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Back to business as unusual

Looking after our clients overrides taking on new ones.

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Ian Millward
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At the start of the Summer we took the decision to shut the door to new clients so we could offer an additional review to all our existing clients.

Annual reviews are generally spread reasonably evenly across the year, so aiming to do this over a 10 to 12-week period felt like a monumental undertaking. Not just that, it comes at a cost. We rely on new clients to help us invest and grow the business, so why would we choose to make an already tough financial year even more challenging?

When faced with this kind of decision we always try and bring it back to a couple of simple questions: What is the right thing to do and what would I like to happen if I were a client?

Against that backdrop the decision was quick and easy. We had to do it and I think Justin and I had both privately already come to that conclusion even before we discussed it. Having decided, we then challenged ourselves to find a way to make it work. Ordinarily we commit a lot of time to doing exploratory work for potential new clients (another unusual decision and more on that in a moment) but it quickly became clear that something would have to give (possibly our health if we weren’t careful) so the natural conclusion was to shut the doors for a while.

Over the years, we have made many decisions that would be considered unusual (and perhaps even financial suicide) by the standards of our peers. Committing to hours of exploratory work without charge or commitment; initial fees that are maybe 10 or 20% of the level most advisers charge; or even simple things like openly publishing our fees on the website or a blanket ban on accepting any form of hospitality.

One of our more challenging decisions was choosing to recruit and train bright young graduates over experienced advisers. The decision was easy as we knew that existing advisers would never fit with us. But making it work has been one of our toughest challenges. Through a combination of trial, error, stubbornness, determination, and open-minded belligerence we now believe we are turning that into another strength of the business. Organising reviews and then acting on them and implementing any changes generates an enormous amount of work, but everyone here has risen to the challenge and coped admirably.

We are never different just for the sake of it but equally we have long since given up trying to act within the norms of our industry. We started the business with a blank canvas and a belief that, if we were going back into the world of financial advice, we wanted to do it in a way that we felt comfortable with. The journey is endlessly challenging but the joy for us is that we are slowly but surely building an exceptional business.

Seven weeks later and with two thirds of the reviews behind us, we have now taken the decision to re-open our doors to new clients, sooner than expected. And whilst it has cost us in the short term, like many of our other decisions, we expect it to benefit us in the long-term. Booming stock markets paper over cracks and ‘better the devil you know’ is a powerful motivator. Tough times test relationships and advisers who have been conspicuous by their absence or are jumping on this as an opportunity to catch up on sales targets are likely to feel the wrath of their clients.

For us we just look forward to getting back to business as unusual.

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