How’s that winning team of yours?

So here we are again at this stage in the market cycle… Even though the economic picture is somewhat cloudy, activity remains high in most advice firms, income is holding up and one of the biggest challenges for many firms is beefing up their advice teams. Those who are recruiting are looking to pick up experienced advisers from other firms, which in turn is creating a retention challenge in these other firms.

So what can (and are) advice firms do today to keep their best people?

 

Recognise your best people

Might seem a bit obvious, but some business owners are afraid that they’ll rock the boat if they recognise their best people. So they say nothing and hope the winners won’t leave, which unfortunately they are likely to do if they don’t feel valued.

Yes you might have to back up this recognition with tangible benefits, but at least this is keeping you in control of keeping your best people. It also sends a clear message out to the weaker members of your team of your expectations and that you are monitoring their performance. This may make them uncomfortable and indeed these weaker team members could possible leave. This might not be what you’re looking for, but it’s a lot better than losing your best people.

 

Support your best people

The temptation of business owners and sales managers is to spend a disproportionate amount of time with their weaker team members; coaching them, monitoring them and trying to lift their performance. While at the same time assuming their best people are “grand” and will just continue to get on with doing a great job. A dangerous assumption.

Spend time with your best people too. While you may not be able to improve their performance by the same amount as you can for the weaker members of your team, they will appreciate all of your efforts to help them grow, even by small amounts.  And small improvements by successful people will make a big difference to your revenue numbers.

 

Challenge your best people

Again many managers will look for ways to challenge their weaker team members, driving them to better performance by “turning the screw”, doggedly seeking higher levels of performance from them. The level that you do this depends on the individual’s personality and the level of under-performance.

However also look for ways to challenge your best people. This should be done in a very positive way, finding ways to enthuse them, to drive them on. You might ask them to manage some difficult clients, open up new lines of business or new target markets or to take on some projects in addition to their normal responsibilities, all the while recognising these additional efforts in a fair and equitable way.

 

Improve your best people

Yes, you have to be prepared to pay your best people more. But money alone is not the answer. As someone else can always offer your star performers more money. So look for ways to improve them and to help them in their careers. Maybe you could look to pay for them to do more study and to help then in terms of the time required to study to become a CFP? Or if they are not interested in doing more study, maybe they would benefit from and really value time with an external mentor, funded by you? Maybe you can give them greater levels of flexibility in where and how they work? Your best people will recognise your efforts to improve them as people, and at the same time hopefully you will gain from even better performance from them.

 

Provide a clear career path for your best people

At the end of the day this is the most important factor in trying to keep your best people. It is also the hardest for business owners to deliver as there may be a really significant price to be paid. Your best people will inevitably want to enjoy a greater share of the rewards of the business. And this means ownership of the business, either yours or their own. So if you want to hang on to your best people who may be delivering a significant share of the profits of your business, you need to ask yourself if you are willing to take them as a partner in your business? Because this may be required to keep them into the future. Let them go and watch your firm suffer, or give them some share in the business and grow it together – the choice is yours.

Apps that I’m using more and more

Every summer I give one of these articles over to the subject of apps that I use regularly. This year I’ve steered clear of any financial apps and have focused on apps (desktop and/or phone) that make my working life easier. I’m finding that the more I use them, the more uses I find for them.

 

App 1: Ayoa

For any of you that I’ve been fortunate to develop strategies and plans with, you’ll have seen this one in action. Ayoa is the replacement for iMindmap, which was the business established by the king of mindmaps, Tony Buzan. I use this all the time when brainstorming, whether on my own or with clients as part of the planning process. Because of the highly visual nature of them, mindmaps are far more effective to capture ideas than using a flipchart, as you can easily edit items, move them around, expand ideas or simply lose the weak ones. You then also have a digital record of the work which can be shared with others or can be exported into other programmes for further use. I’d struggle to cope without this one!

 

App 2: Canva

While I don’t use this app every day, it is really handy from time to time. It is effectively a DIY design tool. While it will never replace the skills of a good graphic designer, it is very useful for those simple design jobs where you just want to create or manipulate a nice image for use maybe in a social media post. It’s definitely one worth checking out.

 

App 3: Notes (by Apple)

For everyone with an iPhone, this is an app that is automatically installed on your phone. It sat unused on mine for many years until a few years ago when I used it to capture a list of things I needed to bring on a holiday. Then I started using it for a number of different things outside of work. However in the last year or two, I’ve started using it a lot for just capturing different thoughts about my business in general or about specific projects that I’m working on.

I’m a bit of an Apple fan – all my devices (phone / tablet / laptop / desktop) are Apple devices. The beauty of this app is that no matter where I’m working, I’m only a click or two away from the specific note that I want to read or update. The interface is excellent too – it’s so easy to create notes, create lists within notes and set up folders of associated notes etc. I know there are similar apps available from Google and others – this is the one that works best for me.

 

App 4: Feedly

An old favourite that I know some of you now use. 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.

 

App 5: Pocket

And then there’s Pocket, which I see as my sister App to Feedly – another old favourite. This 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.

 

App 6: Ring

One for those of you who continue working from home… 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 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. The doorbell itself has no wiring and can be installed quickly and easily yourself – trust me, I’ve no reputation for advanced DIY skills… Even if your office is in the house, it might help you decide when on a Zoom call whether you need to run to answer the front door or not.

 

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

Building bridges with the next generation – Part 2

This is the second in a two-part article on expanding your client base into the next generation of younger clients, by accessing the children of your clients. In last month’s article we looked at how you might build links with these younger potential clients.  In this second instalment, we’re going to consider some of the specific ways in which you might treat this younger cohort, in order for them to fully engage with you and to become long-term clients.

 

Tweak your proposition

If your proposition is all about managing assets, this is not going to resonate with these younger clients – because they often don’t have any! However what they do probably have is significant income growth potential and the ability to build an asset pool in the future. If you want your proposition to engage them, it needs to clearly reflect these factors and how you are going to help them grow and protect their wealth with these factors (low assets, high income potential) in mind. It may mean smaller steps than you usually take with clients, but with a significant end goal in sight for you of helping them grow appropriately over the long term, with you there guiding them on their journey.

 

Lifestyle planning is relevant

Quite often advisors will say that lifestyle financial planning (and cashflow planning in particular) just doesn’t really engage younger clients. I strongly disagree with this… How you position lifestyle financial planning is the key here and also how you charge for it will be an important factor (see the final point below). The reason it is so relevant is that younger people tend to have heads full of future dreams, goals and ambitions, more so than older people where life has become a little more settled and simple. Younger people have no sense though of how achievable their dreams are, or what they need to do to bring them to reality. That’s where your skills as a lifestyle financial planner come in.

 

Targeted communication is a must

Producing regular and engaging communications for your clients is a significant challenge. However you’ll need to accept that it’s going to become even more of a challenge as you build up a cohort of younger clients. Sending “one size fits all” content to your younger clients that you use to engage your clients in their 50’s and 60’s just won’t wash – your younger clients won’t be able to relate to it.

You will need to alter your communication approach with your younger clients, by developing separate content that connects with them and their specific challenges at their stage in life.  It’s definitely more effort, but worth it in the long run.

 

Look at the profile of your team

Something that we see time and time again is that most client bases tend to generally reflect the adviser in terms of age and other demographics. Potential clients tend to gravitate to people that they can easily connect with, who appear to be “like them”. This is something you need to carefully consider with younger clients. If you’re 20+ years older than your target younger clients, are they really going to connect with you? Or will they feel more comfortable with a younger adviser who they can easily relate to, and who will be with them over their full financial journey. If you have younger members within your advice team, maybe you should hand all of these younger clients over to them? If not, is it time to go out and hire a younger adviser, if you are really serious about expanding your client base among younger clients?

 

Consider an alternative pricing model

This is a significant headache for advisers… how to make this segment viable, particularly as asset levels are low or non-existent. Unfortunately the answer here is that you may need to take a bit of a bet here with these clients. A trail commission basis won’t work for you and these clients may well baulk at / not see sufficient value in a standard retainer or fee arrangement. So you may need to review your proposition to a “lite” version at a lower cost, with a view to increasing the services and your fees as the years progress. This is a tough one to get right, but can be achieved with careful planning and execution. The payoff will be down the road.

 

Building bridges to the next generation is a significant challenge, both in terms of attracting them and then delivering a proposition that engages them. However if you do this well, it will add significant long term value to your business.

What does a great review meeting look like?

As more and more advisers shift the focus in their client interactions away from products and more towards a broader and more valuable financial planning proposition, the profile of their income is also shifting from a reliance on initial commissions to a flatter and ultimately more valuable ongoing income stream. To justify this recurring income stream, regular review meetings with clients are becoming far more important events.

It’s not too long ago that I used to wince when hearing about the review meetings of some advisers, where the client opting not to have a meeting was seen as a victory. The review meetings of these advisers were haphazard and added little value to clients. Thankfully these are mostly in the past.

One of the challenges for advisers is that they hear so much about the importance of developing an engaging Client Value Proposition. As a result, a lot of time and effort has gone into identifying where clients are experiencing value, the advice process that is being used, the client services that are provided and indeed how all of this should be paid for by clients. This is great, but the focus tends to be around the initial (year 1) engagement with clients.

I can tell you as the client of a financial planner that I can’t at this stage remember our initial interaction. But I remember clearly our last review meeting, and I’m also very clear about what we will discuss at our next meeting. And that’s the way it should be. The initial advice stage set me off on the right path; the review meetings keep me on it.

With some advisers, the focus is heavily weighted on attracting new clients, at the expense of minding the existing ones.  However having a brilliant review meeting is the means by which you’ll lock in those clients year after year, and as a result enjoy an ongoing income stream from the clients.

As a core part of your initial engagement with a new client, it makes sense to explain to them in detail what will happen every year into the future. It’s not enough for review meetings to be positioned as a “by the way” 10-second conversation at the end of the initial product implementation.

What should a review meeting include? Of course the financial plan should be central to the meeting – have the client’s life goals changed, do they want to explore a different future? Have they the financial capacity to live the life they want? There is also the fairly standard (and necessary) tasks of reviewing a client’s portfolio, getting up to date values and potentially even writing a short review report. And you definitely should explore further protection needs based on changing circumstances etc.

However the real opportunity to demonstrate your value on an ongoing basis to clients rests outside of the traditional review meeting agenda. Why not take a little extra time and set out for your clients some financial benefits that you’ve delivered to them such as;

  • Their wealth growth.
  • Their improved future capability to live the life they want.
  • The growth in actual euros of their investment portfolio.
  • The tax saved as a result of their pension plan and any other tax efficient policies in actual euros.
  • The actual money saved in euros as a result of a protection review you carried out previously.

Now your ongoing fee / trail commission starts to look very small! However there’s still a lot more you can do at these review meetings to demonstrate further value to you clients.

  • Help your clients with their household budgeting. This is an area that many clients continue to struggle with. By getting clients on the right path here and reviewing it with them, you can add enormous value to them.
  • Reviewing future cashflow plans with your clients each year adds tremendous value. This can completely change the conversation, enable you to look at “what if” scenarios and approach the client’s financial affairs in a very engaging and collaborative way.
  • Talk to them about their broader financial needs where you don’t provide the solutions. You can add value by tapping them into your network of solicitors (for their will or enduring power of attorney), tax advisers (tax advice) or accountants. Now you’re the person centred right at the hub of their financial affairs.

Review meetings are also the opportunity to remind your clients of the work and interactions you’ve had with them throughout the year – the rebalancing of their portfolio that you carried out, the interim meetings you had, seminars you invited them to, the content you sent them etc. How can a client question your ongoing fees when they realise that you are actually providing value to them right throughout the year?

So place review meetings at the heart of your proposition. Make them memorable and ensure your clients come back to you year after year.

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.

How to write a great Financial Broker video script

Lots of Financial Brokers recognise the power of a really good video that you can use on your website and through other communication channels. We’re seeing a big upsurge in enquiries about them.

While of course the look, style and general production quality of the video are really important, the script is probably the most critical element. So how do you produce a good script?

We spoke to Stephen Doyle of Vision Media who has produced videos for quite a number of Financial Brokers, product providers and other financial services businesses and we asked him for his tips.

 

Here’s what Stephen had to say!

 

A video has the power to tell a convincing story about your business in 60-seconds. A well-written, engaging script is the foundation for a successful explainer video. Without the right foundation, the rest of the creation process is in vain.

So what can you do to make sure your video is a killer and not merely a nap inducer? It starts with proper preparation – knowing your audience, your message and your call-to-action is essential. Beyond that, here are 7 tips to help you write a better script.

 

1. Keep the script short

The length of your script will depend on your audience. A captive audience in an auditorium endures about five to eight minutes before beginning to drift. An Internet surfer popping by your website tends to check out after two to four minutes depending on how compelling your material is and whether or not they needs your product.

 

2. Put your message in the first 30 seconds

Reduce the message of your entire video to one sentence and get that sentence somewhere in the first 30 seconds of the script. This tells the audience what to pay attention to in the video.

 

3. Speak directly to the audience

The easiest way to speak to an audience is to use personal pronouns like “you” and “your”. Another way to engage your audience is to show them things they care deeply about. While you may be proud of your second quarter earnings, what they care about is whether you can help them improve their own bottom line. Don’t waste time telling your audience what they already know. Focus instead on what they need to know about you that will bring them to trust you and to take the action you want them to take. Don’t talk down to your audience or over their heads. Make friends with them and they will be far more likely to give you a chance to sell them something.

 

4. Find the right tone

Have a mental picture of your customer in mind when selecting the tone of your video. Write a one-sentence summary describing why you are making the video and what you want the viewer to do at the end of it. This will suggest a tone for your finished video. You may decide you want a talking head in an office, a brief classroom style presentation, a light-hearted romp, a bold outdoorsy documentary or a colourful animated review.

If you have story-driven characters, imagine real people as mental placeholders. It’s much easier to write realistic dialogue if you are writing for someone whose habits and mannerisms you know well. The tone you choose for your video will then drive your choice of setting, narrator or cast, tempo, pace and type of dialogue for the script.

 

5. Tell a story

Most explainer video scripts present a problem (Mary knows her money is not working hard for her), introduce a solution (Mary gets a diversified portfolio in place that results in her money working for her), explain how it works (Mary got independent advice from her Financial Broker who developed a risk-based investment portfolio for her), and drive viewers to action (contact your local Financial Broker and get your money working for you).

Dry facts, statistics and definitions are okay in the classroom, but unless your video is for students imprisoned in a classroom, avoid lifeless content whenever possible. Instead, use the power of the screen to show your audience actual people your company has helped, or benefits your services have bestowed on your customers. Testimonials create stories about themselves to help them define who they are. The better you tell stories about yourself, the more likely your viewers are going to understand what your company is offering and what it can do for them.

 

6. Use humour wisely

Humour is a great tool for story telling so long as the humour supports your message. Make sure your attempts at humour fit seamlessly within the story you’re trying to tell, and keep in mind that misplaced or poorly timed humour can be distracting and may actually put off potential customers.

 

7. Pace yourself

Keep dialogue to between 140 and 150 words a minute. And while you might be able to speak 200 or more words per minute on your own, keep in mind that the voiceover needs time to breathe, allowing viewers to absorb what you’re saying (this is especially true if the content is particularly dense or technical in nature). Machine gun fire dialogue quickly overwhelms viewers, causing abandonment, and decreased comprehension.

 

When producing an explainer video, don’t skimp on the script. Take the time necessary to do it right. Get feedback from friends and co-workers, and make sure it’s engaging and easy to understand.

 

So there you have it! If you would like help in pulling a great video script together, please give us a call.

Image courtesy of Lidia Aparicio / Ashary