Every Financial Adviser must have a Personal Development Plan which should be split into three elements. The first element should be what the Adviser themselves wants to develop and linked to relevant Continuous Personal Development activities. The second element should be what the T&C Scheme has identified that the Adviser needs to develop and linked to Key Performance Indicators such as file checks, competency assessment feedback, and possibly Treating Customers Fairly feedback. The third element should be what both the firm and the Adviser want to achieve from an income or business growth perspective, and this should link into a specific Business Plan which plots how the Adviser will achieve this. Therefore it’s important that we understand how the Business Plan links back into the T&C Scheme.
Nobody has a crystal ball with which they can guarantee an outcome, but everybody has the ability to create an outcome. It’s called “planning”.
Putting together a Business Plan needs careful consideration. If it’s just built around ongoing income from previous years plus waving a wet finger in the air to guess how much repeat business is going to come from both new and existing customers alike, the Business Plan is likely to end up more akin to a wish list and highly likely to fail to achieve the desired results. Nobody has a crystal ball with which they can guarantee an outcome, but everybody has the ability to create an outcome. It’s called “planning”.
The Business Plan must, of course, start with ongoing income and at the start of the business year the Adviser would expect an amount of ongoing income from funds under management to fulfil part of whatever target has been agreed. However the Adviser must factor in changes in values since, like the risk warning provided to clients that the value of their investments can go down as well as up, these same changes in value will also affect the Advisers’ ongoing income, unless set fees are in place. Likewise the Adviser must factor in other changes to funds under management, such as known future maturities and drawdowns, possible withdrawals, and have contingency for unexpected impacts such as deaths or transfers away from the adviser’s agency. On the upside there will be a number of clients who regularly add further funds into such products as pensions and ISA’s.
The T&C Scheme will be looking to see how the Adviser plans his servicing arrangements to justify receiving the ongoing income, so the Business Plan must incorporate all the servicing activity including how many clients need servicing and when, since the T&C Scheme will be monitoring this throughout the duration of the plan. There may also be other reasons that the T&C Scheme is interested in the plan, for example the Adviser may have not serviced all the clients in the previous year, not documented the review meetings correctly, or have had other issues such as client locality and time-keeping.
Servicing existing clients also generates a number of opportunities for the Adviser. Apart from potential additional business these meetings may also cover other objectives in the Personal Development Plan, set either by the T&C Scheme or even by the Adviser. These may include acquiring more referrals measured against the number acquired in the previous year. They may include dealing with types of business that previously were passed to another Adviser, for example Defined Benefit transfers, or perhaps Equity Release business. Perhaps the adviser has recently attended a workshop on specific investment products and is looking to introduce these to clients as and where appropriate. Again, the T&C Scheme would review the Business Plan to understand where there may be a requirement for additional checking and monitoring, or where there may be additional risks.
Advisers may also wish to develop into different markets, such as corporate business advice on a range of employee benefits. For individual Advisers this may present a number of challenges from a business volume, delivery, and even an administrative perspective. It’s quite possible for a reasonable sized corporate client to tie an Adviser down, and both the Adviser and the T&C Scheme need to understand where the potential risks are and the possible impacts on the Advisers’ other commitments.
The Business Plan should also include periods when the Adviser is not available, such as holidays and any known courses where the Adviser may require some form of cover. Provision should also be made for Continuous Personal Development, simply because all Advisers are required to undertake thirty-five hours CPD over a twelve month period, so the equivalent of another week out of the diary needs to be planned in to ensure this requirement is met.
If the Business Plan includes all these activities, why is it often the case that an Adviser’s diary is so empty? It all comes back to planning. An Adviser with say, one hundred existing clients who are paying the Adviser an ongoing income should be undertaking servicing meetings at least two to three clients a week allowing for unavailable periods, and a schedule set up to facilitate this. Existing client meetings may not necessarily be booked so far in advance, but they should be allocated across the calendar year. Add in time for CPD on a periodic basis, perhaps weekly, perhaps monthly, then allocate time for new clients, whether individual or corporate, and that diary soon starts to fill up.
So there needs to be a clear link between personal development and business development. The T&C Scheme must understand and, if necessary, become involved with an Adviser’s Business Plan to ensure that both its objectives, and those set in the Personal Development Plan are monitored and met.