I want to talk about the “Annual Review” as it has been bugging me for a while.
Why I am thinking about it
Our team have been working a lot on service at Xentum.
We are continually looking at ways to improve the way we deliver our proposition and one of the biggest improvements we have made in recent times was to brand and process our initial financial planning service as WealthPlan.
We built WealthPlan as a standalone financial planning service for a few reasons:
- It is primarily aimed at business owners that are due to exit over the next few years
- It is a fixed fee service (averaging at £2,495) and a fairly small cost barrier for business owners to work with us.
- Most business owners were used to paying consultancy fees for audits of their business and this was similar for their personal finances.
- It gave us a good indication without a long term commitment whether we are a good fit to work with the client and vice versa
- It was a good way to scope out complexity and amount of likely work to then move on to our tiered fixed fee levels for ongoing service.
- One of our core beliefs at Xentum was “plan first” and this was a way to make sure that every client went through the financial planning process.
The WealthPlan service has been a success but not one to stand still we are now looking to think a bit differently about other components of our services.
So we started looking at our ongoing service….
Annual Review… really?
Most of our new clients are business owners. They aren’t straight forward clients.
Many of them have significant value tied up in their business maybe some pensions, ISAs, life cover, shareholder protection and have fairly complex financial planning needs.
I learnt a while ago that for this audience the old annual review wasn’t providing much value to many of them – it just didn’t seem to fit
An annual review suggested to me (and them) that you are going to sit down once a year, look at how my investments and pensions are doing and maybe write me a long report about whether everything is suitable.
Does that sound appetising if you are running a business?
When we spoke to a few of our business owners clients and asked for feedback we learnt the following:
- Many of them needed regular meetings to keep up with the pace of change in their lives.
- They also wanted their longer meetings to be more agenda driven (like a board meeting)
- Meetings should be focused on the bigger picture including strategic decisions.
- They wanted communication to be simple and understandable
- They wanted action points that kept them accountable.
In summary, they didn’t want to look back. They wanted to look forward, get insights and help with their focus and energy towards a bigger goal.
They wanted regular financial planning which was proving high value rather than backward looking meetings.
On the back of this feedback we have adapted our service for business owner clients.
We have scheduled meetings over a 12 month period including tax planning, company year end planning and the usual planning meetings.
We are always trying to deliver a service that provides value to the clients we look after. It is important to remember that we are in the service and experience business despite being regulated.
What does your client base want?
Now I understand that not everyone will have clients like this but the most important aspect of our learning was to understand what service would be valuable.
Some of our more traditional clients are happy to sit down every year and just want peace of mind that everything is going to be ok.
However, both sets of clients wanted to look forward and not back and this was key information for us.
It is worth looking at your client base or the clients you want to attract and trying to understand what a good ongoing service looks like to them – if you ask them they are usually pretty good at telling you!
And do me a favour – as a profession I am sure we can do much better than the “annual review”.