Where else can you add value in Estate Planning?

Estate planning has become a routine and valued part of the advice offered by financial planners today. As you work with clients particularly on their post-retirement financial planning needs, the questions and attention inevitably turn to what happens with the balance of wealth at death.

Of course the strategies that you advise about don’t commence at that point in the client’s life – they begin now as you advise post retirement structures that enable easier and more tax efficient routes of wealth transfer, use of the Small Gift Exemption and suitable life assurance structures. Some financial planners are also well versed in the use of trusts etc. to further optimise wealth transfer strategies.

While accountants or solicitors may have knowledge in some aspects of these areas, it is the financial planner that really does the heavy lifting when it comes to personal wealth transfer and estate planning. You are the person that your client relies upon most to get the most effective and tax efficient structures in place.

Well-structured estate planning by financial planners used to be a point of differentiation belonging to some advisers. However this has now become more mainstream and expected by clients. So how do you stand out from the crowd now?

One route is to increase the areas that you advise upon or indeed have formal partnerships with other relevant professionals to advise on a broader range of areas around death and “having your affairs in order”. For each of these areas, it’s not enough for it to be a throwaway remark to your client, “Oh by the way you should consider putting XYZ in place”. Instead you should develop material around these areas that will really educate your clients and set out for them the importance of actively following through on your suggestions. The types of areas you might consider include,



It’s very easy to remind every client that they should have a will in place. Everyone knows this, but lots of people don’t know why! Set out for clients the importance of having a will and the actual implications of not having one in place. Potentially use case studies of the difficulties other clients have experienced where wills were not in place and some of the issues that arose. Be the expert that triggers action by your client – to go to their solicitor (or your partnership solicitor) to get a will in place.


Enduring Power of Attorney

Similar to the need for a will, an EPOA is needed in case your client should lose their mental capacity in the future to make sound decisions on their own behalf. Levels of dementia are increasing in line with our ageing population. A client losing their ability to make sound financial decisions could tie their money up and make life very difficult for family members trying to look after them. It also could undermine the execution of intended financial strategies. Again clearly setting out the reasons for effecting an EPOA and also potentially having case studies of where one was / was not in place could add a lot of value to clients. And then point them to a professional who will help them implement your advice.


Bank accounts

Do your client and their spouse / partner have separate bank accounts? Who can sign off on bank transactions for their business? What would happen in the event of the sudden death of the business owner / main bank account holder at home? Situations arise frequently where funds are frozen on death, causing immense hardship to a surviving spouse, family members or indeed difficulties for business partners.

Talk to your clients about how their bank accounts are structured, who has access to them and who can legally access funds in the event of death. Again, rather than this being a throwaway conversation, be in a position to offer structured, written advice to your clients. Again, this may guide them towards their accountant in relation to business bank accounts or to their bank branch to discuss their personal banking arrangements. But you can be the catalyst that gets them thinking about this important area.


Digital footprint

A relatively new area and not one I’m suggesting that you necessarily need to be an expert in, but it is an area that you can get your client thinking about. It may be a conversation that you are guiding them to have with their solicitor or even a trusted friend.

What will happen to their personal email account on their death? What about their Facebook / LinkedIn / Twitter / Instagram accounts – will these just remain there? Or will they be closed down and will there be a message posted before doing so? What about being able to access all their photographs and files that are in cloud storage? What about all those other online accounts – who doesn’t have an Amazon account or a Paypal account? Should someone be able to access your phone contacts and get access to your various devices? Where are all of your passwords stored and accessible if so?

Lots of questions that you cannot answer. But these are questions we all need to consider today. Your advice may be as simple as suggesting to clients that they identify a trusted family member / friends who can look after these affairs at the appropriate time.


Estate planning can mean a lot more than financial solutions. Are you ready to expand your conversations around end of life planning?

Are you asking the right questions when buying a book?

We have written before on this very topic, but as there is lots of activity currently in the Irish market, we’ve developed our latest thinking to help you ensure that you get maximum bang for your buck when buying a book of business.


The last few years have generally been very good times for financial advisers. Many of you have grown significantly through your own efforts and those of your team. However there are many of you who have looked to turbo charge this growth through acquisition, either of a book of business or indeed through buying another advice business – lock, stock and barrel. Done well, this can help you significantly increase your growth potential. Here are a few questions to consider,



First of all, be crystal clear about why you are actually in the market to buy a book or another practice. What is the strategic rationale for the acquisition? Are you seriously in growth mode, or have you simply run out of ideas in terms of developing your existing business? Maybe some work on your own proposition and properly planned organic client acquisition tactics are a better alternative to going into the market for an acquisition?



What are you actually looking to buy? Have you run out of opportunities in your existing business and need an injection of potential clients? Are you looking to buy a book of clients hoping you will unlock a few nuggets in the belief that your advice approach is superior to that of the selling broker? Or are you looking to buy a very well-developed business that is going to lift your own business onto a new level through bringing better processes and opportunities than those that exist within your own business? The challenge in answering these questions may be how you will actually leverage the opportunities.



So you’ve decided that the strategic rationale justifies a purchase. The question now is which book or business to actually buy. This is where you need to carry out careful due diligence to really understand what you buying: the quality of the clients, the processes and the client propositions.

Are the clients that you are buying going to increase your recurring income stream over the long term, or are they going to fall away over the coming years through no relationship and loyalty to you? Are they going to really help you to gain a foothold in your target market? At the end of the day, are they going to be worth more or less than the sum of the parts?

The people that will come with a business (if any) will of course also be a tremendous asset or liability going forwards. You need to make clear and educated decisions as to whether they are a good fit for your business or not. Bringing in a strong group of people could really help you to drive your business to the next level.

How much?

So you’ve found your purchase target. If you’re simply buying a book of business, the chances are this is going to be a fairly straightforward transaction based on a multiple of the income stream. However if you are actually buying the entire business, there are many other factors to consider.

Are the existing owners remaining involved and if so, in what capacity? Are they going to be part owners of your newly enlarged business, keeping them with skin in the game? If they are remaining as shareholders, they are much more likely to stay committed to growing the business. On the other hand, if they are remaining in the business simply to help the transition, you should be looking to build in clear earn-out targets. This will ensure that you reap the rewards of their ongoing involvement, as they will be financially incentivised to help you transition the clients into your business.

You should also examine closely the profitability of the business you are buying. If they were struggling to make meaningful money, how are you now going to do it? Can you see cumbersome administration practices that you can immediately replace with your own well-developed processes, extracting immediate savings? Can you see savings to be made in terms of people – maybe you don’t need all of their staff? And possibly you can see opportunities to broaden the proposition that was offered to their clients, increasing the revenue potential. Any of these factors will help you realise more profit potential.


What are the risks?

We’ve highlighted a lot of the risks to success in the earlier sections above. However you also need to protect your business against the sins of the past that may not have been uncovered in the due diligence process. What protection have you extracted against poor advice given to clients in the past? What warranties have you been given by the seller about the quality of advice given, the products sold, the performance of ongoing service for trail commission, the promises made to clients? You need to consider how long the seller remains “on the hook” for these issues, as the last thing a buyer wants is a string of complaints (or worse) arising in the future. A seller of a very clean book of business with excellent advice given in the past should not have an issue in providing reasonable and fair warranties.


These are just some of the questions that you should ask yourself before you step into the market to buy another firm. Buying a business is a big step – take your time, ask yourself the hard questions and do careful due diligence in order to seriously enhance your prospects for achieving a value adding purchase.

The Great 8 in 2020

As part of our series of “12 StepChanges to a Better Business”, we are delighted to announce a new programme that we have just launched called “The Great 8”.


Particularly with the recent announcement from CBOI demanding increased transparency in relation to commission, the justification of commission / fees will be an increasing challenge. A number of advice firms have now fully completed our comprehensive “Getting to 1%” programme, with 3 advice firms also currently in the middle of it. This programme will help those firms hugely in relation to the justification of commission. Some other advisers have requested a shorter programme, focused only on the customer facing marketing collateral. To meet this demand, we are delighted to launch The Great E8. This programme consists of 8 marketing supports to be delivered,
  1. Development of your Client Value Proposition: The value you add, how you advise at the initial advice stage, articulation of your on-going service packages, review meetings, how much it costs, how it is paid for (fee / commission) etc.
  2. Development, writing and delivery of a personalised bi-monthly email client newsletter for a period of 2 years
  3. Updating the newsletter content to your website and sharing on LinkedIn for 2 years
  4. Development and design of a client brochure to be used as a hand-out at all prospect meetings, at next meetings with all clients & supply to be given to introducers – 6 page A5.
  5. A workshop on the effective use of LinkedIn
  6. Development of a 6-10 slides credentials presentation (including development of PowerPoint template) for 1st meeting – covering Advice proposition, Investment philosophy, Service packages, Review meetings, credentials / endorsements etc.
  7. Re-writing of 10 pages of website content for provision to your web developer
  8. Development & design of 4 Service Overviews (Pensions / Investments / Protection / Review meetings) that set out the depth of your services and demonstrate the work involved (justifying both initial and ongoing remuneration).
If you would like more information about The Great 8, please contact Eamonn at eamonn@stepchange.ie or at 086 2519895. Our only constraint is our capacity, so contact us early to avoid disappointment.