5 Tips for Scaling Your Restricted Advice Business
Lately, I've met a handful of restricted market advisers, many of whom are optimistic about the future and don't feel wrapped up in regulatory burdens or worried by many of the issues that affect independents.
Intuitively, one can see why that may be the case. Recruiting is easier as you don't need specialised skills to cover all areas; your advice process can be much simpler; and you also avoid the difficulty of having to demonstrate true independence amongst the many new platforms and wrappers out there.
There's also evidence to suggest that it's easier to grow your business if you go restricted. According to the Financial Advice Market Review (published June 2017) although only 15% of firms offer restricted advice, it formed almost 40% of adviser charge revenue in 2016. This is mainly due to some of the largest firms in the market offering restricted advice, but it makes sense because it's easier to scale up if you only specialise in a few areas.
The independent-restricted debate is not a topic for today. Personally, I am one of those who sees no reason why a restricted business can't give top quality financial planning services to its clients, as long as the clients themselves are the focus of the advice rather than the sale of financial products or platforms.
However, I do believe that restricted market advisers are better positioned to run slick, highly-optimised operations. If the parameters within which you operate are well-defined, then it's much easier to find efficiency gains in your process than if you're trying to be a proverbial Jack of all trades.
So how exactly are these efficiency gains made and how can they facilitate growth? Allow me to present 5 ideas:
Ensure Clarity by Mapping Your Advice Process
If you're a restricted practice then you'll have already ruled out certain products or providers, most likely specialist investments such as EISs or VCTs. This means mapping out your advice process is easier because you can just concentrate on your remit.
This gives you a clear, logical set of directions to use when arriving at financial recommendations. You can't map specific client inputs, of course, as no set of client circumstances are ever the same, but you can identify key points that prompt your decision making and influence you to draw particular conclusions. This makes it easy to see how decisions are made and means staff can clearly see how your business operates, so you can have confidence in the decisions they'll make when recommending products and platforms to your clients. On-boarding new staff members is also easier if your processes are documented clearly.
Assert Your Workflow can Scale
To maximise the benefit from efficiency gains and increased business, your firm needs a well-understood workflow without bottlenecks. Having clarity of the advice process is one thing, but it's also important that you develop a method of working that can embrace the additional throughput when your firm grows and brings on more business.
When mapping your processes, think about who is responsible for certain tasks in the workflow. Being overly reliant on one person for key duties is the number one bottleneck that inhibits a scalable process, so avoiding this helps ensure you have a scalable operation for when new business is taken on.
Solutions may be as simple as using a shared email account rather than a private one, or ensuring certain information is accessible to your whole team. While these are only small changes, they make a massive difference in terms of maintaining throughput when times are busy.
Catalogue Your Suitability Report Content
As a restricted business, you'll only have a limited number of products or platforms to choose from. This makes it far easier to catalogue research and product details that you need to supply to your clients. These refined snippets of information can then simply be inserted into the appropriate documents when needed in line with your advice process, saving a great deal of time and effort.
Of course, it's important that these are maintained to ensure that the information you're using is up-to-date. As such, it's a good idea to review this content catalogue each time you review the products, platforms and services that you offer to your clients.
Optimise for Your Preferred Platforms
If you're restricted based on platform, then it makes sense to optimise your work patterns for interfacing with the provider.
For instance, you probably have to enter data into an online application wizard to get your client account set up and generate the sign-up forms. This is often a manual process, so it helps if you organise the information you're entering to match the flow of the provider's application wizard.
By having your client's details laid out in the same order as required for data entry, you can simply just copy sequentially from one system to the other, which saves you having to flick back and forth between systems / documents to find the required information. These time savings really add up in the long run, especially because you'll be using this provider so regularly.
Even if you're limited to paper-based submissions, you can still benefit by lining up your data in this way. You could even set up a word processing document template that prints directly onto the blank application forms to save manual labour.
In future, I see no reason why we won't have seamless data integration as software APIs become more prevalent. The major providers have been disappointingly slow in their adoption of this technology, but once a few come on board I'd expect their popularity to grow hugely because of the potential for efficiency gains.
Your paid staff should be those who understand your clients and your service the best, but that doesn't mean that they need to do all the work to ensure quality.
Our process at PowerPlanner takes advantage of bespoke software to ensure we're able to deliver reports that can be tailored to your advice process, whilst ensuring that the correct content for your chosen products & providers are inserted automatically where appropriate. This gives you a reliable standard of quality delivered consistently quickly at a low cost.
In turn, this frees up advisers to focus on delivering for their clients, and also means other staff have more time to concentrate on servicing new business rather than the laborious day-to-day tasks.
That's a few ideas to think about. Feel free to get in touch with us if you would like to know more about how we do things here to help facilitate growth and efficiency.