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Keeping pace with changing client demands
How Unbiased is helping Collaborative Wealth build a client bank and boost its credibility
• Collaborative Wealth is a directly authorised IFA practice. Its six planners have collectively amassed 100 years’ experience in advice, and serve a mixture of private and business clients
• The firm prides itself on delivering open and honest financial planning solutions
• Though based in East Midlands and Yorkshire, Collaborative Wealth has clients up and down the country
Published on 06.10.2022
In a financial world that’s becoming increasingly complex, Collaborative Wealth aims to keep things simple; it’s this approach that’s enabled the firm to be recognised as a trusted and successful provider of advised services.
One of the firm’s founders, Mark Gill, started his career in advice in 2004, a time when the profession was strikingly different than it is today.
But while this pre-dated seminal industry shifts such as A-Day, pension freedoms, the retail distribution review, and the growth of technology, Mark feels that some things have remained unchanged. Most notably the importance of ensuring that advice is open, honest and client focused.
“The change in client dynamics is what being an independent financial adviser is all about. We want to make profit as company but do it in the right way.”
Supercharging growth plans
Mark’s relationship with Unbiased started seven years ago. After leaving an employed adviser role, he was looking at ways to kick-start his growth ambitions. This is a partnership that has truly paid off, and has prompted other advisers within the firm to follow suit.
“I needed a mechanism to generate more clients. Using Unbiased has really enabled me to build a client bank,” he says.
As Mark explains, some of the leads received through Unbiased have proved particularly fruitful, none more so than a client who was in desperate need of pension transfer advice. Mark through his honest initial appraisal, managing expectations of how long the retirement journey can be and how long accumulated wealth needs to last, was engaged by the client which resulted in them consolidating multiple pensions with a combined value of £1.6 million.
“This is a fantastic guy with a fantastic family. I’ve got to know them really well and have been able to help them significantly,” he says.
Mark, who was a finalist for the Trusted Professional Excellence Award 2021, says it’s increasingly important for firms to market their services online as growing numbers of consumers are heading to Google to find trusted financial experts.
“We’re in a digital age now. This means that clients can research us as much as the products or ideas that they are thinking about. Take TripAdvisor, with holidays or restaurants, as a classic example of what people will check before going further - I know I do! And clients looking at us are going to explore sites like Unbiased. It has its own brand identity – if Unbiased is endorsing someone like myself, it adds credibility.”
The importance of cultural fit
Despite size of investable assets being a key factor when determining whether to onboard a new client, as Mark explains, it’s not solely about affluence.
“I get as much personal investment from helping people as I do from onboarding a wealthy client.”
Ensuring that the client presents a good cultural fit for Collaborative Wealth is essential. The firm encourages customers to move at their own pace.
“I’m always keen not to push anything on clients. It’s always on the basis that it’s got to be right for them.”
“I want clients to feel safe with me. I want them to know I’m the right person for them, and it’s all about that chemistry. I want to be able to build something with them. As much as that’s important for the client, it’s equally important for me.”
Mark Gill, one of the founders of Collaborative Wealth
Finding new blood
Mark feels that one of the sector’s biggest challenges is addressing the ageing population, with more advisers retiring than entering the profession.
“More needs to be done to create incentives for companies to introduce apprentices,” he says, adding that bringing on trainees takes significant time and resources, two things often in short supply for advice firms.
Mark says that despite routes into the industry being somewhat limited, budding advisers should not be deterred as the career itself can be tremendously rewarding.
“Helping people to work towards and realise their financial goals is hugely satisfying,”
The value of the traditional approach
Casting an eye into the future, Mark feels that technology will continue to play a leading role in how advice is delivered and accessed. He expects virtual meetings to become more popular, but is unsure whether this will be a good thing.
“I personally prefer the traditional way of being sat on someone’s sofa seeing the whites of their eyes, letting them build trust in me. There’s a lot to be said about that contact. You can pick up on things. You can understand the history of that person.”
While virtual technology proved crucial during the pandemic, Mark found that, as soon as the social distances measures started to lift, clients were keen to revert to traditional means.
“As much as the client had built up trust and I’d explained the reasons behind my advice recommendations, they still wanted to be in my presence before going ahead.”
Health before wealth
The initial stock market drops as Covid first emerged wreaked havoc on economies in all corners of the globe, causing significant uncertainty for investors. Those checking their pension and investments online would’ve seen valuations tumble during Spring 2020
This is where the value of advice truly shone through, according to Mark, as clients had direct access to a trusted expert who could provide much-needed reassurance. And this stretched far beyond purely discussing their financial futures.
“People realise that health is more important than anything else,” he says.
“Naturally, I spent time speaking about their investments but more around how they were feeling and coping. Many of my clients live by themselves - I was one of the only interactions they had in days.”
The situation with Covid and national lockdowns has since abated, but consumers now face a fresh challenge in the shape of the rising cost of living. By partnering closely with Unbiased, Collaborative Wealth aims to help many more people get the advice they need during this difficult period.