The future for IFA business is local

There is little more depressing than starting the day by reading the seemingly endless stream of moans on Twitter and Facebook posted by commuters.

Delayed trains, packed carriages, bus replacement services and even trains facing in the wrong direction. It’s any wonder that this hardy group of people does not resign on the spot or at the very least suggest remote-working.

I’m not a big fan of commuting.

For the first couple of years of my career, I spent more of the day in the car than I did at my desk or in customer offices. My epic cross country drive to work in Tunbridge Wells was made even more painful by my girlfriend of the time living in Winchester; ‘only’ 100 miles or so in each direction, but a multi-hour stop/start slog in rush hour traffic on a Friday evening.

Switching jobs to work in Croydon didn’t much improve things. Working in Croydon basically involved an hour of driving to get to the edge of the town, and then another hour to get into the hellhole itself. Purley Way, I hate you.

Despite a much easier commute when I joined the family business in 2002, I still somehow managed to get dumped on with the responsibility for our corporate clients in Birmingham and Liverpool.

Spending any decent amount of time travelling to and from client meetings, or indeed to and from your workplace, is a pretty sound definition of madness. It’s also unnecessary and probably holding you back from being successful.

Take where I live and work in Cranleigh, for example. I’m aware that this place is not typical and is probably not representative of the UK as a whole, but for the sake of illustrating my point, go with it for a moment.

The GU (or Guildford) postcode area is one of 38 postcode districts across England. Imagine for a second that I made the conscious decision to never leave it for the purposes of work.

At last count, this postcode area contains just over half a million people, of which 233,917 are referred to as ‘wealthy achievers’. In demographic terms, a large proportion of them are ‘true blues’ or ‘silver foxes’.

According to some research we saw published last year:

A significant proportion of wealthy mature professionals live in large house and villages are populated by wealthy commuters. Houses tend to be large and detached with four or more bedrooms and many are owned outright. There is a mix of middle aged families, empty nesters and wealthy retired. They are well educated individuals with high levels of academic qualifications. Most are employed in senior managerial and professional occupations or are running their own businesses. These are consumers with the money and space to enjoy very comfortable lifestyles.

In other words, they are the ideal clients for 99.9% of IFAs. On that basis, why would I ever go any further afield?

Staying local just makes sense. That time you save on waiting for a delayed train or stuck in a traffic jam can be spent delivering a better service to existing clients, finding new (local) clients or on engaging in professional development.

Marketing closer to home makes it easier to target your message, identify the ideal client and speak directly to them.

Our firm is twenty years old this summer and only relatively recently have we started to appreciate the value of local marketing. Simple measures such as having the paving slabs outside of our office relaid last summer have dramatically improved the quantity and quality of local client enquiries.

We will no doubt continue to work with clients outside of our locality; I was up in London this morning meeting with an existing client and was yesterday referred to a client in Oxfordshire. But the future for business is most definitely local.