How’s your hybrid planning model developing?

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about hybrid planning models, and the truth is that they probably mean different things to different advisers. So, here’s my tuppence worth on them…

To my mind, a hybrid planning model is one where the best traditional financial planning practices are supplemented by a digital proposition that further adds value to the adviser / client relationship and ultimately supports the achievement of better client outcomes. Here are some elements that will go a long way to creating an effective, hybrid financial planning model.


Remote as well as in-person meetings

This is the obvious first step, and a straightforward one with the experience of the last two years. Advisers now recognise that every interaction with a client doesn’t need to be a physical, in-person meeting. Instead, a client who previously may have been met in person three of four times a year, now might only require a single in-person meeting, supplemented by several remote meetings. This saves valuable time for everyone and facilitates more flexibility around meetings – it’s a lot easier to “jump on to a Zoom call” than having to “jump into the car” and then sit in traffic…


Online data gathering

Many advisers are now having more effective meetings with clients, by utilising a range of tools that can be deployed before a planning meeting. Rather than starting a planning meeting with a blank page, clients are requested to complete some or all of an online factfind, a risk profiling questionnaire and an expenditure questionnaire in advance of the meeting. These are enabling better preparation for the meeting and a much richer client experience. A by-product of requesting this information is that advisers find that it removes “tyre kickers” – clients who give the time to providing this information are committed to the process.


Online supporting material

I’m aware of some advisers who have gone to significant efforts to provide excellent guidance to clients across a broad range of technical subjects. Their thinking is that a better-informed client results in more engaging and valuable conversations at the actual meetings. This in no way negates the need for or value of the advice ultimately given, as a technical guide on a particular subject cannot take account of a client’s own individual circumstances or cannot consider the full range of appropriate solutions to be considered. Apart from the value clients get from such whitepapers or expert guides, this supporting material demonstrates a firm’s commitment to adding value and shows confidence in their expertise.


Online collaborative tools

We’ve also seen the emergence of tools that support collaboration at planning meetings. Good planning meetings are never lectures, with the adviser as the teacher! Instead they are two parties considering together a range of objectives, strategies and approaches, with “What If” questions frequently arising and being considered. Future cashflow planning software is very visual and really supports collaboration and discussion at meetings. Indeed with some of the tools, clients can use the tool and consider scenarios themselves, outside the confines of a meeting.


Leveraging the wider team

With this greater level of engagement and interaction, this does not have to mean that the adviser must be involved at every single touchpoint. The opportunity now exists to move some of the interactions towards a paraplanner or support person, who can work with the client through some of the interactions. Broadening the relationship beyond a single point of contact – the adviser – makes for a better client experience, removes risk in the business of an adviser leaving or being ill… and spreads the workload.


So, are you up for this new planning model? It adds a lot of value to both your business and your clients, but like anything, there is a cost involved. The challenge in this case is your capability to deliver effective remote meetings, and your ability to really understand and fully utilise the technology that you are using. For example, your hybrid model will start falling apart if you get tripped up every time you try to change something in your client’s future cashflow plan. So, the cost is a time commitment from you to fully understand and be confident in your use of the financial planning tools that you are deploying.

The benefits though really outweigh these costs. Are you ready to roll out your hybrid proposition?

Are you ready for that big media interview?

For many financial advisers, this is the great break that they’ve been looking for and they can’t wait to get stuck into the opportunity of waxing lyrically about one of their favourite topics. For others, securing a media interview is a prelude to a couple of sleepless nights as they fret and worry about saying the wrong thing and blowing the opportunity.

There really is no need for the latter feelings. Journalists are not out to “get you”. They have a job to do, which is creating interesting and valuable stories and if you play it right, you can be the catalyst to making that happen. So here are a few thoughts on giving yourself the best chance of achieving PR success.


Nurture your contacts

You must start by securing an interview in the first place, and this is no easy feat particularly with a high-profile journalist for a national publication. Of course, using the services of a PR agency is one way to approach this, as these agencies spend their lives building and maintaining relationships with all of the relevant journalists in the different sectors. If you have no relationships with your chosen journalists at all, this is often the best route forwards.

If you have a connection with one of your chosen journalists yourself, maybe as the result of a previous interaction with them, mind and nurture that relationship carefully. You need them for the profile and exposure that you can get from them, and they need you as a source of interesting stories and opinions. It’s a two-way street.

However, there are lots more financial advisers out there than there are good financial journalists, so you need to be prepared to work hard to stand out from the crowd. If you have a subject or an angle that you believe is genuinely of interest to their audience, don’t be afraid to pitch it to them. Think carefully and only pitch ideas that you believe are of interest. This is NOT the time to bombard them with your latest thoughts in the hope that one might stick – they’ll soon get sick of you.


Prepare properly

Sounds obvious? But how many times have you heard radio interviews where the person is just not on top of their brief? We’ve all heard these car crash interviews. This can happen too with an interview with a print journalist. Prepare properly, think through the possible questions that you might be asked and consider your answers in advance.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Don’t panic and answer off the top of your head. The journalist is not trying to trip you up, so just say that you’ll check it out and get back to them. And then make sure you do just that.


Think of their audience

The audience is unlikely to be financial professionals who want to hear your technical expertise. Their audience may be elderly or might have little financial knowledge.  Speak with them in mind. Yes, you want to demonstrate that you know your subject really well and have confident opinions, but this won’t be achieved by blinding people with science and resorting to industry jargon. No-one will thank you for this, least of all the journalist…


Bring in a bit of colour

Try and help the journalist by bringing in a relevant and related funny story or interesting case study to add some colour to their piece. If you can provide a unique or memorable angle that brings an article to life, that will really help them.

The other way of doing this is by utilising research. Journalist love referring to survey findings as they can quote validated numbers and give their insights into them. Where you have related research, provide it with some of your own insights into the findings.


Follow up

Then you buy the Sunday papers, and your thoughts are there in all their glory. You’ll probably share this with pride through your social media channels to increase the reach and exposure of your article. And why not, you deserve it!

But don’t forget about the journalist who write the piece. A nice thank you won’t go amiss, along with an offer to stay in touch, which circles back to nurturing your relationship with them. Also connect with and follow them on social media if they are there – some of them are active, others are not. If it makes sense and genuinely adds something to a conversation, don’t be afraid to give your tuppence worth on some of their posts.

Good PR exposure from independent journalists and publications is a valuable asset for your financial advice business. Go about it in a structured and considered way.