How do you build trust?

I recently shared the most relevant findings for financial advisers in the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, in which we saw continuing challenges for the financial services industry in relation to trust. However we also saw that trust in the financial services industry is growing faster than any other sector, so the graph is definitely moving in the right direction!

I got a lot of feedback in relation to this article, thanks for all your likes and comments – much appreciated as ever. A few advisers have since asked me what they need to do in order to build trust. So here goes – my thoughts on a few ways that really help to build trust.


Be visible when the going gets tough

This is so relevant today, with the Covid-19 pandemic and investment markets crashing to the floor. Now is not the time to go to ground and hope that clients won’t ring about their falling investments. Instead now is the time to be calm, show your leadership qualities to clients and remind them that their financial plan will deliver the desired outcomes over time. Yes, acknowledge the discomfort caused by markets today, but remind clients that this will pass. Your visibility and reassurance will provide comfort to clients, and will help build their trust in you.

Communicate how you work with clients

One of the most important ways to build trust, particularly with potential clients, is by communicating really clearly how you will actually work with them. Many people only sort of know what a financial adviser does – something to do with pensions and life assurance? Let potential clients know the problems you solve and the outcomes you achieve for them. And then explain how you will work with them. You can give huge levels of comfort by walking the client through your advice process in detail, showing them what to expect and the value that you will add. This will help to remove any doubts in their mind.

Provide client testimonials

Continually seek out client testimonials, they are really important. In my book, you need to seek permission to use the client’s actual name (and logo if a company). Testimonials from “John H, Dublin” don’t really count – in fact someone might suspect they are made up! Genuine client testimonials are really powerful – who can advocate for you better than people who you’ve helped in the past, whose lives you have potentially changed?

Seek recommendations on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a really important platform for financial advisers; it’s where many prospective clients will check you out before picking up the phone to you. After all, when they Google your name, the chances are that your LinkedIn profile will appear high up the search results. Recommendations from clients on your LinkedIn profile are a very powerful endorsement of your services, so look for these at every opportunity. They are great trust builders.

Presence in mainstream press

Some advisers have built up great profiles by regularly appearing in “Opinion” columns in national newspapers and some even building positions as regular commentators on TV and radio. These are great for building trust, as they demonstrate your industry knowledge and authenticity as a voice worth listening too.

Your qualifications

Sounds simple? If I was a CFP, I’d tell everyone at every opportunity! Why not advertise the fact that you are part of a highly qualified cohort? Prospective clients will value the fact that you are investing in yourself and are willing to keep learning in order to stay at the frontier of providing the very best financial advice. It will also help you to achieve high levels of trust among clients.


There are of course many more ways of building trust; advertising any awards that you win, communicating your opinions with your clients via newsletters and being active on social media. Hopefully the ideas above will give you a few pointers as to how you can continue to build trust with your clients and prospective clients.


Will your advice business survive COVID-19?

Everybody is extremely concerned – about our own health, the health of our loved ones, for many people their jobs are gone and also the economy is on the brink of a major downturn. Financial advisers face the double whammy of having clients who are concerned of course about the virus, and who are also extremely nervous about the volatility and downturn in investment markets.

I’ve tried to stand back a little from the noise and look at how a financial advice business might navigate its way through the next few months.


Be grateful for what you have

OK, let’s start with the glass half full. First of all, I hope you and your family are still healthy. This is your number one priority and if you can maintain this, you’ll survive anything…

Many businesses lost all of their customers as a result of COVID-19. Overnight. However, you still have your clients. Yes, they may not demand your services as much as before in the next few months, and indeed may not require financial solutions to be implemented for the foreseeable future. But they will still be your clients when all of this is over and definitely will need significant help in their changed financial circumstances.

Very importantly too is the profile of your income. Many of you in recent years have moved from an over-reliance on upfront commission to a flatter income profile, comprised mainly of trail and renewal commissions. This will stand you in good stead in the coming months. Yes, your trail has taken a hit in the last few weeks, but this will recover in line with markets, whenever that will be.


In truth, financial advice firms are better placed than most SME businesses to withstand the current economic tornado.


Look after your clients

Many of your clients though will be at their wit’s end and will need you now more than ever. Some will be sick and very worried. Some unfortunately may die. Many have lost their jobs or their businesses. All have seen their investments nosedive. Are you ready for this? How will you deal with them and their families compassionately and efficiently, but at a distance? This is where you need to identify phone and web conferencing platforms (such as Zoom, Skype, WebEx) to use. Now is not the time to go to ground and just blame COVID-19.

Instead now is the time to communicate relentlessly with your clients. Ring them, email them, send them regular updates about the financial backdrop. Show them you have your finger on the pulse and that you are in their corner. Get on the front foot and stay there.

Your advice, reassurance and interest in their affairs will be remembered long after all of this is over. Oh, and of course stop them from blowing up their plans by making rash, ill-thought out decisions.


Look after your business

Look after no 1, lots of people need you to stay healthy. Your family, your staff and your clients can ill-afford you to get sick. So, take no chances.

Then of course, you need to look after your staff and help them to stay healthy. Most are now working remotely, so make this as easy as possible for them. Be flexible, understand the pressures they may be under at home and trust them. For someone who is used to seeing their staff before their eyes every day, it’s a big change to suddenly have them working away from you. However, you have a common goal – the survival of your business.

Get advice on technology solutions. Talk to your IT supplier and talk to other advisers. You are a fantastic community for sharing ideas and best practices. If technology is not your forte, talk to someone who is strong in this area. Everyone will try to help everyone in getting through this. Communicate regularly with your staff. Agree a regular call – this might be every day or every second day and use web conferencing for team meetings. Keep the team together, just at a distance – your staff still need your direction. Make sure you can work effectively yourself away from the office. If you have an office at home – great. If not, carve out a space other than the kitchen table as you need to be able to work effectively for the next few months.


The key is to stay in touch with people and to stay visible. Your family, staff and clients need to know that you are at the top of your game now, more so than ever.


We’re in the same boat here at StepChange. We are going to get through this. If I can help you in any way or indeed if you just want to bounce ideas or challenges off someone, I’ll be delighted to help.


Stay healthy


Videos – Vanity or Value?

In this latest post in our series of “12 StepChanges to a better business”, we briefly set out our thinking on the benefits of video marketing.

Financial advisers often raise the question of the effectiveness of video marketing. Some see it as a vanity project, as an expensive activity that yields very poor results. And sometimes that is exactly the case! But certainly not always…

Video offers a number of great opportunities to financial advisers. First of all, it offers a different, engaging medium to communicate an important message – maybe an overview of your business, your financial planning approach or indeed different aspects of your client proposition. Some visitors to a website prefer clicking on a video than reading paragraphs of text, so video gives you the opportunity to hang on to that visitor to your website a little longer.

Also, YouTube is now the 2nd most frequently used search engine in the world after Google, so video also offers great opportunities as an entry point to your website from searches.

However quality is critically important where video is concerned. To produce a good video takes a lot of time and effort – careful scripting, a lot of thought about production including the video style, the location, use of graphics, the cast, the right music etc., and the key messages to be communicated. And all of this to produce a video that should be kept really brief – the preferred length for most videos is no more than 60 – 90 seconds.

StepChange works with financial advisers and other organisations in developing excellent scripts that will achieve real “cut through” with your audience. We also regularly collaborate with a leading video production company to bring these scripts to final production, using a variety of different video styles. These videos can then be used across all of your digital platforms.

Should you want to add this engaging medium to your marketing mix, maybe it’s time to get some expert help with it? We look forward to your call.


Are you punching your weight on social media?

Most Financial Brokers today are using social media to some extent. Some are using it very effectively and view it as a core part of their marketing mix, others see it as a bit of a necessary evil and grudgingly engage with it to a much lesser degree.

At StepChange, we are firm believers in the power of social media for Financial Brokers. But it has to be used consistently and relatively frequently, and therein lies the challenge. So here’s our starting point.

  • A social media presence is so important to enable you to be found online, for people to engage with you and for you to connect with people and demonstrate expertise.
  • LinkedIn is still the most powerful platform for Financial Brokers, particularly if your target market includes professionals and business owners. Twitter is second.
  • I’m not a fan of using Facebook pages to engage with friends and followers. I can’t find examples of advisers doing this well, and who are not interrupting their friends and followers who are on Facebook for other reasons (looking for a laugh, sharing photos etc.).
  • Email marketing is the most under-utilised tool in online marketing. How can you ignore a tool where you end up in the inboxes of your target market, a place they visit every day?
  • Generating a constant and consistent stream of content remains the biggest challenge, bar none. Everybody can produce a on-off piece, the challenge is consistency.
  • Some people spend their time finding links to good articles and sharing these. Yes, this is valuable, but on its own is simply not enough. Your connections want to hear your views. So at a minimum, add your take on the article in the introduction to the article before you share it. But better still, write your own content and share that.

How StepChange can help you

We work with Financial Brokers looking to build a social media presence. We help you develop an effective profile, demonstrate how to build a relevant network of connections and we then show you how to actually use the platform effectively.

However the big challenge is content. We develop content for Financial Brokers to share and also find other excellent content online for you to share, to increase the engagement with your followers. We provide the A-Z of social media for Financial Brokers.


Is it time for you to talk to us about how you can develop and leverage your social media presence?

8 great apps I use nearly every day

Every summer I give one of these articles over to the subject of apps that I use regularly. This year I’m mentioning 8 apps that I use regularly and that make my work / financial life a little easier to manage. In the list, there are 2 apps in each of the following categories;

  • Banking
  • Finance
  • Content management
  • Every day apps


Banking App 1: Stripe

Last year an adviser asked me could he pay me for a service by credit card. This prompted me to go looking for solutions. Literally an hour later I had a Stripe account set up (which receives credit card payments) that was fully integrated into Xero (see below). So now I can receive payment on any invoice by credit card, and my accounting system knows about it. The Stripe app is great, providing notifications when money is received and giving me all of the information I need to manage this new form of payment.


Banking App 2: Curve

Curve is a bank card, linked to an app on your phone. It’s clever because it becomes an umbrella card for all of your other cards, both debit and credit cards, giving you access to all these cards using your single Curve card. I hate a bulky wallet and as a result of Curve, I only now need to carry one card – my Curve card. Using the app, you choose the account / card that you want your transaction to apply to (e.g. personal debit card, personal credit card, company credit card). You can change cards easily between transactions. It also has a natty feature that if you apply a transaction to the wrong credit / debit card when using your Curve card, you can “go back in time” and reapply a transaction to the right account later.

Details of all of your cards are not stored on your Curve card which is important if it falls into the wrong hands. Also you get immediate notifications (if you want) every time the card is used, which is a great security feature, and you can block your card yourself via the app too.


 Finance App 1: Xero

I was introduced to Xero, an online accounting system a couple of years ago. It has had a transformational effect on the financial management side of my business. I now have real-time profit & loss statements, balance sheet and a host of other useful reports that are available at the press of a button. All my invoicing and bank reconciliations are done through Xero, as is management of expenses. My accountant and I can both view the up to the minute real time information about my business, I’m saving hours every month with this software and have much better information available to me.

Specifically with the app, a great overview of business bank accounts, invoices and purchases is provided. I’ve full view of my outstanding invoices in the App and other important information. I now have all the information I need, and the time spent on “the books” is now a fraction of what it once was.


Finance App 2: Revenue

Am I serious? Yes I am! I think the Revenue app (RevApp) is great, allowing you to log a whole range of expenses throughout the year (health expenses etc.) which makes completing your tax return very easy. You can also log a whole range of other tax relievable expenses (e.g. the home improvement tax relief scheme) and you can get lots of useful information about your tax records.


Content App 1: Feedly

Feedly is an app that I use all of the time in seeking out useful content from the web to share, and indeed for content ideas to write about. It enables me to track blogs / news feeds that provide content I don’t want to miss. Rather than receiving an email every time there’s a new blog post or news article,  instead the new content is sent to Feedly which gathers all of these articles in one place. It is like a magazine rack for online articles, waiting for me to go through them.

I can then flick down through hundreds of articles in minutes, reading only the headlines, dipping into an introduction or indeed the full article if I think it is actually worth reading. And I can mark them all as “Read” very easily as I go along, ensuring those particular articles don’t appear again. I’ve categorised the different feeds into groups, which further speeds up the process too. The benefit of Feedly is the time it saves me in getting through huge numbers of articles.


Content App 2: Pocket

And then there’s Pocket, which is my scrapbook of articles that I’ve “cut out” and saved for later. As I see articles of interest on the web or that come through to Feedly, some catch my attention to be read later when I’ve a bit more time on my hands. With 2 clicks, I put them in my Pocket and can also tag the articles for different purposes – it might be to share out later, to rewrite with my perspective, maybe to help me develop a new angle for my proposition etc.

I can then go back into Pocket when I want to carry out an activity and simply click on the article that I’ve saved for that very purpose. It’s all very easy and it means you don’t lose great articles that you’ve read.


Every day App 1: Ring

This is an app linked to the doorbell at the front door of my house. What has this got to do with work you may ask… Well my office is in my back garden and gone now are the days of missing couriers, missing bulky post deliveries or having to work inside the house while waiting for a caller. Now when my doorbell rings, it comes through to my phone. There’s a camera , microphone and speaker in the doorbell so I can see who it is and talk to the caller as necessary from my desk. It makes life easy. The doorbell itself has no wiring and can be installed quickly and easily yourself – trust me, I’ve no reputation for advanced DIY skills…


Every day app 2: Parking Tag

This app has been around for a good few years now, but it still amazes me the number of people who drive around Dublin during the day and who don’t use the app. They waste time looking for loose change and feeding parking machines. Then when meetings run over a bit, they need to run out and top up their parking. With the app, all of this is simply done from your phone. This app originally only worked in the city centre, but now covers most if not all of Dublin. Again, it makes life easy.


I hope there’s an app here for you to try to make your life a bit easier.

When did you last refresh your website?

This is the latest instalment in our series of “12 StepChanges to a better business”, where we explain some of the services that StepChange brings to our financial adviser clients. This month it’s the turn of websites.


Creating a world class website is within the reach of financial advisers. The secret to it is to follow some simple guidelines, put a lot of work into creating excellent content and then pay a very high level of attention to the detail. If you’ve an old website or haven’t revisited your content in a while, it just might be time for a refresh.

At StepChange, we assist advisers and planners in establishing top quality, effective websites that portray a very professional look for your business online. In doing so, we follow a couple of basic rules.


We Keep it Simple

The days are long gone of auto-loading videos, animated graphics and the latest technical fads. The best websites today are ones that guide the user quickly to what they want and communicate in concise, engaging content. We focus on simplicity and getting your message across quickly – long explanations and technical details about every product available will just bore users. We help you refine your messages in as few words as possible.


We Make it Easy to Navigate

We make sure it is very easy for a user to find their way to the specific information they want, while also enticing them to “have a look around” the site. A coherent site navigation approach is critical to retaining the user’s engagement with the site for as long as possible.


We Focus on Financial Planning

Too many adviser websites talk at length about products, while not focusing on the real value that you add – helping your clients to make sense of their financial circumstances and to plan effectively for their financial future. This is the focus of the sites that we develop.


We Like Nice Design

While simplicity sits at the heart of the websites we develop, this is not a substitute for nice design. We’ll deliver an attractive site layout, will help you source beautiful images and we’ll give your site that wow factor!


We Demonstrate your Credentials

Client testimonials, particularly where the name (and better still a photo) of the client is included, are a very valuable asset. We’ll help you request these in a professional manner from your best clients and get maximum visibility for these much-valued endorsements of you and your business.


We Identify Clear Calls to Action

You want to make it easy for users to “do something” when they visit your website, rather than simply leaving. This may be connecting on social media, signing up to your newsletter or picking up the phone to you. We’ll identify a number of different Calls to Action and will include them in an effective way.


We Know Mobile is Key

The number of views from mobile devices is rising all the time. We develop sites that reflect the importance of the user experience when viewing your site on a mobile device. Mobile users are often looking for different information than desktop users. Our sites recognise this and provide that key information at a glance.


We Keep it Fresh

For many of our clients, we continue to work with you after your website is developed. We help you communicate effectively with your clients on an ongoing basis, and as part of this we help you to continually add fresh content to your website. This ensures that users of your site will see that you are an active business, looking to add value to users on an ongoing basis.


For some of you, these changes will mean a few hours work. For others they might mean a new site. For everyone though they are worth it. Is it time to give us a call to discuss how we can help you establish a great presence on the web?