This article first appeared in Professional Adviser.

The softer side of future-proofing

Advisers cannot rest on their laurels if they want their practice to remain sustainable over the long term.  Future-proofing is essential…

IFAs have had immense changes to contend with in recent years. From the Covid-19 pandemic to the emergence of robo-advice, and a growing need to engage with the younger generations, advisers cannot rest on their laurels if they want their practice to remain sustainable over the long term.

I’m often asked what advisers should be doing to future-proof their business. In today’s market, this is no longer just about devising a succession plan, but rather focusing on those ‘softer’ elements that will foster a community-like atmosphere that clients genuinely want to be part of – and will encourage them to recommend relatives and friends over the years to come.

Here are three examples.

1. Prioritise personal touches

Most advice businesses are now using tech to drive operational efficiency, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of personal touches that show clients how much you value their custom.

There’s nothing more personal than sitting down with someone to discuss the ins and outs of their finances, so it can be a bit jarring for clients if the only contact they have with their adviser outside of their annual review is limited to admin-related emails. Things like handwritten birthday cards might seem a bit old-school, but even small gestures like this can be incredibly powerful and don’t go unnoticed.

I also know of firms that send out a small gift or thank you card on the anniversary of someone becoming a client. This is another great way to show clients your gratitude, but also keeps you front of mind if they’re speaking to friends and family that could benefit from your services.

 2. Factor in other areas of their lives

It’s funny to think that financial advisers are often entrusted with more information about the intricacies of clients’ lives than their doctor or spouse. This is an incredibly privileged position to be in and I’m a big believer in using this influence to have a positive impact outside of ‘traditional’ financial advice.

For example, a big strength of Vitality is that rather than simply selling the benefits of health insurance, they are known for creating incentives for customers to lead healthier lifestyles.

I’m not suggesting we start telling clients how to live their lives, but we could definitely think more laterally in terms of the ‘value-add’ features we offer. It would be easy, for instance, for IFAs to run financial education workshops for clients with children, or budgeting masterclasses for those with teenagers about to head off to university.

At the other end of the scale, perhaps some clients have older parents and would appreciate guidance on how to approach wills and inheritance tax planning, or the tricky conversations around going into long-term care.

3. Create a sense of community among clients

Face-to-face client events might have fallen out of favour during the pandemic, but can create a valuable sense of community among clients that encourages them to stay with your business for the long haul. Particularly for those who don’t have many friends or relatives living nearby, touchpoints like this with other local people can be incredibly meaningful.

Group lunches or dinners can be a great start, but another idea could be to invite a client to co-host a gathering with you once a quarter. Given the average adviser has 150 clients, I’m sure at least a handful would have a quirky backstory or hobby they’d be happy to share with others. Are one of your clients into pottery or rug hooking for example? Perhaps they could put on a masterclass.

The idea isn’t to spend lots of money on a fancy restaurant, but rather do something a bit different that will engage clients, show them that you pay attention to who they are as individuals, which will set yourself apart from other firms.

By finding ways to personalise relationships with clients and bring them together, advisers can create a club-like atmosphere that genuinely enriches clients’ lives, while working towards building a more sustainable business that people want to stay and support. That’s something everyone can get behind.