Award-Winning, Independent Financial Advisor Practice First Wealth with Claire Phillips [Ep19]

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Welcome to episode 19 of the Innovating Advice show.  

I’m joined by Claire Phillips who is a partner in the multi-award-winning UK firm, First Wealth, an independent financial advisor and financial planner practice.

Claire and I begin with a check-in on how she, her firm and clients are doing during this coronavirus pandemic. They’re all doing well. As I am. And I hope that you, your family, colleagues and clients are staying safe during this time. 

We chat about a number of positive developments that have resulted from the sudden shift to working remotely. Id love to hear how the transition has been for you – both successes and challenges. Please connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know. 

We then walk through a number of great initiatives at First Wealth. They’re involved in a government initiative – the HM Treasury Women In Finance Charter – to increase the gender balance in financial services, but attracting women to the profession is still a challenge.

We discuss First Wealth’s impressive commitment to culture, giving everyone a voice, and building a tech-forward, transparent business that refuses to get complacent. And that clearly lists their fees on their website. 

Guest Bio

Claire Phillips joined First Wealth in 2010. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute, a Chartered Financial Planner and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional. Prior to joining First Wealth, Claire worked as a Senior Paraplanner and held pension roles with national firms and the regulator. Her goal is to support the growth of First Wealth so they can help as many people as possible – and her most rewarding career moment to date was being made a Partner. A keen runner, Claire is currently focused on hitting new personal bests for 5km and 10km.

Full Transcript

Kate: Hi Claire, welcome to the show.

Claire: Thank you for inviting us.

Adapting during the coronavirus pandemic

Kate: It’s a pleasure to have you and Claire, we are right in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. We’ve got markets swinging wildly. The UK was just shut down this week. Everyone is adjusting to working from home to a whole new reality. We’ve got job losses coming, so I want to start by talking about how you, how your colleagues at First Wealth and how your clients are doing at this time.

Claire: Yeah, so I think we’re doing pretty well considering, as you can see, I’m working from home as you can see from my background, there’s my fridge, et cetera. Yeah. I haven’t quite set out where I’m going to work, so I’m at the moment at my dining table.

Yeah, I think clients have been great. Actually. All of us have been speaking to our clients and they’ve all been pretty pragmatic and realistic and just saying, well listen, what can we do. We can just stay invested and just ride out the storms. I think that, I think that’s fantastic. That was partly because of the work we’ve done with clients over the years, you know, the coaching, etc. Etc. So I think it’s that, but I think it is also in fact that we work, we’re very lucky. We work with some very great, fantastic, intelligent people and they just realize that everyone’s in the same boat. There’s no cure, there’s no magic solution that we know about and we can give them. So I think that’s where we  are with that.

I think our team is coping really well. We are regularly checking in, speaking to each other, keeping in touch, whether that’s at a company level, or an individual team level, and the management team and then the advisors, you know, there’s so many different little splinter groups and we’re all supporting each other and finding our way around any issues that we’re having. Yeah, very good. I think. Yeah.

Reinforcing Key Messages

Kate: Perfect. And you know, I know First Wealth does sort of everything across the spectrum from financial planning. You mentioned financial coaching, there’s investment management, you’ve got product sales. Is there any area where clients are talking more about, I mean with the markets, is it mostly on the investment side or like you said, thankfully they’re staying calm or given all the great work you guys do. Are they also saying, “Hey, am I still on track for my goals?”

Claire: Yeah, I think it’s all of the above. So we’ve had some clients who’ve been in touch about their investments. They see this as a great buying opportunity and if they happen to have spare resources that aren’t required for their plan, they’re wanting to put that into the market with us. Straightforward investments or something else, like structured products, et cetera. Others, yes, it’s checking whether or not they’re still on track for their plan and others wanting to be a bit more specific and we’re evidence-based investing, passive investing, with a few tilts on top of that. But we are getting clients like, “Oh, should we invest in tech because you know, they’re obviously going to be doing well like Zoom, et cetera, making a lot of money at this and should we be investing because I think that’s the big thing.” And you’re just  like, again, it’s revisiting, it’s revisiting a lot of things.

And it’s revisiting, like you said, the financial plan. It’s revisiting the long-term goals, the investing is the long term, etc. So I think it’s a lot of potentially doing nothing but reaffirming our key messages and giving comfort to people and listening.

It’s revisiting the evidence based investing. Like that hasn’t changed just because this has happened. That doesn’t change how we’re working. And it’s revisiting, like you said, the financial plan. It’s revisiting the long-term goals, the investing is the long term, etc. So I think it’s a lot of potentially doing nothing but reaffirming our key messages and giving comfort to people and listening. I think actually a key thing though is to listen as well. Even if they’re saying  something that you, that doesn’t seem logical, it’s listening and understanding and being empathetic because it is scary to see your, your assets fall by 10, 20 percent. I’m invested and it’s scary for me as well, but I hang onto what we tell our clients: don’t look, it will come good and then I draw a breath and go, it’s going to be fine. And we carry on.

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Kate: And that’s such a key part is the listening and it’s making sure that you’re just hearing people because sometimes that’s all that people need at different points in their life, whether it’s the market or losing their job or whatever. Just knowing that someone is there to listen to them and not always try to fix it and not always try to do something about it. But that’s a really key part of being an advisor and a planner and not throwing jargon back at them or talking about complicated, you know, elements of financial planning. So that’s really great that you guys hammer that home. And I have to say, I don’t know if you guys have seen it, but with Zoom there are two Zoom technologies and they’re not the same. One is Zoom video, which is the one everyone wants. And then there’s another company out of Asia called Zoom technologies and people keep buying into Zoom technologies, which actually I think is not even operational and it’s gone up something like 900% so they’ve actually halted trading of that stock because they realize people aren’t paying attention and they’re just jumping into it. So I think that’s actually an interesting look at humans of, you know, just getting excited and like you said, do I go into tech, do I go to zoom, do I go into healthcare And not slowing down to actually make sure that in this case they’re even thoughtful enough to pick the correct stock.

Claire: I think you’re right. And actually that really ties into, so one of the things we’ve been doing with the clients is obviously apart from staying in touch is yesterday we did the first of a series, hopefully, of  webinars the clients can jump on. And one was with this fantastic guy called Neil Bage and he’s really into the behavioral side of things. And one of the things he talked about there is, obviously we talked about some of the main ones, but one of them, there was that FOMO, fear of missing out. I think that’s kind of exactly what you’ve just said, that people are worried about missing out on this great opportunity and they’re jumping, they’re not pausing and they’re just, Oh, I’ve go have it. I’ve got to do it. Because it’s, you know, it makes sense. But actually if you pause for a moment, it doesn’t make sense or that pause might stop you hitting the wrong button.

Making Time for Self-Care

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So you’re working from home now. I know you are a keen runner with the lockdown in the UK, they’re starting to crack down. Are you still able to get out and go for a run?

Claire: I am. And I do it in the morning before I start work because every day I fear that they’re going to pull it. So at least I get it in, in the morning. So, getting to know my neighborhoods a lot more now, which is good. And it, we’ve been very fortunate with the weather. It’s been really sunny; cold in the morning, but sunny and it just sets me up for the day. It really does.

Kate: Yeah. And we were chatting before about how when you’re out running, before in our pre chat that people are actually smiling and are more engaging. And I’ll say, I actually went for the first run in, I’m not even going to admit how many months or years, but I did a three mile loop around our neighborhood and I noticed the same thing. I even mentioned it to my family when I talked to them last night. Every single person actually made eye contact and smiled. A lot of them said hi. And that is not an experience that I’ve always gotten even walking around different cities. So that’s been a really nice adjustment and I’ll be curious to see if that carries through – that more human connection and the knowing we’re all in this together. It was, it was a nice feeling.

Claire: Yeah. So, I was talking about this to one of my clients the other day and now saying it kind of reminds them of when in London, when the Olympics was on because suddenly you, you started talking to strangers on the tube and the box, which normally you very rarely do unless it’s to like, excuse me, can I sit down. So hopefully that will continue. And we had, I don’t know if you know, but in the here in the UK, I think it was 8:00 PM last night there was a big drive for people to go and stand safely on their doorsteps and do a big clap and horrah for the NHS, our lovely health service. So that was a great community thing as well. So even when we can’t physically come together and express our thanks, we can do that. Yes. So hopefully there’ll be more of those actions and community minded actions going forward, which will be, I think, great for the country because I think we’ve gone down so much, the route of being very individual because it’s so much life, makes it so easy now to be quite into if you want to. So I think this will hopefully bring back some of the community elements that we’ve been missing perhaps. You know, we shall see.

Kate: Yeah it does. And it’s even opening up new opportunities so you know, the standing and clapping and we’re seeing a lot coming out of Italy of people singing. I actually participated in a virtual happy hour with a bunch of advisers from XY Adviser in Australia. And thankfully it’s only about a five or six hour difference. It was a little late my time, but that was one of those opportunities where I was like, we wouldn’t have even come up with this – and I didn’t, XY Adviser did – but you know, that’s spurring innovation through a challenge and that’s really great to see.

Claire: Yeah, I think that’s what’s going to show everyone’s strengths areas. How can we deal with that and our resilience, I guess mentally. And in terms of getting the work done as well, so you have some challenges, but I think we’re all right into the pretty well so far.

Transitioning to A Fully Virtual Office

Kate: Yeah. So speaking of challenges and trying to get work done, how is First Wealth and the team adjusting to working remotely?

Claire: Oh, we were quite lucky in that we’d already instituted long before this happened, working from home one or so days a week each, so we already have, we have the basics in place anyway, knowing that our IT worked at home, et cetera. The difference has been as obviously is normally when we were doing the work from home, it’s normally because we were doing some deep thinking or some technical work and we didn’t want to be bothered, so we obviously didn’t look at the technology around bothering other people as it were. Whereas now the challenge is being what can we do to make sure we’re connected with us as a firm internally and with our clients. We already had [Microsoft] Teams in place anyway for messaging because we have some people that work at a different site occasionally and one person works at home quite a bit because they’ve got young children. So we just wrapped that up in terms of exploring how we can use that for videos and stuff. So we’ve been using that for team meetings.

We’d already been doing some video consultations with clients. Obviously now that’s just completely changed. We just do everything now by Zoom. Before, I think video consultations were probably with new clients. But now we’re doing our annual forward planning reviews with clients. I did two yesterday and so that’s really nice, you know, being able to share the screens and stuff with them. And you know, it’s really nice because you get to see them relaxed and they’re in their own home and I think it kind of adds to the experience and you feel like you get to know them a bit better. And it’s just, it’s a difficult thing to, it’s been the swiftness of the move because we didn’t have time to get the redirection in place. So we’ve done that now, but we have a timeline between five to 10 days before that happened. So yeah, I think actually we’ve been touched, we’re fairly lucky with being fairly prepared and because we’re a small firm I think you can be more nimble. It’s tricky isn’t it?  So we’re having to be a bit patient with some providers.

Kate: Yeah, the IT people, that’s probably definitely an essential service right now and they are probably overwhelmed and I’m so glad you talked about how relaxed clients can be in their own home and how it kind of creates a different environment because when I started Belmore Financial back in 2013 it was completely virtual. I worked with clients, mainly US ex-pats all over the world and I did all my meetings virtually and I found clients really enjoyed being at home. They brought a sense of ease and it was super fun to see their kids coming and going. They would have their pets running around. You would see artwork in their house and family pictures and it did give you a totally different insight into you know who they are as people because think sometimes when they’re showing up to an office and they think maybe they have to dress up and they present themselves as you know, wealthy clients or clients that in their mind are quote unquote worthy of financial planning. You know you can see a different side of them and I, I think that advisors are going to see more of that as everyone’s doing more of these virtual meetings and I’ll be really curious to see if that carries through and clients also appreciate Hey I can just do this staying at home. I don’t have to sit in traffic or ride the tube or you know travel anywhere.

Claire: Yeah I think, I think it will bring about a lot of change particularly I think for existing clients cause before it’s always been, unless the client was, had health issues or was elderly or something we tended  to invite them into the office. If, for nothing else, it’s obviously a bit more efficient for us time wise if we can ask clients to come to us. But I think if we can meet clients in their homes, I think that’s, that’s great. And I think that apart from the,  sort of us getting to know them better, I think it’s easier because you know that if we ask them for something they go, Oh, hang on,  I can just go and get the paperwork. You know, you wouldn’t be able to do that if they’re in your office, you know, and they can have a quick rummage or look on their phone, whatever.

And I was very reticent about doing Zoom calls just because I just didn’t like the idea of it. A phone call is fine and a face to face meeting is fine, but I’ve kind of got over that now and I think it’s great now actually, I really like it.

I think that’s really nice. And I think you’re right, I think we do get a deeper understanding of who they are. I was interested to hear that you’ve always done everything remotely cause I find a lot of clients still that at least for the first meeting actually like a physical meeting. And that includes younger, younger clients as well. Actually. Even those that are big on Insta, et cetera, et cetera, you think wouldn’t be so bothered by that. They actually do quite like that first meeting be face to face. But I guess that’s because maybe before the option was more physical meeting in your office or a phone call. Whereas I’m thinking now if we’re positioning it more a video call, I think that’s different. And I was very reticent about doing Zoom calls just because I just didn’t like the idea of it. A phone call is fine and a face to face meeting is fine, but I’ve kind of got over that now and I think it’s great now actually, I really like it.

Kate: It is. Well, and that’s the thing is even if the tech doesn’t work, that brings out the human side of everything.

Claire: I’ve learned so much. And also you’re kind of forced to address issues like before, because I always have two screens and I’ve got a docking station at the office. I always have to undock everything and unplug my second screen to get sounds when I’m listening to webinars and stuff. And it’s only because someone, I mentioned it the other day too on the team and said, Oh there’s some setting or other. So when I spoke to my IT chap who was working from home as well, he said, Oh, you were in, he said, Oh, it’s because it was taking the sound from somewhere else. So now it’s all sorted and I can have back my screen. All these years, all these years of being like unplugging and I didn’t need to cause I just, I thought that’s just how it was. I was like, Oh so that’s a positive as well.

A Government Initiative to increase the Gender Balance in Financial Services

Kate: Look at all these positive things coming out of it. I love it. So Claire, let’s talk about First Wealth and you are a partner there and I do want to start by thanking listener, Mario van Teijlingen in the Netherlands who recommended that I talk with Anthony Villas, one of the founders of First Wealth and Anthony responded straight away that he was keen to participate. I just sensed this warmth in  him straightaway. And I shared with him that I am really committed to having 50% of my guests be women because I think it’s important to show how many great women there are in the profession, doing great things all over the world. And he was immediately supportive of that. He suggested that I talk with you, Claire, and I also realized as I was going through the website and learning about First Wealth that you guys are proud signatory of the, HM (Her Majesty’s) Treasury Women in Finance Charter. So talk us through what that charter means and the commitment to diversity at First Wealth.

Claire: Yeah. So it’s, it’s a government initiative. HM Treasury’s initiative. They want to see a greater gender balance across all financial services firms because I think it will be the same here as it is in a lot of countries. It’s been traditionally a very male dominated industry – uh, profession I should say. So it’s a, so we sign up for a pledge to basically say we’re going to support the progression of women into all levels and particularly at the senior level because it seen that a balanced workforce is good for the business, it’s good for clients and it’s good for the wider community. You know, the more diversity there is, the more like different ideas come in. So I think companies benefit and grow from that. One of the commitments is to make sure that there are senior people – ladies – and so we’ve got a management team of four, so it’s Anthony and Rob [Caplan], but then there’s myself and Kerry [Burgess], who’s our practice manager who does a sterling job, marshaling resources, et cetera, et cetera. You name it, she does it. So we’re 50/50, actually on our team, on the management team. In terms of advisors, I’m the only lady, so it’s five of us now who are advisors and that, that’s the hard part because you know, we advertise, we encourage ladies and women to come in, but most of the time we get, we get guys, you get young lads coming in. And so that’s, that’s what we need to think about and address as well actually.

And in terms of diversity, we got another couple of things as well. There’s another initiative called, ‘Are You In?’ run by a lady called Anna Sofat at Addidi Wealth, and she wants to make a positive stand for good and improve the culture of financial services.

Recognizing that actually in the UK, one of the biggest gender pay gaps is in the financial services sector. And the women and minorities are underrepresented as well. So that’s part of her initiative there to get involved with that. So we’re part of that. And also as well, we, this is Anthony’s new big thing about, something called cognitive diversity. Let me explain. So we want to get everyone else in the company involved. So we feel that not everything should come from Anthony who’s the main driving force, and Rob, Kerry and myself as the management team. We recognize that everyone else in the company has got great ideas as well. And it’s great because they’ve come from different backgrounds and with different, different ages, different experiences. So we’ve put a shadow board. So some of the, team members who are not the four of us get together and we’ve, I think we’ve given them a sort of a roadmap of areas we want them to think about and focus on and to feedback back their ideas. So I’m waiting to hear what they’ve come up with with great  excitement actually.

Attracting More Women to the Profession

Kate: That’s awesome. So what initiatives do you have to help draw in more women or to seek out women in the profession that would be open to joining an independent financial advisor practice like First Wealth?

Claire: Yeah, so I think we’re still very much working on that one. I think our working practices help, so we offer the flexible working for people that go off on maternity leave. When they come back,  we very much offer the ability to come back part time and then step up their hours. We allow them, where possible, to work from home more. Cause before we kind of said maybe one day a week but I think we’ll be even more flexible going forward. But I think there’s still a big issue. I don’t think anyone yet has come up with the solution to how we can encourage more people in. 

The CII, our professional institute have been running sessions where you can go into schools and talk to youngsters about coming into the profession. And I’ve, I’ve only done one of those. I think again, it’s important for people to see that ladies are doing this sort of thing that we’re not just talking about it. I’m actually there living and breathing.

Kate: Well that’s really what feeds into my commitment to having 50% be women and having people all over the world is because I know that great women are out there. But it’s been interesting as I’ve been, you know, gathering guests for the podcast, the men are super easy to get ahold of, are keen, like I’ve got episodes with men scheduled out for a couple of months now and women I think are actually just more focused on doing the work. And this might be an overgeneralization, but I feel like the men are much more self-promoters. And I think we see that in a lot of areas of life. And so the women aren’t really coming forward to say, you know, yes, I’m doing something great and I would like to share that with the world. That isn’t intrinsically how a lot of women operate. So you know, that’s also why I so appreciate talking with you Claire.

And when I learned about First Wealth and the commitment to diversity, those are, you’re the kind of woman and those are the kind of organizations that I want to be promoting to show people who are either new to the profession, who might be a little bit you know, losing interest in staying in the profession. Maybe they’re considering leaving the profession or people that are kind of looking, going, well I think that’s interesting, but is it all only old white men doing cold calling all day? Is that still how it operates? They may not yet be familiar with what an independent financial advisor does. So yeah, a little stage and a little platform, but that’s really the heart of why I’m so committed to doing this diversity.

Claire: And actually something you’ve just said there has triggered something for me actually because I’ve been in the profession for a long time, but it’s only the last few years I’ve really, I’ve always been dealing with clients and giving advice, but I’ve always been more in the background doing the technical stuff because I didn’t feel comfortable. A) that’s kind of changed because of my personal journey. But I think as well, actually I think the way the profession is moving is going to be encouraging more ladies in because definitely in the old days it was sell, sell, sell. So you had to be, I hate to generalize the alpha male, you know, alpha personality, you had to be super confident. You have to have what I call a little bit of the BS factor. But I think now the mood and I just didn’t feel comfortable with that and it was kind of, I didn’t feel comfortable that I didn’t feel comfortable with the profession at the time.

Though it wasn’t really profession then,  it was more of an industry then, because then it was just products and it’s like, Oh, someone’s coming in the door with a hundred grand, right. Just stick it in that. And that was it, where as, I was like, well what’s that going to do for a client? Where is that going to lead? And if I’ve got that wrong, what’s going to be the repercussions  on me? And, and, you know, and for the client, I don’t want something to go wrong for them just cause I’ve put them in something that just happens to be paying a nice fat commission or was the latest flavor of the month.

So I think now the move to the planning has given me personally the confidence now because I can test thing on, on the software, on, on Voyant and on Timeline,  the retirement thing. And I think that’s really helped me move forward because I’ve now, it’s given me the confidence to know that we’re doing the right thing because we’re not just doing something cause it’s right for us. And I think hopefully that will encourage more people in. It can be a lot softer and more, I hate to use the phrase touchy feely but you don’t have to be, you know, buy, buy, buy, that’s gone now. So I think a lot of the pressures, that sort of pressure’s been removed and makes it far more attractive proposition in terms of a career, but it certainly has helped me move along from being more behind the scenes to being more front of house. Yeah, for sure.

Kate: Yeah. And when you think about that, that true financial planning, it is, you know, touchy-feely is a fine thing to say. I think it’s a lot of the elements of women that are, you know, come innately naturally to us. It is, going back to listening in the very beginning, it’s the listening, the truly helping people understand what they want in life. It’s, you know, being much more thoughtful and not being that, I’m going to say there was  probably a lot of BS in the early days of sales and commissions and penny stocks, but the times have changed.

Claire: Yeah, it’s great. I think it’s, I think it’s really encouraging and I think there’s room for more, a more diverse range of personalities now in terms of being planners. I think that’s being recognized by firms as well, that you don’t want all your planners to have the same personality because then you’re not going to cater to  all different clients that come in the door. And that includes diversity, not just in personalities, but in ages as well. Because although we shouldn’t say this, some clients might not feel comfortable with a younger person or an older person, depending on where they are in terms of their age and their journey. So I think as a firm you need to have a diversity in planners, whether it’s gender, age, ethnicity, whatever it is, because then you’re more likely to capture and work with more people as well because people, our clients are diverse too.

Kate: And that goes back to that cognitive diversity you said. Absolutely. You need, even if you have a fully diverse from race and gender and ethnicity, you still need people that are thinking differently and bring those different experiences and perspectives.

Claire: Yeah, and it can be difficult sometimes because if you’re so used to working in a certain way and everyone else thinks the same way, and then if someone comes in and no matter how nicely challenges you, it can be tricky. I mean, we all know intellectually that’s what needs to happen. But it still can be sometimes a bit like, Oh gosh, we’ve been doing that wrong for all that time and why didn’t we think of that? Duh. It’s all for the greater good and it’s great. And you know what, it helps take the pressure off us as well because we don’t have to come up with the answers. So that’s really nice too.

Building A Great Company Culture, Together

Kate: Well, and speaking of the great culture that you’re building at First Wealth, I know every January you guys do a First Wealth Why Day which I thought was super cool and I read Anthony’s blog on it and you’ve got new employees that speak about their experience, where they’ve come from, what being at First Wealth means to them and the value of working in an independent financial advisor practice. You had guest speakers, you look at technology, there was someone in there talking about channeling your inner pirate.

Claire: Oh yeah. That was Rob. Yeah it was. That was, I have to say, very good and very inspiring. So yeah, so basically it’s about the fact that you don’t have to follow the rules. Sometimes you need to break them. Cause sometimes the rules are just pointless, I mean some of them are essential obviously, but a lot of them are just there. And then it’s not until someone challenges them and says, actually, why is it like that? It doesn’t need to be.

Kate: That’s great. So talk us through kind of that First Wealth day and what it means to the culture.

We’re all very keen to move first foot  forward and not just stay where we are. We want to be the best financial planning firm in the UK, and dare I say it, the world.

Claire: Yeah, it’s great because it’s a whole, it’s a whole day out of the office just thinking about us, our clients and the business. And when does that ever happen, when you all get together and pretty much everyone, everyone is equal. They can all chip in. So is to revisit our core Why, which is we believe that great financial planning can change your life. We can help you, give you confidence, inspire ideas that you can go about your life and not have to worry about running out of money, whatever happens. So that’s our key message. So then it’s about reaffirming that, just revisiting, because it’s very easy sometimes in the hurly burly of everyday life to forget that. You’re so focused on the next meeting, the next development, whatever, whatever. And then it’s a chance for everyone to share any ideas that they’ve had. It’s a chance for us to show what we’re, what we’re thinking about the next steps, the next developments  in the business because Anthony and the team, we’re all very keen to move first foot  forward and not just stay where we are. We want to be the best financial planning firm in the UK, and dare I say it, the world.

So that means we have to be nimble, we have to be moving onwards. So it’s presenting that, and like you said, it’s getting people in to present. Like I mentioned Neil Bage  earlier, he came in and did a fantastic talk on behavioral finance and psychology the other day and he did the webinar. Everyone was really  buzzing after that one. Kind of really fascinating and interesting. We’ve had life coaches in. We’ve had people coming in and talk to us about mindfulness and we had an exercise with the raisin, we’re meant to feel it and put it in our mouth and describe how that felt. So it’s all just about developing our styles and using it and using those skills to help us with our, develop our relationships with our  clients, with our coaching, et cetera. So we tend not to get into techie stuff at those things. It’s more, more personal stuff really in personal development and in the development of the company. Yeah, they’re really good actually. I think we all come out of there, we all come out and go, yes! It’s a good reminder of the family that we are and what we’re doing.

Kate: That’s so great and I think that really helps to solidify why First Wealth has won such an array of awards over the years time and again, awards for all kinds of different things and it’s because you guys really do put that effort in, put that focus in, you know, I don’t know how many firms really are as evolved as First Wealth is. I think a lot of them, you know, they’re trying to move that way, but it has been a certain way for so long. It’s been very hierarchical. It’s been come into the office. You have to sit at your mahogany desk and yeah, you have to keep doing things in the more traditional way. Whereas so many other industries and professions are moving into the direction that you are from the offering flexible hours and working remotely and you’re having that shadow board. Actually getting input from other people. I would say good on you guys for everything you’re doing and setting an example for what is possible in this profession.

Claire: Thank you. Yeah, I think what we’re finding is sometimes that the pace we are moving and the way that technology is moving and that is helping us, sometimes what’s holding us back is more the compliance side of things perhaps, you know, because we’re moving so fast that the compliance are still not quite there yet. They’re just like, Oh you can’t do that and like why not? It’s like, cause you can’t. I mean I get that there are rules and regulations and because we’re very, a super compliant firm – one of my key roles is compliance – so I’m really into being compliant, but it’s how do you deal with these technological changes? It is possible to do business online, et cetera, in a compliant fashion that doesn’t require wet signatures, et cetera, et cetera.

And you just look at the difference between, I’ve been dealing with two pension companies today. One is amazing, you can do, everything’s online. And then the other firm, it’s all wet signature. I’m like, can’t you even make the form pre fillable online so you can just email it to a client? And they’re like no,   because of compliance. It’s like that’s not right because another firm can do it and they’re compliant. And so why can’t you do it? I think that’s one of the biggest challenges is, is that it’s the compliance and the other big challenge is integration because lots of tech out there is fantastic, but it’s how to integrate it with what we’re doing already. Because what we don’t want to do to be sending clients like five different links, like one for your fact-find, one for your risk profiler, you know, all those sort of things. You want it all to be in one place. So even though there might be lots of technologies behind the scenes from lots of providers, to the clients, it looks like it’s one thing and so it’s seamless. Yeah, the tech is, it’s really interesting. It’s fascinating. But it’s tricky as well.

Building the Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) Tech Stack

Kate: Yes it is. So what are you using on the technology side? Is it piecing together different things? Do you have proprietary software that you’re using?

Claire: It’s a real mix. So through our network we’re given a back office, a CRM system called Enable. So we use that. That one’s quite good because it then talks to our main platform that we use, which is Fusion Wealth, which runs off SEI, which is a big American firm. So they kind of talk to a certain extent. So that’s helpful. We use FinaMetrica,  the Australian firm for our risk profile. Obviously we’re using Zoom, [Microsoft] Teams, et cetera. We use, for the planning side of things, we use Voyant and Timeline and then it’s just loads of other sort of small bits and pieces. But what we’re trying to do for onboarding of new clients is, there’s a bit of tech called Advicefront where you can bolt different things in so we can put a fact-find in and we can put us service charter in, we can put the risk profiler in.

So I think we’re moving away from trying to get something that’s already developed and we just white label it. We’re kind of moving away from that. We’re moving away towards platforms. The basics are there, but you can bolt on what you want to make it uniquely yours. I think, cause I think that is so much cheaper, more practical than developing everything yourself. I mean we have done that with Life Goals, et cetera. I can see the real benefit of doing that because you’ve got the broad structure there, you just get someone to bolt the bits on. But it looks seamless for our clients. It’s generally ours, it’s generally a first rough thing. We’re not like, Oh we like 80% of that and we’ll put up with the 20% because we get the 80%. We want it all to be 100% our way of doing things.

Kate: Yeah. Well and the nice thing is if you do actually have those different pieces, then if something goes wrong with one piece or somebody comes up with a new element, then you can easily kind of switch out those puzzle pieces.

Claire: Yeah, and I think you’re right because otherwise if you invested in everything all in one place and something stops working, you’re kind of like, Oh. And I think that’s where so many firms have got to, because they’ve invested so much over the years on something big and inflexible, because that’s how IT used to be in the old days. You know, you look at the big old insurance companies, some of them are still running technology that was probably created 30, 40 years ago and until those plans like drop off, they’re stuck with it because it’s too expensive to do anything else. Whereas I think the new firms are more nimble because hopefully what they’re building is something that can be adapted and changed.

And I think the other thing around technology as well. So I’m talking about technology, which isn’t my area of expertise, is to make sure that just because it’s a bit of tech that’s there and it looks pretty and stuff. What value does it actually add because there’s so much out there, it looks great, but actually if you’ve got something that kind of already does that and it’s working and you can just repurpose that slightly, do that rather than go get another thing and then have to worry about another set of costs and other sort of learning how to use it and how to integrate it. It’s got to add value as well. I think that’s really important too.

Kate: Yeah, making sure you don’t fall into the shiny object syndrome, of ‘I need something else.’ I think there are a lot of advisors because it does take time and effort and research to figure out how to fully leverage every piece of technology that you already have and I think there are a lot of elements of the tech stack that aren’t being fully leveraged and so when you see something else that does maybe solve one problem, you go, I’m just going to do that instead of getting it where it already is. So absolutely.

Claire: Yeah. Yeah, you’re right because sometimes something looks great and stuff, but then when you actually take that all important pause, you don’t actually get it to give us the output we want. Actually it’s a hell of a lot of work. It’s not always worth it, is it.

Fee Transparency

Kate: No, no, it’s not. So Claire, one of the things I want to ask, I loved when I looked on the First Wealth website, you guys are completely transparent with your fees. You’ve got everything laid out there. You’ve got examples listing the hard pounds of exactly what it will cost and different sample scenarios and I love that. I absolutely think that that is something that should be on all advisor websites. I know people feel strongly the other way and I’ll just share, for me it’s because growing up I remember going to Nordstrom with my mom. I just remember walking around one time and maybe it was somewhere else, but the tags were turned around so that you couldn’t easily see the price. They were tucked in. They were turned around and I just remember my mom saying to me, “If you can’t see it, it’s too expensive.” And that’s just one of those little things that happen in life that, you know, she just said in passing, but it has stuck with me forever and I feel that way no matter what I’m looking for. If I go online and it feels like the prices are hidden, I just stop and go to the next thing. So tell me how you guys came up with deciding that and your thoughts behind it.

Well, it’s very straightforward and very simple. It’s nothing fancy. We believe in being clear and transparent in everything; that includes our fees. So what can we do Oh, let’s, let’s put them on the, on the website.

Claire: Well, it’s very straightforward and very simple. It’s nothing fancy. We believe in being clear and transparent in everything; that includes our fees. So what can we do Oh, let’s, let’s put them on the, on the website. I mean, as you said, part of the journey is when you’re looking for potentially someone to work with. Part of that is, well, okay, it’s great. I know I need a financial plan. Actually. How much is that going to cost because you don’t want to pitch up and find out that the minimum fee is, 10,000 pounds say, and you’re like, goodness me, that’s not a nice place to be. And so you might just think, you know, I’m not gonna even go there because I don’t know what it is. So yeah, it was just all part of the, we want to be clear and transparent in everything we do. And that’s all it is. So we’ve always been fee-based. So when the business opened in 2009 it was ahead of what’s called over here, the Retail Distribution Review (RDR), when you had to start declaring your fees, et cetera. So we’ve always been fee based so I think it was ju