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?

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?

Is working from home viable for Financial Advisers?

As most financial advisers have been working from home for a couple of weeks now, everyone is starting to get a sense of how viable it is as an alternative way of working.


While everyone’s experiences are different, from my conversations with advisers I’m finding three cohorts emerging,

  • The “never again” crew: There are some advisers finding remote working very challenging! Often this is down to factors such as the lack of availability of space in the home or young children being a distraction. Other advisers are simply not enjoying the isolation and miss the banter and sociability of the office. Others are struggling to work effectively with staff at a distance.
  • The “new alternative” gang: These people have experienced working from home for a sustained period quite refreshing, but with challenges. They will quickly revert back to the regular office routine, but have recognised that remote working offers benefits too, and they are much more open to the idea of using it in the future, both for themselves and for their staff. This is probably the largest group of the three.
  • The “never looking back” bunch: These are people who have loved the flexibility of working at home and while they will maintain an office going forwards, remote working will continue to be embraced and really used, maybe more so by themselves than by their staff.


So what are some of the key determinants of whether working from home seems to work for financial advisers or not?

  • Your work space: Trying to work at the kitchen table simply doesn’t hack it. While it might be fine for an hour here or there, it doesn’t work over a sustained period. After all, there’s a certain amount of “stuff” you need around you, aside from your laptop. If you are to replicate the office environment as much as possible, you need easy access to a printer and client files etc. Of course you also need access to excellent broadband. Nothing replaces a dedicated office in the house or better still, out in the garden.
  • The age of children: Young kids seeking attention from mum or dad is an inevitable distraction! I’m definitely finding that advisers with young families are finding it a little more challenging. However when the Covid-19 crisis recedes a bit and kids are back in school or a creche, working from home may be a good alternative for some of these advisers again.
  • Your technical capability: Some advisers are completely stuck when the printer stops working and are quite daunted by the technical side of running a Zoom meeting themselves. Without the “go-to” techie person in the office available to them, they really struggle. This causes frustration and longing to be back in the office.
  • Your personality: Some advisers have lapped up the flexibility, avoiding commuting and seeming to have more time available to them. Some say they struggle to stop working and find themselves still at the desk at 8pm. Others have really missed the sociability of the office, having your staff in your eyeline and working closely together as a team. This latter group have struggled to work effectively themselves and aren’t confident that their staff are as effective as usual. There’s certainly no “one size fits all” here…


So working from home is definitely not for everyone and for some advisers, their own situation simply doesn’t lend itself to remote working. But what are some of the big (and sometimes surprising) benefits that have emerged?

  • Clients are learning too: As you are working from home, so are many of your clients. They are going through the exact same trials and tribulations. However many of them have embraced it too. They recognise that it’s why/how/what you do that matters, and not where you do it. While face to face meetings will likely always have a central role in your client relationships, the last few weeks have shown that clients are open to alternatives too. And these alternatives offer you opportunities to optimise your time and other scarce resources.
  • Remote meetings can work: Following the above point, I’ve heard many success stories in the  last few weeks. New clients have been signed up remotely by advisers who admit that they felt this would be 100% impossible! Advisers have held thousands of remote meetings, putting clients’ minds at ease during the market turbulence. One adviser I’m working with is marvelling at the number of clients he is now “seeing” every day, significantly increasing his productivity. A number of firms are currently reworking their Client Value Propositions, making remote meetings an actual feature of it for some clients.
  • Staff can work remotely too: It’s not enough to send staff off home with a laptop. What’s their working environment like at home? If this is ok, maybe you can offer them a bit more flexibility in the future. However in doing so, give them some structure and clarity of your expectations around the hours they will work, their delivery goals, their interaction with clients (a quiet, professional backdrop) etc. Tease out your expectations with them and work through challenges they might face. If remote working can work for both your staff and you, this may significantly increase their loyalty and engagement.


So the answer to the question is yes, working from home is a viable alternative. But only given the right circumstances and also recognising that some people simply prefer a busy office as the place of work.


The choice is yours.  But as someone who works in the back garden, I wouldn’t change it for the world! Now I just need to go and cut the grass….