This week (1-2 October) I attended the Financial Planning Annual Conference in Birmingham. There was a significant focus on the softer skills of dealing with clients at this event and a recognition that work is required to improve the public’s trust in the financial advice sector.

A discussion around the British Steel pension issue highlighted how those with lower disposable incomes often miss out on the sort of advice they need to avoid being put at a financial disadvantage because of their reluctance (or ability) to pay the fees involved.

Increasing access to low cost advice

A separate discussion championed the need for intermediaries to improve efficiency to enable them to spend less time on administration, allowing themselves the time to expand their client base.

The inference was that this could open the door to lower costs that might enable those with lower disposable incomes to be serviced in a way that is more affordable for them.

My own opinion is that actively improving business efficiencies is a no brainer, but persuading people who have low incomes to pay for professional advice is a bigger nut to crack and may not be the incentive many advisers and planners are looking for to make meaningful changes to the way they structure their businesses.

Technology drives efficiency

A session that focused on the importance of reducing complexity in business highlighted how much time is lost by advisers and planners fixing errors. The message was that using technology that enables processes to be accurate and efficient from the start unlocks huge amounts of time that is otherwise wasted.

While this may seem obvious, the thought of having to change a way of working that has been used for a number of years can be a massive hurdle for many businesses. Without a doubt, the businesses I see that have embraced change and are open to adopting new ways of working are the ones that are going from strength to strength.

Technology for the sake of it is rarely the answer but taking some time to look at what is available to meet specific needs and exploring how efficiencies can be made within a business is time very well spent. If you don’t believe me, just talk to some of our adviser partners, or check out some of the case study videos we have on the PortfolioMetrix website.