3rd Feb, 2021 - Webinar replay

How to successfully communicate increases or changes to your fee structure

Phil Bray 0:00
Good morning, everybody. And welcome to today’s webinar – how to successfully communicate increases or changes to your fee structure. As usual, the bells of Nottingham’s Council House are ringing at 10 o’clock. So we’ll make a start and just welcome everybody to today’s webinar, which really came out of a post on the LifeTalk Facebook group. There was a few people on there, talking about how to communicate fee increases to clients. And we’ve ran a couple of successful projects in that direction. So I thought we’d share some of the key learnings from that, which is what we’re going to do over the course the next hour. But I want to introduce you to Dan. Dan is going to be keeping us on the straight and narrow today. Dan, do you want to just talk about the housekeeping for today’s webinar?

Dan Campbell 0:52
Absolutely. So hi, everyone, we’ve got 144 people attending here. And we’ve had one or two questions already, about whether you’re muted or not? So don’t worry, if you’ve got homeschooling going on in the background, you’re absolutely muted. So feel free to get as loud as you want in the background. In terms of questions, we’ll be taking questions at natural breaks throughout the session. So just put them in the Q&A box at the bottom. There’s always going to be a few that come straight through to the chat. So don’t worry, if you get lost along the way. We’ll try and group all of those questions up, you know, as we go. In order to make sure that we answer everyone’s questions, I’ll be amalgamating similar questions just so we get a wide as possible variety. So yeah, don’t feel shy, basically! The more the merrier.

Phil Bray 1:39
Thanks, Dan. And whilst everybody is muted, and your camera’s are off, Dan, your’s aren’t, and neither are mine. And it’s daddy daycare for me as well today. I’ve got Amy, my eight year old daughter, just off camera as well. So if there’s any background noises, please accept my apologies. And so let’s make a start, shall we? We’ve got a lot to get through over the course of the next hour. So what are we going to talk about today? We’re going to talk about demonstrating value to start with. Because for me, that’s a really important starting point, when it comes to making changes to your fee structure, or increasing the amount you charge to clients. Then I’m gonna give you a few notes and a few thoughts about rebuilding pricing models. And then get to the main part of the session where we’re gonna be talking about, how to communicate price rises, price changes to your existing clients. And we’re going to include some details about a case study. A firm that we helped not so long ago, to do just this. Then gonna talk about how to put your fees in context; how to compare them to your peers. Give you some strategies for coping with queries and objections. And deal with that that old contentious issue, about online fee disclosure. Should we be putting fees on websites, etc? So I thought I’d talk about that again today as well. But please, do question us. Do add your comments, do add your feedback; we don’t have all the answers. The stuff that we’re going to talk about today, is based on what we’ve seen work. And a lot of people on this call who will have done and run similar projects. So if we can bring a lot of ideas together, it will be more useful for for all of us. So please do put your questions in the Q&A. And Dan will stop me periodically, at an appropriate point. And I will hang around as long as we need to at the end, to make sure all questions get answered. Dan, did I see something come in there?

Dan Campbell 3:40
Yeah. So we’ve gotten a question from Paula, who asks if everyone’s going to get a copy of the slides afterwards? So absolutely will have a copy of the slides, and this presentation – we’re recording it as we go, so that’ll get uploaded to YouTube. And in the follow up email that everybody gets, the link will be there for everybody to read again, and view again.

Phil Bray 3:59
And, and we’ll also… there is a favour that we’re going to ask everybody on this webinar, to indulges in. We’ve got a short little survey of six questions that will take at least a whole couple of minutes to answer. So we’re gonna be asking people to complete that at some point during this webinar as well. So Dan, we’re definitely recording, aren’t we?

Dan Campbell 3:59
Absolutely, the little red button’s on.

Phil Bray 4:12
I’m making sure that I haven’t pressed the wrong button. Right, let’s move forward. So, let’s start by talking about demonstrating value. And we come across some financial planners, some financial advisers, occasionally, who doubt the value that they deliver to clients. They… The very symptoms that we see here, some will be thinking about whether they need to reduce their fees or negotiate on individual clients. Impostor syndrome is a good indicator that the planner might be having a little bit of doubt about the value that they deliver. And they’re looking out to expand, looking to expand their niches, their target audience. And this can also be a symptom of them not having confidence in their marketing. I’ll get more clients if I reduce my fees, I’ll get more clients if I work in wider niches. That’s not a contradiction. But we’ll work with more different types of target audiences. But we do – interestingly, as I say – come across some planners who have either lingering, or occasional doubts, about the value that they add. And for me, the starting point about any changes to fee structures – whether it’s just a change the structure or an increase – needs to be a solid foundation, that you understand the value that you add. So therefore, for me, the remedy to this problem is building a comprehensive picture to evidence and demonstrate the value that you add as a financial planner, and your firm adds. And we should be using that social proof for evidence with yourself, to start with. We all need a shot in the arm sometimes, and a boost of our confidence. So use it with yourself to start with. Use it with your team as well, because it’s really important, they understand the value that they – you the planner, and the firm overall – ads to your clients. We’d use the social proof with your clients as well, either from a marketing perspective, but in this context around fees. And obviously it will get used with prospects when it comes to marketing as well. So those are the four groups of people that we should be evidencing value with, but how do we do it? And for me, the ideal mix is a combination of client surveys, online reviews, and client videos. So before we get into the fee increase, I just want to talk a little bit more about each of those three, because they are important for creating, as I say, that concrete base of confidence that you are delivering – you are delivering value. So, the first of these will be client surveys. Now the beauty of client surveys, is they show the views of a large proportion of your client bank. We’re going to talk about client videos in a minute. And whilst I think client videos are the gold standard of social proof, there is always the accusation that you’re only going to put the best clients in front of the camera. And that’s true – you are. But client surveys give the views of a large proportion of your client bank; a representative proportion of your client bank. And we’ve done a lot of client surveys over the years. And there’s three questions for me, which really help us to demonstrate value. And we ask these all the time. The first is, “Would you recommend us to friends, family and work colleagues?” So that’s heading towards a kind of Net Promoter Score style answer. “Do you believe working with us has helped or will help you to achieve your goals?” Again, really trying to demonstrate value, and to demonstrate that the clients are getting the outcome that they’re looking for. And then this is probably my favourite question – and it’s an open ended question. “What’s the single biggest benefit you get from working with us?” “What’s the single biggest benefit you get from working with us?” And we leave it deliberately open. We don’t give any suggested answers. We leave it deliberately open. And what you end up with when we’re scrolling through it, is a long list of answers. And I just picked at random the answers given for one financial planning firm, and created – much to Dan’s amusement earlier today – a little word cloud. And word cloud, as you all know, the larger the text, the more people gave those as an answer. And the three things that we’re picking out there: peace of mind, confidence, reassurance. And, whenever we scroll down this question, “…the single biggest benefit of working with us?”, it’s uncanny how often, and unprompted, “peace of mind” comes up. I would suggest one in four, one in five, of almost every survey we deliver, that “peace of mind” – those three words crop up on a regular basis. And again, it just gives the planner, the firm, a boost – that they’re delivering value for clients. It really is so important. Dan, have I seen a couple of questions coming in?

Dan Campbell 9:58
Yeah, so I think the first one, it’s about approach and language, which I believe we’re going to get on to, in a little bit when speaking to clients. So I’ll save that one. But we’ve got one that says, “Is it useful asking what they see as the biggest improvement we could make, as a firm?”

Phil Bray 10:20
100%. So, in our client surveys, we typically follow up, “What’s the biggest single benefit you get from working with us?” With a question something along the lines of, “If you were in charge of ‘insert the name of your firm’, what would you do differently?” “Or what’s the single biggest thing you’d change?” Something like that. So, giving them permission, putting them in charge of the business, and asking them, well, what would they change? And you always get some really interesting answers there. What you tend to get, is you get less consistency than you do for this question beforehand. But you are giving them – as I say – permission. You’re putting them in the MD’s chair and saying, “All right, what would you change?” and it always gets a list, it’s a really good set of answers. So, client survey, first of the three things that I would do, to build social proof and build evidence of value. Second thing I would do, is online reviews. So my preference is to run client surveys at fixed points in time. So it might be that your firm runs client surveys every February, or we do our client survey every other year in February. What that does, it creates fixed points in time, when you can measure change, improvement or otherwise. If you’re sending client surveys out after each annual review, for example, apart from the fact they tend to have a compliance focus, which I’m not keen on – apologies to anybody with a compliance focus who’s on the call – you can’t measure change so easily. Plus, I like to do our ongoing collection of feedback in public, for all sorts of reasons, which I can happily answer if anybody wants. And my preferred platforms – and again, happy to explain if anybody wants to – is Google and VouchedFor. And, I will be running projects to boost the number of Google and VouchedFor reviews that a firm could get. Bear in mind, if you ask, you do get. I was on a call this morning with a firm who have got 42 Google reviews, just a sole practitioner firm, 42 Google reviews, in the course of… Sorry, VouchedFor reviews, in the course of a couple of weeks. Another firm we worked with, in January had over 90… nearly 90 Google reviews, and over 200 VouchedFor reviews in the course of a month. So if you ask, and you ask in the right way, you do get. So that’s the second of my three things in terms of demonstrating value. And again, they’re lovely things to share; those Google reviews, those VouchedFor reviews, are lovely things to share. And also give you, just, your own confidence, a bit of a boost. And then finally, client videos. For me, these are an incredibly powerful way of demonstrating value, and the most powerful form of social proof. Perfectly possible to do them now, during lockdown with Zoom, and a mobile phone or a smartphone. In fact, I think there’s some significant benefits of recording them remotely compared to on site videos. And each video you do should include three stages: the setup – which is the challenges, the problems, why the client chose to work with you? The action: how did you solve their problems? No personal information needs to be passed over here. But it is important just to explain what was done. But most importantly, the most important section: The outcome – what’s changed? How do they feel about things now? What’s changed in their lives? How do they feel about you and your firm? Really, really important stuff, and so much you can do with videos. But there’s nothing puts a smile on a planner and their team’s face more, than seeing the results of the client videos. And we get some… we’ve had some lovely feedback from planners. I can think of one yesterday we were editing. And the client said something to the effect of, I asked her about, whether she’s happy to refer the planner on? And she said, “Why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I want my friends to have the peace of mind that he gives me? Being able to refer my friends on, and give them that peace of mind is like a gift I can give to my friends.” And I thought that was a fantastic line, and just will give the planner when they watch it, a real boost. So as I say, I think the first thing is demonstrating value, in those three ways. There are a couple of other ways I’d look at doing it as well. On a client by client basis. I think checklists are incredibly important. Checklists to demonstrate value. We ran a webinar exclusively for the clients of the Yardstick Agency last month. And we had Carl Richards talking. Carl’s on fantastic form. And one of the things he talked about, in his advisory firm, was the fact that they had a 17 point checklist, which I think he said he ran for every client, every month. And one of the things we’re going to do in the show notes for today’s webinar, is just take a snippet from that session with Carl, and make it available to everybody. Because I thought it was fabulous. And it’s going to be incredibly useful. But checklist; if I was setting up – and I’m not – but if I was setting up a financial planning practice right now, and I was getting Dan to come and work for me and a bunch of other people. One of the things that I will be doing, is building a checklist. And that checklist, I’d get it out at various points, when I’m working with a client. And I would be using it to demonstrate everything that I did as a planner, and that my team did to support me and support the client. And I will be getting it out at their review meetings, working down it, checking it off, maybe even doing it as Carl did – on a monthly basis. But I think that’s incredibly important. A couple of other resources to demonstrate value. And this is research done by Vanguard and the International longevity centre. Both of those pieces of research start quantifying the value of financial planning. And again, that’s just useful grist to the mill, just useful information to demonstrate the value of financial planning. Clearly, the best demonstration of it, is on a one to one basis, but that research helps us as well. So in terms of demonstrating value, there’s a lot you can be doing there. Some planners, and some firms will need it more than others, will need that – talking about shot in the arms a lot at the moment, aren’t we? – but that shot in the arm of confidence. And we need to build that base, that solid base, to move forward from. Dan, any questions before we move on to the next section?

Dan Campbell 17:25
Absolutely. So just going back to those links that you’ve put there on the slides, I’ve put those into the chat, if anybody wants to just copy and paste those to check out later. They will, of course, be in the follow up email as well. Okay, so in terms of questions, quite a few about Google reviews. And, one that’s standing out to me right now is something that we’ve had direct experience with, in the last few days. So Michael asks, “Is there any issue of having no Google reviews, and then all of a sudden having 50?”

Phil Bray 17:57
Hey, Michael, how are you doing? Turns out, not so much! But. So, the firm we helped who’ve got, as I say, 80-90 Google reviews now. They did get a lot in a very short period of time. And, they disappeared for maybe a 12-24 hour period. I assume that’s while Google was just checking the veracity of those reviews. And they appeared again, no problem at all. And so I would… I think that’s led me to think that if I was writing to a large group of clients now, I would maybe stagger it over a period of time; 100 a week, for example. If you were a fairly typical… if you’re a sole practitioner, and you’ve got 100-150 clients, I’d probably just still send it, send it out right now. So that would be my answer.

Dan Campbell 18:51
Okay, so two questions that can perhaps be answered in the same answer. So Waseem asks, “How do we set up an account for Google reviews?” And then, Jim asks, “Will we be covering the right way to ask for those reviews?”

Phil Bray 19:07
We’ll cover how to ask for the reviews at the end of the webinar, if that’s okay, for those people who want to hang around or listen to it. And, in terms of how you set up to get Google reviews, it’s linked, Waseem, to your Google My Business listing. So, when you run a brand search for your business name, so just type your business name into Google. At the right hand side, top right, should be a box? And that’s your Google My Business listing. There’ll be some photos, a map, and contact details, etc. If you’ve got that set up, then people can click the “write a review” button, and go and leave a review. If you don’t have that set up, then just Google, Google My Business. Follow the instructions, set up an account for your business, and then people can leave review that way.

Dan Campbell 19:57

Phil Bray 19:57
Is that Okay?

Dan Campbell 19:59
Okay, so, two more questions. The rest I’m just going to put to later on, which they may be answered later on. But the one is a mysterious attendee marked as Anonymous, asks, “Even if we feel 100% confident that we deliver excellent value and superb service, there’s always a risk with Google reviews being less than positive. What are your thoughts on that?”

Phil Bray 20:23
100% there’s a risk, there’s a theoretical risk. I have never seen… Never say never. I’ve rarely seen – I’m trying to think of an example right now – a negative Google or VouchedFor review, when it was factually correct. Very, very occasionally – once or twice a year – you’ll see a firm that gets a fake Google review. So you’ve got to go through the process of trying to get that taken down. But very rarely can I think of an occasion where there’s been a review from a real client that would have caused a problem. Whether it be on Google or VouchedFor. Sure, you might get the odd client who leaves a four star review rather than a five star review. And on VouchedFor, your average score might be 4.6, 4.7, 4.8, out of five. But just because it’s not perfect, lends an air of authenticity. For me, I wouldn’t be looking for perfection, because perfection is inauthentic. Nobody is perfect. So, if things aren’t exactly perfect every single time, that’s not a problem, because it’s inauthentic, if it’s perfect all the time. Hopefully that makes sense, a bit of a rambling answer. Sorry.

Dan Campbell 21:46
That’s really good. And the final question I’ll ask just for now, Debbie asks, “Do we have an example of a checklist in the demonstrating values, like we mentioned checklists at the top?”

Phil Bray 21:58
We’ve got some checklists on our website. Dan, if we make a little note of that, I’ll have a look at what we should be putting in the show notes for this and follow up with?

Dan Campbell 22:04
Of course.

Phil Bray 22:07
Okay, so let’s move on. So once we’ve created that concrete base, we need to think about whether we need to rebuild our pricing model as a business. And every single business that’s selling anything, whether it’s financial planning, financial advice, mortgage advice, marketing services, from time to time needs to look at their pricing models. And when it comes to talking to advisers and planners, I was chatting to one yesterday afternoon, it’s really difficult. I’ve got complete sympathy, with financial planning businesses, when it comes to building their pricing models. As soon as you move away from that really old school model of “three plus a half”, as it used to be called. It gets very difficult. As you try and improve the levels of fairness, and making pricing equitable, it just becomes really quite difficult. It’s confusing, because there’s a lot of noise in our profession. And, a lot of people with a lot of opinions. And, if you listened to too many of those, you end up very confused. And it can be quite scary as well. Are you doing the right thing? What happens when we communicate to clients? Are we about to lose a bunch of clients by putting fees up, or by changing our fee model? So I really do empathise, it’s incredibly difficult to get right. Therefore, it’s natural to bring in doubt. I suspect doubt is a good thing, because it keeps you sharp. But it isn’t an easy task. I think one of the things I would encourage firms to do – and this doesn’t necessarily make me particularly popular, but it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing to do – is to understand your costs, by tracking time. So all financial planning firms that I know, in turn know the cost of their rent, the cost of heat, lights, electricity, Zoom accounts, PI fees; everyone knows that! FCA levies, etc. But I’m not convinced that everyone knows the cost of doing a job. So the cost of processing a piece of business. The cost of building a financial plan, etc, etc. So one of the things I would absolutely encourage firms to do if they’re rebuilding their pricing model, is to track time. How long do things take? And that’s from every job in the business, done by every person. And I will track it for as long as necessary, to understand how long it takes to do different jobs. You got to be careful how you introduce it. The messaging has to be clear, and the motivation has to be the right one. But you can do it. We as an agency – Dan can attest to this – we as an agency track time. Because we need to understand if we’re building a website on a fixed fee, as we do, we need to understand how long each element takes, and whether team members are hitting that on a regular basis. That helps us understand whether our fixed fee model is right. Again, if you’re thinking of charging fixed fees as a financial planning firm and moving from ad valorem to fixed, that’s something you really need to understand. Very rarely, do I see a financial planning firm tracking time in a meaningful way. Clearly, when you’re thinking about rebuilding pricing models, there’s the debate of fixed fees versus ad valorem fees. And this then flows through to using price as a differentiator. And maybe I should have reworded this, because it’s not necessarily price that’s the differentiator. It’s how your fees are constructed. And if you charge fixed fees – we’ll show some SEO research in a bit – but if you charge fixed fees, that’s a differentiator. The majority of the market, certainly for ongoing advice, is charging percentage based ad valorem fees. So if you do move to a fixed fee model, you can use that as a differentiator. And clearly, as you’re rebuilding pricing models, there’s three stakeholders that you need to be thinking about the effect it will have on. Your existing clients, new clients – although that’s easier – and your business. Existing clients, new clients, and your business. Gotta be considering the effects of price changes, or price increases on each of those three. So I’ve got a lot of sympathy with firms, when it comes to rebuilding pricing models. It isn’t easy. And it’s something that takes a lot of time to get right. I’ve seen firms take a year to rebuild their pricing model. And some clearly have done it quicker. But it isn’t easy. And it is a scary and confusing time. Dan, any other questions that have come in?

Dan Campbell 27:01
A few on time tracking, actually. So Tracy asks, “Do we use a specific piece of software for our time tracking?” And we absolutely do. In fact, I could probably answer that one. So our main project management software’s called Asana, and then we use a little plugin called Everhour, that simply a smart stop clock, that can sort of filter through to various billable parts within a project. How much do we pay for that Phil?

Phil Bray 27:25
It’s quite, it’s not an insignificant amount of money. I can’t remember exactly how much, but it’s a couple of £100 pounds a month.

Dan Campbell 27:32
Yeah. And that’s not the cheapest thing. And that’s with what – 30 users?

Phil Bray 27:36

Dan Campbell 27:37
Broken down there. But there’s plenty of other systems available. We use one previously, called toggle, didn’t we?

Phil Bray 27:43
Yeah, toggle. Toggle is one of those pieces of kit where there’s a free version, and then you can upgrade from there. Toggles a decent place to start.

Dan Campbell 27:53
Yeah. And the smaller you are, the more suitable something like Toggle would be. We just simply outgrew it, didn’t we?

Phil Bray 27:59
100%. Yeah, yeah.

Dan Campbell 28:01
And a comment on time tracking by Steve. Steve says, “Time tracking has always shown me that it costs much more than you think, to provide advice.”

Phil Bray 28:12
And that’s – in a sentence – the reason to use it and the reason to be looking at it.

Dan Campbell 28:17
And a comment from Leigh. Leigh says, “I use Intelligent Office, and it has the facility to do this. And it’s very good.” So that’s something worth looking into, if you already use that. I think that’s it for these specific questions. There’s a few that will be relevant a little bit later on. So I’m gonna keep those for a bit, I think.

Phil Bray 28:36
Okay, cool. So let’s move on, to communicating price increase or price changes. For me, you’ve got two options. At a meeting; that clearly could be face to face when things change or by video call. And by post or email. Those are the two options that you’ve got, for communicating price increase or price changes. So let’s take each of them. A meeting; it’s certainly more personal, there’s no getting away from that. It allows the conversation to flow, questions from the client to be handled immediately, and objections to be handled immediately. It is going to be more time consuming, to talk to individual clients, about how you’re going to be charging them moving forwards, whether it’s an increase or just a change. But it is certainly more time consuming to have individual conversations. And those conversations will be spread out over a period of time. Which means that it will take longer for any price increases – or the benefit from any price increases – to flow through into your turnover. And finally, when we get back to face-to-face meetings, potentially it’s more convenient if forms need filling in. Every platform, every organisation will be different, as to what needs completing for a fee increase, and what doesn’t. But if things need signing, if forms need completing, then a face-to-face meeting is potentially more convenient to do that. Clearly, less so if it’s a Zoom meeting or a video call. So, there’s pros and cons for doing, and communicating price increases at a meeting. In terms of tips to get it right, I started writing this. And then I realised that there’s a blog from an organisation called Black Swan. Black Swan is run by a guy called Chris Voss, who one of my favourite books, “Never Split the Difference”, which is by me on my desk. And, the blog is fantastic. So we’ll put this in the show notes. But it’s a great “How to”, for setting up a meeting and explaining news, that the client might not necessarily want to hear. So I’d recommend that highly, and have a read of that. If we’re communicating price increases by email or letter, it’s certainly less personal. And the client can’t immediately raise questions, or immediately raise objections. But it is more efficient. And it ensures the consistency of message. Everybody is getting the same message, at the same time. And in a case study, which we’ll see in a minute, it will increase turnover, and have an impact on turnover, more quickly. Because you’re communicating, more efficiently. The other thing it does – there’ll be a bunch of clients who are continued to be convinced about the value that you deliver. And who are very happy – or very accepting – of any price change, or price increase. So, by communicating via email or letter, it allows you to isolate those clients who might have concerns, might have objections, and to just deal with those in isolation. So there’s pros and cons. You’ve got to do what’s right for your business, and what feels right for you. And, you might think that you want to divide and conquer your client bank; split your client bank up. So, we’ve got a bunch of clients over here, who we’re going to write to. But there’s a few clients we know are quite sensitive, so we’re going to have those conversations face-to-face. I think there’s no binary right or wrong answer, you’ve got to do what’s right for your business. But those are the two key ways of doing it. And if you’re going to do it by a letter – for me, if I was doing this? These are the sorts of things I would include. So I would start with some reassurance, that you’re committed to working with that client – you want to work with that client in the long term. I would then be explaining why fees need to change, why fees need to rise. So if it’s an increase, I would be specific about the reasons why fees need to rise. So you might, for example, talk about the fact that your PI insurance and FCA levies, and fees have risen, 150% over the past five years. But be specific. The more specific you are, the more authentic it looks. And it clearly is anyway, you’re never going to put anything in, that isn’t true. But be be specific. And I would be explaining the fact that – and assuming again, this is true, but – I would be explaining the fact that over the past few years, in that circumstance, five years, we’ve borne the increase of these fees. And therefore margins have reduced, but we can’t continue to do that anymore. So you’re being specific. You’re explaining to clients, that you’ve done what you can, but actually now, we need to pass some of that cost burden on. If you’re changing just the charging structure, without actually pushing fees up – so potentially moving from ad valorem to fixed fee – I’d be explaining the benefit to the client. How does it benefit them? I’d then confirm what the price increase or change means for them specifically? So how much more will it mean they pay? You’ve got to talk specifics at some point. At that point, I would consider adding in some context. And we’re going to talk about how to get that context shortly. But I will be adding context to show how fees compare. So if you know you’re about average, or slightly under average, I’d be showing that here. I will be talking about why the average charge is this, and we charge this. And we’ve also got to be thinking here, of course, that the amount a planner charges, is only part of the picture. We need to be thinking about total cost of ownership as well. So, I know media likes to focus just on advice fees and planning fees, but it is part of a bigger picture. So we might need to work that in here as well. I would then remind clients of the service you deliver. And if you can get that to be more personalised, the better. One of the things Carl was talking about on the webinar last month, was having a “statement of purpose” at the top of a financial plan. I think that works tremendously well, when you’re trying to demonstrate value. That can work really, really well. And there’s a number of ways of doing it, but the more personalised that letter can be, to remind the client of the benefit of working with them – talking about things you’ve achieved together – I think that’s important. Practically then, explain the next steps. What needs to happen, what needs to happen when, and I would – if I was writing – I would be including in FAQs. Trying to think about all the questions they might have, all the objections, and we’ll come to how we can brainstorm those in a minute. But all the questions for the objections, and try and get those into the FAQs. So that clients have a full picture, of what’s changing, why, and why they should be happy to accept. Dan, I can see a few questions coming in. So let’s do those before we get the case study, shall we?

Dan Campbell 36:29
Yeah, so I’ve got three questions here that I think are quite appropriate at this point. So the first question is from Chris. And this is more about the order, in which things are communicated. So Chris asks, “On explaining price increases, isn’t it better to start with the value it brings to the client? I.e, look at it from what the price increases benefit them? Rather than why it benefits the firm?”

Phil Bray 36:56
Yeah, I’m not sure I’d be ever talking about how it benefits the firm. I’m talking about why? Yeah? And there isn’t… Yeah, I’m simply talking about why the price increase is taking place now, as opposed to the benefit it has to the firm. When it comes to benefits, I’m reserving those for explaining to the client, and reminding the client the benefits of financial planning; the benefits of the service. Yeah? At no point am I suggesting we talk about the benefits of the firm I’m talking about the reasons why we need to increase fees.

Dan Campbell 37:34
Absolutely. And we’ve got two very similar questions. One about average fees, one about average profit levels. So Wesley asks, “Is there any register showing the average adviser fees in the UK – perhaps by the FCA?” and then Donald asks, “What are the average IFA business profit levels? Because fees and services always need to relate to those profit levels?”

Phil Bray 37:57
Okay. So the fees one, average fees, we’ve got some thoughts on that in a couple of slides time. So I’ll save that one if that’s okay. But it certainly is, in terms of average profit levels, I’m not sure I’m the right person to deal with that to be honest. I certainly don’t have any figures for the average profit. And clearly a lot depends on how much… a lot of financial planning practices are sold, or dual planner businesses and owner businesses. And therefore the profit levels will be skewed, depending on how much money is taken out for the business. So unfortunately, I don’t have any details on average profit figures, but I do have some details on average fees, which we’ll come to in a minute.

Dan Campbell 38:37
One question, actually, that I think is quite suitable for now. And this goes back slightly to when you were talking about communicating the value of advice. So it was in the chat actually, I can’t remember who exactly asked it. But ultimately, the question was, “Those documents that were pointing people to in this webinar, would you recommend to putting those even further to the actual clients so they can read them?”

Phil Bray 39:03
Yeah, I think you’ve got to think about how you display it – because the information on those two links to the International Longevity Centre, and Vanguards Advisers Alpha. It’s aimed at financial planners really. And so I think you’ve got to be careful about how you display that information. But building some sort of, I don’t know, value of advice infographic – I know we’ve done some sort of stuff on that before Dan, when we’ve built value advice infographics – I think that can work quite nicely. I think there’s all sorts of things that we can do there, to take out the key takeaways from those studies, and amalgamate it in a document with your own social proof, to create a really compelling picture of value.

Dan Campbell 39:51
Yeah, absolutely.

Phil Bray 39:52
Shall I move on?

Dan Campbell 39:55
Not a question, but a comment by Duncan. Duncan says, “Didn’t Brett Davidson suggest that, if most IFA firms paid an appropriate director salary, +65% would be insolvent?” So that goes back to the profit levels.

Phil Bray 40:09
I’ve not seen that research, but I will go to my trusty friend Google later on and have a look at it.

Dan Campbell 40:13
Yeah, that’s interesting, isn’t it?

Phil Bray 40:16
Okay to move on?

Dan Campbell 40:17
Yeah, let’s move on.

Phil Bray 40:18
So, a case study. Now, this is a case study. It is therefore an anecdote, rather than evidence. But it is a useful story really, of how we helped one firm, which I thought I would recount here. So, the firm will remain nameless. They’re a good quality financial planning firm. I’ll leave it at that. And, they recognise the need to increase fees, increase cash flow, because of the reasons that we’ve spoken about before. They’d spent a lot of years, absorbing cost increases, and the time had come where they needed to start passing some of those on. So the first thing we did – and I guess this does flow back to the question about profitability – was rather than diving straight in to increase fees, or change the fee structure, we needed, and we wanted to create a target. We wanted to understand, what do we need to do with the business? What did we need to… what was the gap? So we reworked the cash flow, to understand where we needed to push turnover to. That was the starting point. So we knew what we were aiming at. We then compared the current fees, that clients were being charged, with the existing fee structure. But we wanted to understand why the existing fee structure wasn’t delivering. And one of the things we found, was that actually the existing fee structure had been updated on a regular basis. But clients fees hadn’t increased, as the fee structure had changed. So we had a bunch of clients, who weren’t on the correct fee structure. We also at that point, took the opportunity to simplify the charging structure. Because it was… we didn’t change the material massively, but we simplified it. It was a bit bit complicated and convoluted. We then compared the simplified structure, to the legacy structure for different AUM levels, to find out if there any significant inconsistencies. Was there any levels of AUM, where the firm lost out significant and the clients lost out significantly? And at that point, we also back tested on a client by client basis, to understand if all clients were paying the new simplified fee structure, did it fill the gap in the cash flow forecast? And the answer was, it did. So we knew that was where we needed to head. Finally, we compare the simplified charging structure – the new simplified charging structure – with the wider market. Because we wanted to put it into context, and make sure we were still within the bounds of what made sense for that type of firm. So, we spent a lot of time doing that, a lot of time understanding whether that new simplified fee structure achieved a business’s aims? Whether we thought it was still competitive, for want of a better description? And to make sure no one lost out significantly. We did all that. And then we debated how to communicate fee increases. Did we write to clients? Or did we go via meetings? And we agreed that we’d write to clients, and client letters went out. And then we dealt with any questions and objections from that. Actually, to be fair, the client – the financial planning firm – dealt with any questions and objections from that. So it was a project, a long piece of work, it was a long project. Their results. That firm, increased revenue, recurring revenue by £117,000 a year. They didn’t lose any clients. They’ve now got consistency of charging, and a simplified fee structure. Really, really quite straightforward. And a great outcome for that firm. And as I say, this is a story. It’s an anecdote. And it won’t be right… This approach will not be right for every single firm. But I’m just showing you that it can work. And trying to give you the confidence that changes to your charging structure can have a significant benefit on your business. And hopefully – if nothing else, today – you get some confidence about value, and the fact that this stuff can be done. It’s not easy, but it can be done and it can come out with a really positive outcome. So, there’s a question really about putting fees into context. And of course, fees are only one part of the picture. Value is more important, isn’t it? The service and benefits that someone derive, from the fee, which is being paid. So value is key. And of course, as I said earlier, the advice or planning fee is only part of the picture. There are other fees that the client will pay. So it’s a bigger picture. But, context in terms of fees is useful, for both you, your team and clients. So, couple of sources of data. FCA: “The evaluation of the impact of the Retail Distribution Review, and the Financial Advice Market Review.” – which rolls off the tongue – which was published in December, I think, showed three key things really, when it came to fees, for me. The first that advisers are still… the majority advisers still charging a percentage based fee. The average initial fee was 2.4%. And the average ongoing fee was 0.8% per annum. So 2.4%, 0.8%. If anybody wants to link to that, I’ll put it in the show notes that we send around later on today or tomorrow. Now, we also did some research. And, for the firm that we were talking about earlier, we did some research to put their fees into context. Now our dataset was small – there was only 10 firms. But I do want to expand it. And this is where I’m going to come to a favour – asking everybody on this call for a favour later on. But this research is based on £500,000 of investable assets, with three pension policies moving into one, financial plan implementation and ongoing, no complex work and no defined benefit work. So really, pretty simple, really. And we looked at 10 firms. And we’ve got the fees down for the initial report, the implementation and ongoing. So, the average fee for the initial report was £1,911 pounds. The lowest, £950, the highest, £3,250, for the financial planning report. Implementation; wider variation. Lower end for implementation, £750, upper end, £10,680. So a big gap, with an average of £5,705. And therefore the total initial implementation, £7,616 on average. And you can see the range there, from the lowest to highest. So how we search, shows quite a bit different actually. The FCA was what – 2.4%? We’re showing 1.57%. The FCA has got a far bigger data set, than we have. Ongoing, the lowest was 0.5%, the highest was 1%. It’s going to come as no surprise that that’s the upper and lower end of these figures. The average was 0.82%. And I posted something to this effect on Twitter awhile ago, at 0.82%. And David Ferguson, at Nucleus came back, and said their average – and they’ve got a bigger data set than we have – is 0.83%. The FCA came in at 0.8%. So I’m pretty confident that the average ongoing fee is around the 0.8% mark. And one of the things that I’m really keen to do is, I want to expand this dataset. So what I would love for people to do… Dan, can you just put this comment or this URL in the chat? We’ve created a little questionnaire on Survey Monkey. There are seven questions in there. It will take you a maximum of about seven minutes to complete it, probably a lot less. And for that scenario, we want to understand how much people would charge. We’re not asking you for your name. We’re not asking for your details. So it’s completely anonymous. I just want to build this data setup. And I would love to get from 10, to maybe 50 firms, in this data set. And if everybody on this call answers, we’ll absolutely achieve that, and more. So if you wouldn’t mind spending six – seven minutes just completing that survey, that would be really useful for us. We don’t tend to make people work too hard on these webinars. But if you could complete that today, I would really appreciate it. And as I say, just six questions, so we can start to build this dataset out. So that’s hopefully give you some ideas for putting those fees into context. Just conscious of time, so we’re gonna move on to strategies for handling objections, and then talk about online fee disclosure. So for me, the key thing here is just to be really open. Explain clearly, and be as open as possible with clients. You’re not doing anything here in terms of putting fees up or changing your fee model, which is unreasonable. So you’re on pretty firm ground to explain these things clearly. And if I was doing it, I would be brainstorming with my team. And any other stakeholders in the business, a list of potential questions and objections? What are the… What’s everything that could possibly come up? And do it over the course of a couple of sessions, as well, don’t just try and get them all in one session. And then craft your responses. So, what are your responses to each of these questions, and each of these objections? And then do a few things with them. First thing, put them in an FAQs document. Really important. We talked about communicating fee increases to clients earlier. If you’re doing it in writing, then the FAQs document I think is really important. It allows you to keep the letter or the email succinct, and deal with other specific questions separately. Decide in your business who will handle questions and objections? And we’ve got to remember that a question is different to an objection. Question is just a request for information. And a lot of objections are just that as well. So decide who will handle them. Personally, for me, if I was running the business, it would be the financial adviser or planner; I wouldn’t be getting any other members of the team to do it. And then roleplay potential discussions, you don’t want to be practising objection handling, and that question answering, on the first client to make that call, to ask questions or come up with objections. Roleplay them within your team. And then if people do ring in, or do want to speak about the fee increase, or the change, listen and show empathy. Just spend time listening to people, and for most clients, I’m convinced you’ll get there, to get to a point where everybody’s happy. But to deal with objections and questions, we need to pre-empt them, we need to think about what they might be, think about our answers, and practice how we deliver them. And then finally, I thought we’d talk and use this opportunity to talk about online fee disclosure. And you’ve got three broad options on your website. The first is not to disclose fees online at all. And when I’m talking about online, I’m talking about your website. So the first option is really not to disclose them online, at all. The second is to explain your fee philosophy, but not your specific fees. So if you are a firm that charges fixed fees for each stage of the financial planning process, including the ongoing advice, you might be explaining why you do that, why you charge fixed fees in preference to percentage based fees. And the last option, is to fully disclose your fees. So a potential client can understand exactly what they will pay, at each stage of the financial planning process. And there is no scope for confusion. So those are the three options. Not disclose fees, give your fee philosophy, or fully disclose fees. So what are people doing? We did some research on 300 websites. And we found that 17.33% – so, back to being specific and being authentic – 17.33% discussed fees on their website, but didn’t give specific amounts. Only 5% – 1 in 20 – actually disclosed fees on their websites. So that’s what… those are the options, that what people are doing. In terms of reasons to disclose – and I’m absolutely on the fence on this – I think there are times when it makes sense to disclose fees online. And I think there are times when it doesn’t make sense. I’m absolutely not in favour of mandatory online fee disclosure. But I think there are three reasons why people might consider it. The first is it demonstrates transparency. All firms – all financial planners – will say they’re trustworthy and transparent. Well, demonstrating that is really important. And putting your fees online is a fantastic way of demonstrating transparency. And it potentially reduces surprises as well. Your fees page will be a popular page on your website. And it’ll probably being the most – providing it’s not hidden – it’ll probably be in the top three pages. Homepage being number one, team page being number two, fees page, probably number three. So if people have looked at it, it might reduce surprises, and make conversations easier. And certainly a bit of the anecdotal feedback I get from planners who put their fees online, is that they spend less time discussing fees when they first meet a client. And an enquiry selection as well. There’s a feeling amongst advisers and planners who put their fees online, that it does start to weed out clients who are shopping around, based on cost. So those are the three reasons why people might do it. If you’re going to do it, some mistakes to avoid. Don’t hide your fees away. So if you put paying your fees on your website, do it proudly. Put it in that top navigation. Make it easy to find. There’s very little point, trying to be transparent, showing your fees online and then kind of hide them away, somewhere deep in the navigation. Don’t be broad, be specific. So it’s of no use to anybody saying, typical financial planning fees are between £2,000 – £10,000. You’ll get a bunch of people anchoring to £2,000, a bunch of people anchoring to £10,000, and it will do nobody any favours at all. So be really specific. So people can understand exactly what they will pay. Don’t link to compliance documents. There’s a temptation to just put a link on the website, “To learn our fees, go and look at this compliance document.” Most compliance documents, are not the easiest thing to read. And they certainly don’t show value and benefits. So for me, if we’re building a fees page, we should be showing fees – the amount people pay – but also the other side of that coin, showing the service, show them what they’ll receive, showing benefits, testimonials, client stories. Going back to right at the start of this webinar, all those assets that we created, really, really useful to demonstrate value, demonstrate benefits, and they absolutely should be on your fees page, if you’re going to disclose fees online. I’m really happy to take questions and debate this now, about online fee disclosure, because I think it is a really important subject. And that really brings us to the end of this this session. By all means stay in touch with us. There’s our website address, there’s my LinkedIn profile, and Twitter. And we’ll put those in the shownotes, for anybody who wants to stay in touch. We’re really happy now just to take some questions. We’ve covered a lot today. We’ve talked a lot about a lot, in just under an hour. Hopefully it’s giving you some useful ideas for build… demonstrating value in the business. Building your reserves of confidence that you’re delivering value, and that you can prove you’re delivering value. Giving you a few thoughts on how to communicate these changes to clients, and how to put them into context. And then giving you a few pointers around online fee disclosure. So I’m going to take a sip of water; Dan shall we have a… Have we got any questions?

Dan Campbell 57:27
Yeah, we certainly have. So, we’ve got two questions about the research on fees we spoke about. And then two questions about the case studies you spoke about. So I think we’ll start with those. So, first question about the research was from Justin. So Justin asks, “In your research, was the initial report a pure financial plan, non-regulated, or was it a suitability report?”

Phil Bray 57:54
I didn’t differentiate. So I would imagine most firms would… knowing the firms that were in there… Knowing the firms that were in there, it would have been a regulated report.

Dan Campbell 58:10
Okay, and then second question on that research. “Are the fee numbers for a new client, or an existing client, because we have different fee structures for each…”

Phil Bray 58:19
New client coming in.

Dan Campbell 58:20
Okay. Perfect. So then, going back to the case study, Paula asks, “On the case study, how many clients approximately were there?”

Phil Bray 58:31
120 or so?

Dan Campbell 58:35
Brilliant. And then Lisa asked, “What was that firm’s Assets Under Management, at the point their fee structure changed?”

Phil Bray 58:42
I don’t know. I don’t know. Sorry.

Dan Campbell 58:44
Okay. So now we’ve got quite a few questions on VouchedFor actually. So, I’ll put them all together and we’ll decide whether you want to answer them all now, or whether that sporns another independent session on that. So, I said the first one was from Paula. And Paula says, “I have recently set up Google for business, but do not use VouchedFor currently. Do you see a huge benefit in VouchedFor, as opposed to something like Unbiased?”

Phil Bray 59:15
So I think Unbiased and VouchedFor do two different things, to to a great degree. Unbiased is exclusively lead generation. Each individual firm can understand for themselves how successful it is as a lead generative tool. VouchedFor is, now far more about managing your online reputation, with some additional lead generation in there as well. So for me, even if VouchedFor didn’t have the lead generation, wasn’t a directory, wasn’t going to distribute leads during the year. I would still be using it, still recommending it, as a way of managing your online reputation. Collecting reviews. These reviews appearing in a brand search for an individual advisers name, getting in The Times Top Rated Guide, all the other assets they offer for the reputational tools. And there’s some really good stuff in there. So for me, it’s not an either / or. I would be using VouchedFor to manage my online reputation on my Google reviews, in the knowledge that it will generate a few enquiries a year. Unbiased will probably generate more enquiries, but there’s none of the online reputational stuff. Does that answer the question?

Dan Campbell 1:00:35
Yeah, I’d say so. Next question from Helena, “What do you think of VouchedFor’s new fee disclosure? It doesn’t seem widely used, from what I’ve seen on advisers local to us.”

Phil Bray 1:00:47
So I think it could be a really useful resource over time. I’d like – hopefully, VouchedFor are going to push it – I think it could be a very useful guide for what people charge. Hopefully more advisers and planners will complete it. And that will give VouchedFor more data, which hopefully they can then make available. So I really like it.

Dan Campbell 1:01:09
Okay, brilliant. So I’m just going to click a few as read, because they’re fairly similar questions to the ones we’ve just had. Okay. Interesting question from Ray. Ray asks, “How would you position a conversation where the client’s Assets Under Management have decreased below the annual fee, ie, as they’re in drawdown? We would be looking to propose a standing order to cover the balance.”

Phil Bray 1:01:35
Yeah. So I think that’s, again, that’s a conversation about value. The value of working with that financial planning firm. There’s clearly value with that client, working with the plan to make sure they don’t run out of money. And, I would just be having an open honest conversation, to explain why you think it’s the best thing for them to be doing, to pay fees; partly from a product, and partly from their bank account. My financial planner, I pay a subscription to, out of the bank account. I’m very, very happy with that. So I think you’ve just got to just be really open, honest. Explain to the client, why that’s the best thing for them. Demonstrate value, and see where that conversation takes you.

Dan Campbell 1:02:30
Brilliant. Okay, so we’ve got two questions on Google My Business listings here. The first one is from Waseem, and Waseem asks, “Do we need a Gmail account to set the account up in the first place?”

Phil Bray 1:02:43
A Google My Business? Yeah.

Dan Campbell 1:02:45
OK, nice and easy one.

Phil Bray 1:02:47
They’ll give… a Gmail address is free.

Dan Campbell 1:02:50
Yeah, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be your main email. I mean, we often set Gmail emails up for clients, that want a YouTube channel, to just put webinar recordings – and it’s simply just used for that.

Phil Bray 1:03:01

Dan Campbell 1:03:03
And next question from Anonymous, another mysterious attendee, “Should you put your fees in your… in my Google My Business listing?”

Phil Bray 1:03:14
I wouldn’t, to be honest, because your Google My Business listing… the About Us section has got a cap on the number of words. I’m not sure how big it is. But there’s a cap on the number of words. And it’s very difficult there, to show every single fee you might charge, to show value, to show the services. I just don’t think you could do it justice. So no, I would put it on your website, under a section, under a page marked “Fees”.

Dan Campbell 1:03:41
The third question on Google reviews, actually. So, “When requesting Google reviews, is there a link to send clients that makes it easy for them to do?”

Phil Bray 1:03:51
Yes. So, if you go to your Google My Business listing, you might need to do it in a separate browser on a private or incognito window. Go to Google, type in your business name, your Google My Business listing will appear. Go down to “Write a review”, click “Write a review”. Wait a couple of seconds, and up pops a pop-up. Behind there is the URL. Copy that URL, and then that’s the URL that takes them to the review page on your Google My Business listing. It’s not the easiest thing to do. And you might want to use a URL Shortener to make it a bit prettier. But essentially, go to your Google My Business listing. And, as a consumer might, click “Write a review” , wait a second or two for the pop-up to come up. And what sits behind that pop-up, in your URL bar at the top, copy and paste that, and that’s the one you can pass on.

Dan Campbell 1:04:50
Brilliant. And an interesting question from Graham, “Can clients give a Google review anonymously?”

Phil Bray 1:04:59
So, you need a Google account to be able to leave a Google review. For most people, that means they’ve got a Gmail address. Their name will appear, the name that they inputted when they’ve set that Google email address, will appear. So it depends what name they put into Google, to set up that Gmail address, and that’s the thing that will appear.

Dan Campbell 1:05:23
Yeah, I suppose it’s the focus on authenticity, isn’t it? You know, you want the real names there if possible, and Google does too. Okay.

Phil Bray 1:05:32

Dan Campbell 1:05:34
Good question from Mark, “Have you got an example of the client letter that you would send explaining the increase in fees?”

Phil Bray 1:05:41
Yeah. Mark, drop me an email, “phil@theyardstickagency.co.uk”. And I’ll send you an example of a letter that we used. And you can tweak it and change it to your heart’s content.

Dan Campbell 1:05:56
Okay. Two questions from B Sugden. So the first question is, “What are the most common objections for fee increases?” And then, “What are the best and worst ways to deal with those objections, in your experience?”

Phil Bray 1:06:13
Give me that one again?

Dan Campbell 1:06:15
So first question is, “What are the most common objections to fee increases?” And then, the second question is, “How would we deal with those?”

Phil Bray 1:06:22
The short answer is, I don’t know. Because the firm in question with the case studies, really had very few… they’ve had, I don’t want to say they have no objections. They just had some questions. Clients had some questions about what it means to them, how it’s being taken from product etc. Which is why my view is, to get the key stakeholders in the business together, the planners, paraplanners, etc. And just brainstorm potential objections. What might people be objection to? What questions might they have? And pull as many of those together as possible. Do it over the course of a couple of sessions, to allow for a bit of reflection time. But for me, it’s… I guess, – actually, there’s no point guessing – I genuinely don’t know. I think it will be different for every business. It will be useful for us to actually create a little bit of a list. If anybody does have real life examples of objections and questions that clients came up with, I would be very happy to compile those anonymously into a blog or something like that. I think that’ll be quite a useful blog topic. So if anybody who is still on the call, does have experience of putting fees up or changing fee structures, and can come up with a list of questions that clients have objections? That will be really useful.

Dan Campbell 1:07:47
Absolutely. Great question from Daniel, “Is it worth testing potential fee changes on a small number of clients first, before rolling them out fully?”

Phil Bray 1:07:57
It is a great question. And I’ve been thinking about this. And other people will be able to tell me better. But on the basis that clients need to be treated consistently, I would suspect there would be potentially a regulatory issue with putting 10% of your clients on a fee structure where the other 90% aren’t? But, the way to test it would be through a focus group or client board. So, if you bring in half a dozen clients into a client board that you trust, and start testing thoughts and concepts out on those clients on the board, and getting their reaction, getting their buy in, and tweaking it from there, that’s how I test it. I don’t think I’d test it as a fait accompli, this is what’s happening, I think I’d test it to a client board.

Dan Campbell 1:08:55
Absolutely. Okay. So, question from Chris. And Chris says, “What do you think is a suitable / normal notice period to give a client before a fee change? Do they need time to get their head around it?

Phil Bray 1:09:10
Quite possibly, I think with the case study there, we gave them a relatively short period of time. I think we gave them about a month. So it wasn’t a massive amount of time. I would – if I was you – I would talk to your compliance department, understand what that needs to look like. I guess part of it depends on whether you’re doing it, having a conversation face to face or you’re communicating with fee change, fee increase in writing. I think there’s a number of variables in there. But I’m not sure they… I’m not sure people need a three month period to get their head around it, but only you will know your client.

Dan Campbell 1:09:47
Yeah, absolutely. Okay, next question is from James. And James asks if we have any data, covering the average OCF of investment portfolios between the different firms? So Lang Cat did a piece on this, a few years ago. And ultimately, it suggested that the big boys stack up to over 2% per annum in total, when you take costs into account. But ultimately, James says “… this means it can be a very useful point of difference and value demonstration for modern planning firms, as most tend to have put work into slimming down the total OCF for the client.”

Phil Bray 1:10:27
100%. I don’t have any data on that. I would defer to people like The Lang Cat who can do that far better than we can. But the point is an incredibly valid one, that we shouldn’t just be focusing on the cost of financial advice, or the cost of financial planning. It’s the total cost of ownership. So financial advice, or planning, platform fees, investment charges, etc, etc, it’s got to be all in the mix. And, there’s not a lot of point in a firm having… I don’t know, a firm with a 1% ongoing charge, could actually be overall more competitively priced, because of the work they do in the other two areas. So I completely concur, completely agree that we should be considering this in the round, not just what the planner charges.

Dan Campbell 1:11:19
Brilliant. Question from Paula from a short while ago, actually. So Paula says, “I have a wide variety of clients, and some are very small. So I know that these cost me money. But I wouldn’t want to give these up, as some have introduced me to some of the biggest clients. Do you think it’s a good idea to have a minimum level of investments / pension? And what would that be?”

Phil Bray 1:11:43
So, a lot of the firms we work with now, have a – not necessarily a minimum level of pension or investment – but will have a minimum fee. And we’ll have set that minimum fee at a level which they think is fair, and I assume, which they believe is profitable. So it’s more usual, that a firm will have a minimum fee rather than a minimum AUM per client. Because there could be some clients with relatively low AUMs, but with complex circumstances where the planner can add a lot of value. So, I suspect it’s more usual to have the minimum fee, rather than a minimum AUM.

Dan Campbell 1:12:24
Next question is for the people still on the webinar. And there’s 130 still, so feel free to give your opinion. So Donald asks, “Do viewers see any downward price pressure on fees or not?” So if you could just let Donald know whether you’re experiencing any downward price pressure, and a little bit of information about that? And we’ll circle back to that one. So…

Phil Bray 1:12:50
I’d be interested in the answer to that as well.

Dan Campbell 1:12:52
Yeah, absolutely. Another question from Waseem, “How do we set up a Google My Business account, if we don’t have a Google account?” And I assume the simple answer is, get a Google account. It’s free.

Phil Bray 1:13:03
Yeah. If you go to Google My Business. In fact, Dan, ask me another question. I’ll just go and quickly do that.

Dan Campbell 1:13:10
Sure thing. So Colin asks, “Do I need to ask clients to then add reviews to both VouchedFor and then Google reviews? Or is there a way to combine them?”

Phil Bray 1:13:24
There’s no easy way to combine them. You would need to send… what we tend to recommend is sending out an email to clients, explaining that you use Google and VouchedFor to collect reviews online. Asking them if they’d be very kind enough to leave your review on both? If not, would you mind doing one? Here’s the link to Google. Here’s the link to VouchedFor. Because they do need… there’s a slightly different structure to them both. So just now, I’m gonna share my screen for Waseem. So, all I’ve done, Waseem, is google… I literally googled, “Google My Business”. Take this down…. That’s slow. So, I googled Google My Business, click this first link. Assuming I don’t have an account, so click Sign In. I think it will take me to it. Yeah, Create An Account. There you go. And go through from there. So, you’re not clicking to fill in that, you’re not filling the Forgot Password. It’s Create An Account. Hopefully that helps.

Dan Campbell 1:14:35
That’s brilliant. Okay, great question from Paddy, “What is the approximate conversion rates of requests to reviews on Google reviews?”

Phil Bray 1:14:46
Really good question. On Google reviews, it’s generally lower than VouchedFor. Because there is that barrier of, the client needs a Google account to be able to do it. So, that is a barrier. Having said that, like we said, we’ve got firms with 80, 90, over 100 Google reviews. So it is perfectly possible. But just to give an example, recently, Paddy. A sole practitioner firm I was chatting to this morning, I think we sent out a request to maybe 100 clients? He’s had 44 VouchedFor reviews, and half a dozen Google reviews. You will increase your percentage conversion, if you send an email out to remind people. And also, if you get someone in your team to pick the phone up, and just say, “Did you get the email? Would you mind doing it?”. That always increases it? But generally speaking, we see more on VouchedFor than Google because of that barrier, but doesn’t make Google less important. Google is still really important.

Dan Campbell 1:15:53
Brilliant. And we’ve had a few responses about pressure on fees going downwards. Short answer is, no. Most people aren’t experiencing fee reduction requests, or conversations around that. Steve puts a bit of context around that and says, only seems to happen when we’ve managed up with an enquiry, that’s not from their target client type, and therefore it doesn’t value the planning process. But from the vast majority of responses, no. People aren’t questioning prices. Okay, let’s have one more question. Great question from Helena, “What do you think firms should do to create a more tangible service proposition? I often think advisers struggle to articulate what it is that they do.”

Phil Bray 1:16:47
That’s a really good question. We could probably do a whole webinar on that…

Dan Campbell 1:16:51
I was just about to say, that’s quite a lot to answer, isn’t it?

Phil Bray 1:16:54
I think there’s, for me, it’s about showing outcomes of financial planning. Because people will come to the planner with a trigger; a problem that needs solving, or an aspiration they want to achieve. And, for me, we need to show outcomes. And I want to know, if I’m a potential client of you, Helena, whether you have the ability to solve my problem, or help me achieve my aspirations. So how do I want to do that? I want to see outcomes. I kind of want to see proof you’ve worked with people like me, and the outcomes from doing that. Not sure that answers the question Helena.

Dan Campbell 1:17:31
In the chat, Benjamin puts it in a way that we wouldn’t ourselves; employer branding and marketing agency to help you. And that’s that’s very kind of you to say, Benjamin. Thank you. Okay, so we’ve got two… one question, and one comment, really. So, question from Rob, regarding Google reviews, “Is it now possible to remove any bad reviews?” and he means malicious, rather than representative of a service. There are two, from individuals that have never had any deals with their firm. And to sort of caveat that – Helena mentioned a while ago, that she’d had one from an unsuccessful candidate, that they’d spoken to when they were recruiting.

Phil Bray 1:18:17
For me, there’s three things you can do here. And almost every business has a Google My Business listing. So therefore, the potential issue of a negative review, will always rear its head. And I didn’t mean a negative reaction, I mean, a fake review. So there’s three things to do. The first thing is to go and write a response. And nicely considered response. So maybe leave it a few hours, explaining, we’ve got no record of somebody with your name as a client. Therefore, we’d like you to take this review down. And if you’d like to discuss it further, please contact our office, here’s an email address as well. So that’s the first thing I would do. Second thing I would do, is to get as many people as possible to report the review, there’s little flag – top right hand corner – get as many people as possible to report the review. And then the third thing I would do is login to my Google My Business, go to the… I’m not quite sure what they call it? But there’s a contact section, there’s a Help section. If you go further enough in there, you can get onto a live chat with Google. And you can raise it with them via live chat or via an email. Read the Terms of Service first, and then quote, the terms of service to them or why that review breaks the terms of service. And, I’ve seen that work on a couple of occasions. It takes patience. We had a malicious review at Yardstick a couple of years ago, it’s completely fake. And it was someone who had gone round Nottingham, reviewing lots of diverse businesses, very negatively. Why he picked on us, I don’t know. But I quoted Google’s T’s and C’s to them, and they took it down, but it wasn’t easy to do. So those three things. Go and write a considered response. Get as many people in your team from different IP addresses. So from home to market as a… just flag it up. Go and look at the terms of service, the reasons to take a review down, and then go and contact Google.

Dan Campbell 1:20:20
Yeah, and I suppose in the short term, it’s, you know, people can spot a malicious review a mile away, so it probably isn’t harming in the short term as much as you might fear. Yeah, I mean, I know that when we had that one, the chap that never came within two feet of our doors, it was, you know, it stood out like a sore thumb against all the genuine ones, didn’t it?

Phil Bray 1:20:41
100%. Yeah.

Dan Campbell 1:20:43
Okay, I think we’re down to just one final question, now. I’ve sort of crossed off all the ones that have been broadly similar questions. So do let me know if I’ve missed your question, and we’d like that answering. But the final question is from Philip. So, “In terms of online marketing success, do you still feel that being an independent financial adviser has much value compared to being a restrict advisor? As when looking on VouchedFor, it seems that the majority are now restricted?” So do people really understand the difference? I suppose is the question here.

Phil Bray 1:21:15
So, I’d love to see some research into this. So my answer is – and gut feel, I’ve not seen research – but my gut feel is, the older the client, the more likely independent, that will resonate with them. So people who are old enough to remember the difference between independent and tied. I think it does mean something to those. I think for younger consumers, I think it means less. But that’s purely based on gut feel, I’d love to see some evidence for it. Who knows, we could do something. If we’re marketing a firm of independent advisers, then we will play that card. We’ll absolutely play that card. So I think it’s something that we will display on the website, and we’ll talk about in detail. And of course, it depends on the nature of restriction, because you could be a firm that doesn’t recommend … and VCTs. And therefore you’re restricted firm, but you’re whole of market for everything else. So I think it depends on the nature of the restriction as well. But if a firm is independent, we would be playing that card – along with other things – to create a kind of package of differentiators. So I was chatting to a firm yesterday, who are chartered registered life planners. They’ve got some of the ISO and British Standards accreditations, and are independent. So we’ll be talking about that, in the Why Us / What Makes Us Different page. So I would be using it, whether it makes a difference? I suspect it’s a bigger difference for older clients than younger clients, but purely gut feel.

Dan Campbell 1:22:57
Brilliant. And two final questions that people have sent in, and one from Justin, which I did see earlier, actually. And I think I may have mistakenly marked as answered. So, “Hi, Dan, I’m not sure if you’ve covered this question. It would be great if you have time.” Absolutely we do. “So with regards to being specific about fees on our website, we charge financial planning fees, based upon the level of complexity, so there is a bracket. How should we communicate that on our website, ie, so we don’t get people hanging on to that lower figure?” Yeah, I’ve seen that before, where it was regards to ongoing service. So a client who had gone to the financial planning firm, the financial planning firm had got three levels of ongoing service on their website, and I can’t remember what they were; complex, very complex and extremely complex, I’m not sure. And the or maybe it was simple, complex and very complex. But the client had gone and said, “Right, I want your simple ongoing service.” And the firm took a look at it and said, “This isn’t simple.” And there was Trusts involved and final salary schemes, and that sort of stuff. And it clearly was complex. So you do have to be careful about the client anchoring to one level of service. So for me, the way to maybe try and stop that happening, is to give some examples. So if on your initial fees, you’ve got three levels of complexity, and three different fees. I would be giving some examples there. So typical examples of a simple plan, typical example of something more complex. So people can start seeing where the first service level might apply, where the second and where the third. So, examples I think is the answer there. Brilliant. And then one final question, again from our mysterious anonymous attendee. “How long would you defer before increasing fees, if you have recently taken over a client bank and have no existing relationship with them?”

Phil Bray 1:25:03
That’s a really good question. Answering in isolation without knowing the individual circumstances. I would be waiting until I had a relationship with those clients. And had started to demonstrate value and started to demonstrate, build trust, built confidence, rather than going in, and the first thing you do is increasing fees. Unless you absolutely had to, to make it financially viable. I would be spending time building confidence, building trust, introducing them into the new people in the business, showing them new levels of service, etc. And then increasing them over time. Personal opinion only, though.

Dan Campbell 1:25:50
I think that’s about it for questions. We’ve got one comment from Benjamin actually, that makes a lot of sense. Benjamin says, “Like fee models, there is a lot more noise on independent versus restricted, inside than there is outside.” Yeah, I wouldn’t disagree with that.

Phil Bray 1:26:08
100% I think… I go back to what I said. I think if you are… if you’re used been taking financial advice and your in 60s and 70s, I think it may mean something. I think it means less though. And, there are people pushing it. So Paul Lewis, will push independent, over restricted every day of the week. But yeah, I would tend to agree with that. I’ve just had a look. We’ve had a bunch of people complete the survey. So, really appreciate the time for doing it. If you’ve not completed that survey online, and you wouldn’t mind doing it, I’d be really, really grateful. Because it’s going to help increase our data set. And of course, we’ll publish that data set as well. So, if you’re not a chance to do that yet, please go and do it. Dan, have we got any other questions?

Dan Campbell 1:26:57
Nope, nope, no more questions.

Phil Bray 1:26:59
Hope that was useful session. Really enjoyed it. I hope everyone got their questions answered. If you didn’t, drop me a tweet or an email, and we’ll see you again soon for another webinar.

Dan Campbell 1:27:08
Brilliant, take care guys.

Phil Bray 1:27:10
Bye bye.

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