Gearing for Growth
Rethinking the Teamwork Principle
A new structural approach in the run-up to RDR has allowed adviser Lansdown Place to optimise its in-house expertise for the benefit of all its clients. IFA Magazine talks to Lansdown’s managing director Nicola Mould.
With less than eight months still remaining before the Retail Distribution Review gets under way, Bristol-based advisory firm, Lansdown Place, has all hands on deck to make sure it will all be plain sailing come January 2013. That’s a challenge that has prompted the form to completely rethink the one-on-one client relationships that have tended to dominate up till now.
The problem, as managing director Nicola Mould explains, is that many fear that the new fee structures after RDR might leave the private wealth sector looking like the exclusive domain of the super-rich. Lansdown Place is setting out its stall to ensure that that won’t need to be the case.
To meet the challenge, the 20-year-old business has refocused its existing strengths in two key divisions – corporate benefits for businesses on the one hand, and private wealth for individual advice on the other. And it turns out that the two are not as mutually exclusive as you might have supposed.
Nicola says the success of the private wealth division is not merely dependent on the corporate wealth division – rather, it’s an intrinsic part of it, going forward. For Lansdown Place in particular, this was a natural and commonsense strategy for a firm that has always excelled in offering holistic advice to its client base.
“We’ve always provided corporate benefits advice, but have never promoted it as a standalone offering. If one of our private wealth clients happens to own a business, we have always offered our services. But the restructure has meant that we are now targeting businesses directly.”
And this is where the private wealth division comes into its own; in providing bolt-on personal wealth services to both company executives and their employees. “We don’t just deal with their corporate pension,” Nicola says. “We’ll also sit down with them and look at other issues they may have – protection, investment, IHT planning and so on.”
“Post-RDR, there will be a lot of people without an adviser, because of cost (or perceived cost); and what we are trying to do here is to have an offering that will make it financially viable for us to deal with those individuals who fall into this category. That’s a challenge for any IFA firm in a non-commission world. Both sides of the company must support each other. That is very important to us.”
And that in turn has meant investing in people and keeping the well-being of the company’s clients firmly at the top of the agenda.
“As with most IFA firms, the big issue is in restructuring the culture of the business and looking at the client proposition. The service provided to clients has always been a focus – now it is an imperative.”
With a move to new, larger offices in October, the focusing of the company, the appointment of a further three advisers, bringing the total number of RIs to 15, the tail-end of 2011 brought about some big changes for Lansdown Place.
As Nicola explains: “We have a phenomenal wealth of expertise at Lansdown Place. There are different individuals within the business who have particular strengths in different areas, whether in IHT planning, or corporate benefits or investment. And if, for example, a client has a particularly complex tax issue to deal with, we will make sure that is dealt with by the most appropriate person in the office.
“Naturally it’s important that our clients should want to have a relationship with one individual, as before. But if there’s someone else in the office who’s better equipped to deal with a particular issue, then that’s where it will be referred to. We fully support the integrated team principle, because it allows them to help and support one another.
It’s been a culture-change for them to do that, because IFAs can be very protective over their own business. However, we have found that clients enjoy this multi-expert approach, and that it has never detracted from their relationship with their usual adviser.”
The team ethic is such that the firm has started a series of seminars with professional introducers. Working with solicitors, accountants and actuaries it both builds relationships that can lead to an enlarged client base, but also shares the valuable knowledge that each of these professions holds.
Nicola says: “With RDR or auto-enrolment, many professionals are not fully up to speed yet with what’s going on. It may be some years away [until auto-enrolment], but people need to be getting prepared for it. It’s going to have a big effect on their payroll, and on the way they manage their HR departments.”
Not surprisingly the new ethos of how business is done at Lansdown Place also extends to how it recruits new advisers to the highly-experienced team. “There are some fantastically knowledgeable new IFAs looking for a role in a successful company, but without portfolio it can be difficult to provide them with that role. There are also a number of IFAs looking to leave the industry and retire. We like to team them up.”
“If an IFA is retiring, we bring them into the business for a one or two year period. They get to know us, we get to know them. And when they are ready to leave the industry, we do the handover of clients. The adviser taking over has the benefit of the experience of the retiring IFA, which is usually vast, and the clients are happy.
“It has a cost associated with it, certainly. But for us the client is key, and if the client’s happy then we’re happy, because it means that we secure that client for the next ten or 15 years, or however long it may be.
“We allow the retiring IFA to retire in the full knowledge that their client is being well looked after, and that is often most important to them. Quite often these people are their friends. In the retirement packages that we’ve completed, we’ve had a 100% success rate.”
There can be little doubt that Lansdown Place is now superbly positioned to sail into the brave new post-RDR world just over the horizon.
Lansdown Place are actively seeking IFAs with Portfolio to join the dynamic business.
If you would like an informal and completely confidential discussion to explore your options, please contact Nicola Mould, Managing Director: NicolaMould@lansdownplace.co.uk or by telephone on 0845 30 50 222
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