The IFA industry: Part 3 of our Work to Live series

In the third of our four-part series in conversation with Ian Richards, founder of Work to Live Financial Planning, we meet the man on a mission to promote the concept of ‘working smarter not harder’ to clients and entrepreneurial IFA peers alike; a mantle that’s proving even heavier to carry during these times of global crisis. 

Ian Richards, IFA and founder of Work to Live Financial Planning (credit: Ian Richards)

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Ian Richards IFA continues to look on the bright side and focus on what he can do to help others as we battle on through the lockdown. 

“With regulation, we as IFAs obviously know that there’s a lot, but it doesn’t cause me a great deal of stress because generally I’ll look to outsource as much as I can for my business. There are a lot of people looking for freelance work now more than ever as the impact of Coronavirus hits, so I’m happy to be able to carry on engaging as many people as I can at this time.”

A more detailed look at the type of work he does outsource on behalf of his company, Work to Live Financial Planning, reveals Ian’s bug-bear is the same as nearly every IFA’s:

“The biggest bug-bear I have is the admin side, getting data off clients in a way that is quick and efficient. This is a kind of a plug for Advicefront because I know what they’re trying to do in solving that problem for advisers!

“You have this great conversation with a client, you talk about all the things that they want out of life, you get them excited and then say, ‘Great to work with you, here’s a stack of about 20 pages of a client agreement for you to look over’, so you’ve just moved the conversation from something that’s completely aspirational to something that’s like, ‘Oh, okay!’. 

“The question is always, ‘How do we move that burden away from the client?’ and one answer is, Open Banking, which will allow advisers access to bank and other accounts without even involving the client in the work.  

“What’s a fax?!”

“It seems that America are far ahead of the UK in this sense. Clients send advisers a login where all the bank details are and all they have to do is connect them and then it gives you a breakdown on what clients are actually spending.”

As well as using software like Advicefront’s and the concept of Open Banking to save time and effort on admin, Ian favours other tools that help him streamline his working day: 

“Writing to pension providers to try and get client information usually still requires you to send hard copy letters whereas some new application forms from companies that are quite forward thinking allow you to sign documents electronically. Some organisations are like, ‘No, we still need wet signatures’, but we can open a bank account now in two minutes and others are still asking you to go through a long process and wait for 30 days at least to get the information you want. It’s just ridiculous.

“I asked one member of staff to send a fax and they asked, ‘What’s a fax?’!”.

Advising younger generations is another aspect of advice that Ian feels passionate about doing well:

“As advisers, we need the process of exchanging and accessing information to be as slick as possible. We want to make it a quick and painless transaction for people. If I’m working with clients who are Millennials or in their early forties and they can have a new bank account in a couple of minutes and I’m telling them that they need to fill out this application form they’re bound to think, ‘That’s a bit odd’.”

Coaching 

Turning his thoughts to other ways of helping clients, Ian also advocates a low-tech method of teasing helpful information out of conversations – financial coaching:

“I’ve been giving this quite a lot of thought, I mean, this distinction between coaching generally and financial coaching. 

“I think a large element of what I want to know as a financial planner, is to understand what clients want out of life. Coaching around behaviours is where it falls down for IFAs, I think, because working with a general life coach, you will do  a lot of work around mindset and some of the subconscious mental barriers clients have, stuff that they’re not aware of. But, as financial planners, we tend to focus very much on the financial goals that clients want to achieve, whether they want to sell or set-up a business and so on and we often don’t say, ‘Okay, well, why do you want to do that? What are your barriers, why don’t you think you can do it?’.

“So, I think there should be an element of balance between the two types of coaching for IFAs. 

“One of the things I’m actually working with my coach on is creating a programme that incorporates this traditional life coaching into what I currently offer clients, which is of course, financial advice. It’s not financial coaching per se, but actually life coaching, which will help me to really understand what they’re trying to achieve and help them to work on some of the mindset issues that might be holding them back. For example, they might only want to work for nine months a year, but they don’t think they can because they don’t think they’re good enough for that kind of lifestyle or good enough to set-up a business.” 

The connection between Ian’s own experiences whilst being coached and setting-up the business and how he wants to position Work to Live in order to help clients is strong:  

“Before being coached, no one really gets asked the question, ‘What do you want out of the next five or 10 years, what do you want it to look like?’, so as IFAs we are doing an element of that so I think there is scope for more life coaching in the industry. 

“Specifically, I’m thinking about people who are leaving the corporate world and are looking to launch a business. We can help them massively from the financial planning side of it and we should be doing more around the mindset blocks because I think everyone has those negative beliefs and they become magnified when you make the leap and start thinking about being your own boss.

“Why would anyone listen to me?”

“I know I’ve had to work through them myself and when I started up I’d think that everyone else I met is doing it better, you know, not regarding myself as an expert too….I’ve got more qualifications than probably most advisers out there but I still asked myself, ‘Why would anyone listen to me?’. 

“I was having this conversation with my coach recently and I was feeling a bit lost and she got me to write down what the underlying cause was and it was literally a rerun of what I brought-up with him six months prior. For me, it comes back to always comparing myself to other people, forgetting that I’m only seeing all the good stuff that they’re doing and none of the hard work and failures that inevitably happen in the background. 

“Going into business is tough enough and if you’re dealing with all those negative thoughts it’s going to be ten times harder. Our job as IFAs is ultimately to get people the life that they want to live and show them how to use money to do that and if we can bring in a life coach to help them with all the mindset stuff then that’s only going to improve the outcome. 

“So, that’s where I stand when it comes to incorporating coaching and financial planning. I definitely think that sort of collaboration can only lead to better outcomes for clients.”

To win a copy of Gratitude Marketing: How You Can Create Clients For Life By Using 33 Simple Secrets From Successful Financial advisers, by Michael F. Sciortino, simply like, react to or share this blog post on LinkedIn or Twitter. Winners will be picked at random in the next seven days and notified via social media 📲😀

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