I would like to ask your opinion on something please. What should an IFA answer when asked the above question?
I have always struggled to describe what I do in a simple sentence or phrase. When asked at a dinner party, I would often mumble something about ‘planning’ and something about ‘pensions and investments’, then change the subject.
I certainly would not have used the term ‘IFA’. I made that mistake early on, when it would be met either with a blank stare, or a roll of the eyes and tut. I fear that brand has been damaged by one too many misspelling scandals, a classic example of a few spoiling things for the many.
It would be easier if we specialised in only one area. Those firms who put themselves out as experts in the medical sector, for example, only need a little specialist knowledge and a heightened sense of respect attitude towards their customers. Nevertheless, this is an excellent marketing tag, and a successful one.
Importantly, a specialist medical financial advisor does not actually need to explain the ‘financial’ part of that tag, because the attention of the client is drawn to the ‘medical’.
A good example of this is my local pub. I live five miles out of Bristol. It is not easy to get people who live in Bristol to leave the city for any reason – I may as well live in Cornwall for all they know!
However, down the end of my road is a pub. When I tell some of the older Bristol clients where I live, their immediate reaction is “Oh, that’s the pub that specialises in fish”.
Now, the New Inn hasn’t actually had a restaurant which specialised in fish for over fifteen years, nevertheless, it still holds that reputation. It wasn’t the ‘pub’ people noticed (as there are lots of those), it was the ‘fish’.
For many years, I used the words ‘fee based’ as a way of distinguishing my company. Depolarisation spoilt that one (with its sudden proliferation of fixed fees bearing a remarkable similarity to the previous commission levels) and, in any case, it was a terrible description, as it gave no indication of what we could actually do to help the customer.
‘Financial Planner’ is the current favourite, and rightly so as it does have the merit of describing the service. However, the old marketing adage tells us to sell the sizzle, not the sausage. ‘Financial Planner’ does not describe how the client will benefit from our service, and it therefore stills leaves me searching for an ideal tag.
So, over to you. What is the best way of describing what we do for a living, either in a couple of words, or in a short explanatory sentence. I would love to see as many answers as possible please, and not just from IFAs, anyone reading this blog may have an opinion on this.