to the success of the buyer’s business; to fill a gap. Your successor will most likely be someone you already know. Failing to identify a suitable buyer early, is failing to plan for both you and your buyer and could slow down your retirement plans.
For more information about us and our business model, why not register for our new brochure entitled ‘Where Happiness Creates Success’.