The future for IFA business is local

There is little more depressing than starting the day by reading the seemingly endless stream of moans on Twitter and Facebook posted by commuters.

Delayed trains, packed carriages, bus replacement services and even trains facing in the wrong direction. It’s any wonder that this hardy group of people does not resign on the spot or at the very least suggest remote-working.

I’m not a big fan of commuting.

For the first couple of years of my career, I spent more of the day in the car than I did at my desk or in customer offices. My epic cross country drive to work in Tunbridge Wells was made even more painful by my girlfriend of the time living in Winchester; ‘only’ 100 miles or so in each direction, but a multi-hour stop/start slog in rush hour traffic on a Friday evening.

Switching jobs to work in Croydon didn’t much improve things. Working in Croydon basically involved an hour of driving to get to the edge of the town, and then another hour to get into the hellhole itself. Purley Way, I hate you.

Despite a much easier commute when I joined the family business in 2002, I still somehow managed to get dumped on with the responsibility for our corporate clients in Birmingham and Liverpool.

Spending any decent amount of time travelling to and from client meetings, or indeed to and from your workplace, is a pretty sound definition of madness. It’s also unnecessary and probably holding you back from being successful.

Take where I live and work in Cranleigh, for example. I’m aware that this place is not typical and is probably not representative of the UK as a whole, but for the sake of illustrating my point, go with it for a moment.

The GU (or Guildford) postcode area is one of 38 postcode districts across England. Imagine for a second that I made the conscious decision to never leave it for the purposes of work.

At last count, this postcode area contains just over half a million people, of which 233,917 are referred to as ‘wealthy achievers’. In demographic terms, a large proportion of them are ‘true blues’ or ‘silver foxes’.

According to some research we saw published last year:

A significant proportion of wealthy mature professionals live in large house and villages are populated by wealthy commuters. Houses tend to be large and detached with four or more bedrooms and many are owned outright. There is a mix of middle aged families, empty nesters and wealthy retired. They are well educated individuals with high levels of academic qualifications. Most are employed in senior managerial and professional occupations or are running their own businesses. These are consumers with the money and space to enjoy very comfortable lifestyles.

In other words, they are the ideal clients for 99.9% of IFAs. On that basis, why would I ever go any further afield?

Staying local just makes sense. That time you save on waiting for a delayed train or stuck in a traffic jam can be spent delivering a better service to existing clients, finding new (local) clients or on engaging in professional development.

Marketing closer to home makes it easier to target your message, identify the ideal client and speak directly to them.

Our firm is twenty years old this summer and only relatively recently have we started to appreciate the value of local marketing. Simple measures such as having the paving slabs outside of our office relaid last summer have dramatically improved the quantity and quality of local client enquiries.

We will no doubt continue to work with clients outside of our locality; I was up in London this morning meeting with an existing client and was yesterday referred to a client in Oxfordshire. But the future for business is most definitely local.

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12 thoughts on “The future for IFA business is local

  • I’ve said on several occasions, that if it became law to have an adviser we would clean up with the wealth in a two mile radius of our office Caterham! Extend it to five and we would’t cope! Notwithstanding that, my 90 odd clients are spread massively – South Wales to East Sussex, Lincolnshire to Lancashire! I’ve chosen to specialise with the type of client, rather than location!

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    • Law to have an adviser?! What a terrifying thought! I see your point though. Within 2-3 miles of where I’m sitting right now, I would bet everything I have that there are more than the 100-150 mass affluent and HNW clients that any one adviser could handle. Think of the money you could save in petrol/diesel. Think of all those episodes of The Archers you would miss!

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  • Totally agree with keeping it local and would go even further to say that all client meetings should be in the adviser’s/planner’s office.

    Number of advantages to this – everything is to hand, the clients can meet your team, the adviser/planner isn’t stressed and hasn’t wasted time travelling.

    Our clients find that doing it this way gives them chance to discuss things on the way here and the way home again, whether they’ve come from Wales, Berkshire or just around the corner.

    Yvonne

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    • A good suggestion, Yvonne! What facilities do you need to provide in order to make meetings at the planner’s office a pleasant experience? We suffer a bit here in Cranleigh as we don’t have a train station (anymore) so rely on clients having to drive here. I guess this is one reason we are reluctant to insist on them always coming here, although I agree with the advantages you have described.

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      • Our office is 5 miles from Leeds City station, but we have no problem getting clients here. The two that do come by train get a taxi here then after the meeting we will give them a lift back to the station.

        Our office is on the ground floor (no stairs to negotiate for our older clients), plenty of carparking space outside, warm inviting office, fabulous coffee machine, good crockery and most important – comfy chairs!

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    • Thanks, Phil. That research makes a pretty compelling case for never commuting, ever! Not leaving bed could prove more challenging, depending of course on the nature of client relationship you are keen to foster…

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  • Going back 20+ years I recall my euphoria when told I’d been promoted and now the area I was looking after was “Midlands and Mid Wales” oh and “The Midlands” including Norwich !

    It did not take me long to realise that size wasn’t everything.

    I’ve had two meetings this morning within 5 miles of the office and 1 of each other.

    Friday’s client meetings are in the office and within walking distance of it.

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    • That sounds worse than my Surrey and South London ‘patch’ when I was with Standard Life. Turns out that driving a mile in South London can take upwards of 40 minutes. Would have been quicker walking everywhere!

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  • Problem can be that over time good clients can move for all sorts of reasons and may hopefully want to stay with you if your relationship has been mutually beneficial.
    Our firm has been trading for over 35 years and we currently service clients in Canada, North and South America, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Malta, Cyprus, the Caribbean, Thailand, and Dubai, although of course the majority are in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
    Our experience has shown us that our clients don’t actually value face to face time in the way we often thought that they did and as long as we maintain a regular contact using technology then they are more than happy with our service.
    All of our business is based on Transact accounts which provide 24/7 online access for clients, Skype and very regular Newsletters- not bought in or full of statistics but painfully created in house with we hope something of interest for everyone.
    We average 20 of what are today known as touch points with each client each year which will include portfolio reviews all done using technology.
    If we and the client feel it relevant then we do have real meetings but then there will usually be an issue of some importance which needs attention. Some good meetings have been had in sunnier climates.
    I know it goes against popular theory but Jean and I manage to maintain around 300 accounts in our business without too many hiccups and it is very profitable.
    We don not segment our service and this enables us to have some benefits of scale through technology.

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    • Canada, North and South America, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Malta, Cyprus, the Caribbean, Thailand, and Dubai? Sounds like they are trying to get away from you, Phil 😉

      Seriously though, I appreciate that clients change their location for a variety of reasons. Typically, we disengage when a client moves abroad and run a new profitability test when they leave the locality.

      You certainly can deliver an excellent client service remotely. I think though it’s important not to underestimate how valuable many clients feel it is to spend time with their adviser in real life.

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      • I forgot the family in South Africa !

        Times are changing Martin and it is equally important to remember that clients usually think you want to see them for your benefit and not for their benefit. No research on this although a reasonable amount of experience.

        Important also to note that the fastest growing, biggest ,and most profitable business in our industry – HL don’t do house calls !

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