My search for an Adviser

I’ve been looking for an IFA to advise me and my family. It’s proved a lot harder than I thought it would.

My Requirements As A Client

I suppose I’m really looking for a firm that advises clients in the way my own firm does. However, for what I hope are obvious reasons, I’d rather not use one of our own advisers to advise my family.

So me and Mrs B are looking for a firm that can offer the following services:

  1. Cashflow modelling

  2. Coaching or life planning skills in order to challenge our assumptions and views of the future (preferably by training, if not then at least to take that kind of approach – this is possibly the most important thing I am looking for)

  3. We do NOT require investment advice at this point (but may in the future so my chosen firm will need to offer this)

  4. Charge a time costed fee (happy with fixed fee or retainer but needs to have some reference to the time taken)

  5. Include an annual review meeting to monitor progress towards objectives and motivations

  6. Pensions and tax advice available

  7. A genuine customer focussed, long term relationship based service proposition

To be clear, I want a firm that already works in this way (as opposed to a firm that is willing to give it a go). The above should describe their overall service proposition.

I work in this way with my accountant and solicitor. They offer a range of services, I buy the ones I need at any given time, we meet each year for a general catch up.

Struggling To Find An IFA

I’ve asked a few industry people if they know anyone that offers this approach. Everyone has drawn a blank.

I even asked Richard Allum to post a tweet asking for someone who would offer financial planning on a fixed fee basis for someone without investments. Richard has over 4,700 followers, I suspect the vast majority of them financial services professionals. Or Nutella fans. Or both. Only two people responded, Pete Matthew of Jacksons in Cornwall – and Ian Else, of Ovation!

Investable Assets

One could start to get a bit paranoid at this point. Why am I so unattractive as a client – even anonymously!

The main reason seems to be the lack of investable assets. Without funds under management, no-one wants to advise me. I spoke with one firm and they said that their profit comes from the investments which pays for the advice.

This seems to me a somewhat old school model. I do understand a bit of cross charging, if you make good money in one area you might reduce fees for something else. But shouldn’t each service be profitable in its own right?

If I had £150k investments that needed managing, that could earn a firm £1,500 income a year. Maybe this takes 10 hours a year, 7 hours admin 3 hours adviser.

I want a cashflow forecast, an annual review meeting plus ad hoc pensions and tax advice. Suppose this takes 10 hours a year. Charge me £1,500 a year fixed fee. How is this any different?

It seems to me that until we break this dependence on investment management we are never really going to shift the emphasis from product to planning.

Challenging

Of course, I could do this myself. Or could I? My motivation is partly so that my family has someone to turn to if I’m not here. It is also because I want me and my wife to be challenged, to question our assumptions on the one hand, and to encourage us to dream a little on the other.

There is a lot of talk about robot advisers at the moment, and advisers are certainly under pressure from clients who believe they can manage their own investments. Challenging, good questioning and listening techniques, these are the skills advisers can use to really add value to the client relationship.

Conclusion

I could go on. I’ve not touched on logging time, for example, which means that each hour invoiced is a profitable hour. About how the cashflow forecast is such an important part of the service for me. About the importance for me of knowing that someone will really understand my family in a way that my accountant and solicitor don’t seem to want to.

At the moment, it seems that such requirements make me an unattractive client to the financial planning community.