Peter Lawrence spent 30 years in IT but last year launched his own IFA firm. So, at a time of an apparent exodus of advisers, this man is moving againt the grain. He will be blogging on IFAonline about his experiences...
"I like firsts.
In thirty odd years in IT I worked on quite a few of them - the first TV remote controls, the first "portable" hard discs, the first IBM PCs, the first networks (or "notworks" as they were), the first web-based systems...
They were all groundbreaking at the time. But I wanted a new challenge and, in 2007, found it in the world of financial services. I haven't been disappointed.
So here I am, just starting my own IFA practice, qualified and active as an IFA but still the naive new boy with a fresh perspective.
On the subject of firsts, here are a few of my first impressions as a qualified financial adviser:
We have a profession that still thinks of itself as an industry and a regulator which focuses on the easy bits rather than the bits that matter. Meanwhile, providers face big challenges to service delivery and profitability, advisers have to defend themselves against all the stuff that comes at them and, most significantly, there are still far too many consumers with significant, unmet needs.
There is more to be said on the above, but as an idealistic newcomer let me outline why I have taken the route I have, in spite of those less-than-positive first impressions. After all, it's easy enough to forget why we do what we do in the maelstrom of daily demands.
Our clients are of course the reason for our existence. And my motivation to become an IFA is to see people take full advantage of their current financial situation, and improve the prospects for their future life. To put it another way, it's about life - not money.
But I want to provide more than a transactional "see you next year" type of service, so there needs to be a coherent end-to-end offering with some intellectual property which ultimately offers added value to a client beyond a product recommendation.
To provide the best value to my clients, I need to be able to define the whole approach.
My first step must be to define what is grandly called "the client proposition". For this step I am very glad to have a clean sheet, rather than the baggage of an existing client bank.
The more I consider where my longer-established fellow advisers are coming from, the more I realise that the changes which are happening in our world require a different way of thinking.
No longer can we cosy up with our favourite providers to sell their products. Instead we must explicitly be on the client side of the table providing whatever they need - and that (horror of horrors) may not be a product.
So I have asked myself questions like "who do I want to advise?", "what type of advice will I offer?", and the hot topic question: "how will I get paid?".
I now have satisfactory answers to all of these, answers which specifically exclude some potential clients - otherwise what's the point?
But as well as the above list, I have considered the "soft" questions (which are actually harder, if you get my point): What are the messages I want the business to convey?; What is it going to feel like dealing with me?; What are clients really looking for when they approach an IFA?.
The result of all this is an array of words and phrases representing a business in embryo - now to be called Prime Time Financial.
All of that raw material will be used to create a logo, website, business processes, and so on, but actually the most important end result is in my head.
I now know who I am as an IFA, and I have a firm belief that I can make it work.
Peter Lawrence is principal of Prime Time Financial. Visit www.primetimefinancial.co.uk/home
Peter's next blog will run next month.
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