by David Quinn
I can’t believe it’s September already. It has been a rollercoaster year so far with the full range of emotions experienced. It has also been a transformative year for our practice and our industry at large. We decided to take the opportunity to review our business from an operations and marketing standpoint. While doing this, we came up with some key findings about how to adapt our office to the changing market place.
Improving Our Digital Presence
We have always maintained a digital presence, but many financial planning firms now look almost identical. People are doing a lot more shopping online, and this goes beyond retail and applies to advisory firms. Younger clients are very comfortable doing research online, so it is critically important that firms have a clear digital identity.
A firms digital identify must be consistent across all channels, including their website and social media accounts. We need to be able to clearly articulate what we can offer over and above robo-advice services, discounted online stockbrokers and traditional banks/wealth managers. At Investwise, we are going to engage in a root and branch review and redesign to make sure we clearly present ourselves differently from any of these services.
Changing The Way We Work
It is not good enough just to send our staff home and let them work from their kitchen table. While this approach may have worked for a few months as a novelty, it’s the lazy way out. Staff need to feel they are part of something bigger and we can’t under estimate the value of social interaction. A big part of our business plan over the next 6 months is to address this issue and try to find the perfect balance between office and home working. One solution I can see working is the development of local work hubs, where staff can go to a shared office occasionally, while also having a central office hub for staff client meetings. This will take some pressure off working at home while reducing the need for a large central office space.
Additionally, we’ve had staff members take parental leave this year. I’m proud to say that we have been able to support them strongly in terms of paid maternity and paternity leave, something we don’t see enough of in the industry. If we see ourselves as financial planners, supporting families and long-term lifestyle planning, so we need to be able to ‘walk the walk’ and support our own team and their families.
The Next Generation Of Clients
Finally, our industry will face significant challenges over the next 10 to 15 years as the next generation of wealthy clients have very different views and needs. I see many firms focusing on those close to retirement, for obvious reasons. This group is still comfortable with the idea of private client/wealth manager interactions. Some may still have DB pensions, and may have never managed their money in the past. However, the next generation of retirees, who are under 45 now, have very different views.
They are comfortable using online platforms. They do significant online research before buying anything, whether it’s a holiday, a car or financial advice. I’m finding now that my new clients in this age bracket already know what they want.
They come to us because they know the markets are tricky. They have a good knowledge of the active versus passive debate, and know exactly how much they should be paying for investments. They are looking for an expert opinion on their finances and an outside perspective on their plans. Many are familiar with behavioural finance, so they are aware that they could be making mistakes. They tend to be very well educated, with high paying tech jobs or their own businesses. They want to dedicate time to their families, including evenings and weekends, so time is precious. They therefore need to delegate tasks to a professional. That is why I see the best financial planning firms offering more comprehensive concierge type financial services.
Overall, I’m less influenced by the fee vs commission debate these days. COVID has brought things into perspective in terms of what is valuable and what is important. Our focus at Investwise is now going to be about adapting with both our staff and our clients to deliver a rewarding and valuable experience for both.
Dave Quinn is Managing Director of Investwise Financial Planning, a fee-based financial planning firm based in Dublin City Centre, Ireland.