The advantages of being employee-owned

Over the past few months we have had the opportunity to further reflect on our business as independent financial advisers and ensure that this remains in line with what we are wanting to deliver to our clients. This has coincided with the review of our 3 year business plan where we look to decide where we would like to concentrate our efforts over the coming years.

The outcome of this was unanimous and follows our aspiration to put our clients first:

‘One team who is:

  • client centred;
  • invests in our staff; and
  • does the right thing… always

Informed Financial Planning has always had a proactive approach to the changing times of financial advice, regulatory background and even our own individual futures. After all, we are financial planners so we should be practising what we preach!

The financial services profession has become a very different environment to that of only a few years ago. Regulation has changed to a large extent with the new Senior Management & Certification Regime being brought in as a further example of the FCA trying to ensure that a clients’ best interest are put first when financial advice is given. Thankfully we take the permission to give financial advice very seriously and follow a defined process for our discussions with clients, our review of their situation and our recommendations of a bespoke plan, in order to deliver financial advice to meet their agreed goals.

Alongside the increased regulation, we have also seen that the costs of delivering financial advice have increased significantly over recent years. This includes the FCA increasing costs to be able to regulate advisory firms better but also the FSCS increasing levies which are used in part to recompense those who have received poor advice from firms who are no longer operating. Furthermore the cost of Professional Indemnity Insurance has also increased year on year. The result of this is that many individual advisers and advisory firms have considered how they can continue to operate due to the magnitude and general uncertainty surrounding these costs each year.

We have seen both locally and nationally that many firms have chosen to adjust their business set up to be able to cope with the changing times. Typically when a very small advice firm (1 or 2 advisers) have reached retirement, they have very little option but to transfer ownership of their business to a bigger company in order to facilitate their own retirement and allow for their clients to continue to receive financial advice. We have however seen recently that many larger companies are choosing this same route for their own businesses, selling the full business to a national company or asset consolidator. This however is not always down to the retirement of the adviser concerned but also due to increasing costs or the lack of any viable succession planning being in place. The outcome is often pretty clear and results in a level of change for the people working in the business but also for the clients themselves. This will often mean the client will experience a different level of service, a change to the adviser contact and a change to administrative support. To the extreme it can also mean a change of the location of the office as many firms that take over in these situations are looking for economies of scale and may centralise much of the typical day to day work.

At Informed Financial Planning we have thought long and hard about our business model and how it can continue to deliver impartial and independent Financial Planning to its clients, both now and for the future without being reliant on an exit strategy that we feel may not be in our clients’ best interests.

The foundations of the business have always remained the same, that being to provide high quality, locally based financial advice to individuals and businesses and do so without any bias or outside interest. We have also recognised the value our staff play in the future of the business and naturally always stayed up to date with industry developments so that we can plan for these ahead of any deadlines.

We feel that the 5 areas below have helped ensure that our business is strongly placed to continue to stand out in financial planning locally:

Future Proofing

The greatest task of safeguarding the future of a business is ensuring that there are suitably qualified and capable individuals in place to continue the business. Informed Financial Planning recognised that the longevity of the business would be key to its success and therefore in 2009 it increased the number of shareholders from 1 to 6. This is an ongoing process and to assist any future retiring shareholders, we are already in the process of inviting 5 existing employees to become shareholders. This will bring the average age of our shareholders down from 51 to 43.

Investing in our staff

Since the business was established, we have continued to take on new employees as apprentices, university graduates or from on the job experience. One thing that has always been key is that we have placed staff training at the forefront of our recruitment process. We consider ourselves privileged that our staff have chosen to work for us to develop their career. As a reward for that we offer structured support and professional qualifications as well as training in various other skills where requested.

Staying Local

An important part of our business is that we wish to maintain a local presence for the financial advice we deliver. This is not only better for our clients who may wish to visit our offices for meetings or simply prefer a local voice when calling the office but for us, it is also important that we are providing jobs in our local area. The future of the business needs to have future recruits and therefore local staff are a real asset to our business.

Team Approach

We have concentrated on building a financial planning team within our business which removes the reliance on any one individual. We are currently have a total of 33 employees which range from an admin apprentice to the Managing Director. Every role in the business is crucial and we work together to deliver on our mantra of putting our clients first.

Qualifications and Accolades

Whilst financial advice requires a base level of qualifications, we continue to strive to ensure that we go above and beyond this. As well as being the first firm in Yorkshire to be awarded Corporate Chartered Status, each of our Financial Advisers are either individually qualified to a Chartered level or working towards it. In addition we are also proud to have an individual adviser with Society Of Later Life Advisers accreditation and are the winners of numerous awards over the past 5 years, including Money Marketing Adviser Firm of the Year in 2018.

Why this matters

These five key elements are what allow us to ensure that we remain:

  • client centred;
  • investing in our staff; and
  • doing the right thing, always!

This attention to detail means that we can provide a more comprehensive service tailored to each individual client. We will be holding these core values at the center of IFP for many years to come, differing us from the big national companies and asset collectors.

If you think that you or someone you know would benefit from local, independent and Chartered advice, give us a call on 01482 219325 or email [email protected].

By Gregg Crawford DipPFS, Senior Financial Planner

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