Those brave people who own a boat would know that without a fully functioning motor, your boat is not much good to you. The same rule applies to your business.
If the engine room in the office is not running smoothly, you've got problems. It can drain your time and your energy. Conversely, if it is ticking over smoothly it can be your greatest asset in making your business efficient, profitable and client focused.
Recently I presented at an adviser practice support conference open to the financial planning industry, which was held by Centrepoint Alliance. The conference program was specifically designed for practice owners to invest in their support staff to learn more about the adviser role and responsibilities, as well as peeling back their support role functions and exploring more efficient ways of contributing and implementing in their office.
It was great to see the enthusiasm and commitment to the business they worked in and the wider industry. What was clearly apparent was that by networking with their peers they were able to identify effective solutions and more efficient ways to perform their roles. This got me thinking about the wider network and the question of how well oiled and tuned is the engine room of your business?
With so much going on in the industry with new regulations and so on, and the constant need to prioritise client time, core adviser responsibilities, and finance, it can be hard to find time to focus on the everyday functions and processes of your business. But doing so can be one of the best investments you can make, so here are some of my key thoughts on how to tune up your office engine:
• Use of Financial Planning Software – In today's world it still astounds me the amount of advisers still using Excel software as a substitute for proper financial planning software to manage their clients. In addition, using Microsoft Word templates to complete the Statement of Advice. The use of financial planning software will allow an effective client management system and possibly a more compliant statement of advice to be completed. Of course, it will take some time and commitment to set it up, but like most useful technology, once it's up and running we wonder how we ever got by without it.
• Involving your support staff – It is imperative that your support staff understand your business goals and objectives to ensure that the client's experience is consistent across all levels of the business. They are generally the first person your client sees when they come to your office and quite often, once the initial client meeting is had by the adviser, it is the support staff that has contact with your client for implementation and ongoing service. This makes them crucial to maintaining clients and generating referrals.
• Outsourcing your back office – Many advisers that don’t have staff have started to outsource a portion of their back office to a third party. Some of the job functions of outsourcing are paraplanning, client input, review letters, marketing, client follow-ups, underwriting follow-ups and much, much more. Outsourcing of these functions can be obtained onshore and offshore. It can be a very cost effective way and can free up time for the adviser to see more clients.
• Invest in your support staff – With continuous changes in our industry it makes it impossible to know everything. Invest in your staff to attend some of your meetings, attend product provider updates, financial planning software webinars and workshops. If they are empowered to do so, they might really surprise you with what a difference they can make to your business.
I know that the attendees of the staff support conference have formed a social media group in which they can bounce off ideas and ask questions, and I'm sure they will continue to contribute and implement efficient ideas within their office environment. This is no different to advisers attending conferences in which a lot of the good ideas that are taken back have arisen from networking with professional colleagues.
It is always worth investing the time and effort to ensure that your boat is sea worthy and doesn’t just look good from the outside.
David Spiteri is the national risk manager at Centrepoint Alliance
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