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Benefits of running ‘Ask the Adviser’ surgeries

In a bid to break down barriers and bring financial planning to a wider audience, Essex-based Cervello Financial Planning has opened its doors for a series of “Ask the Adviser” surgeries.

During its two surgeries in Rainham, Essex and London, Cervello offered individuals the opportunity to ask their burning financial questions at the firm’s expense. Adviser Business Review asks director Chris Daems about the inspiration behind the surgeries, how the firm promoted its initiative and its plans for future surgeries.

Adviser Business Review: What inspired you to run the “Ask the Adviser” surgeries?

Chris Daems: The Citizen’s Advice Bureau runs a similar session and it’s something we’ve always admired and wanted to replicate independently. This is our first year of doing it so it’s very much a trial run, but we felt it was important both as a firm and an industry to give some of our time back. There’s often a preconception about financial advisers and the cost related to receiving advice, so we wanted to offer our help at no cost to the individual and make advice more accessible to the masses.

While we do believe that some of those attending will go on to become clients, the drive behind it was not commercial. What we really want to do is show people we can genuinely add value and help those people who would not normally approach a financial adviser.

ABR: How did you decide how many slots to offer?

CD: As this is our first time doing it, we decided to offer 10 slots of 45 minutes each which we hope will provide sufficient time to answer all of those burning questions, but this may change going forwards. We decided to run two surgeries; one locally and one in London so that we could access a wider range of people. The range and depth of questions was interesting; queries ranged from pension freedoms to helping with a limited business. We are very happy to help people whatever their financial situation, be it saving for the future or needing advice about clearing debt.

ABR: How did you promote the surgeries?

CD: We used social media, such as Facebook, and our website. We are also members of various local business networks so we posted on those websites. We didn’t ask existing clients for referrals as we often do that in a commercial sense and find that the referrals we receive are individuals similar to those we already service and in a position to pay for advice. What we wanted to achieve with the surgeries is to help people who wouldn’t normally walk through our doors.

That said, this is a learning curve for us as we’ve had no prior experience so going forward we may look to current clients to help drum up interest.

ABR: What benefit do you hope it will bring to the business?

CD: We know from initial conversations we’ve had that some of those individuals will go on to become clients, but that was not our intention. Our industry is often unfairly judged and perhaps misunderstood, so for us we want to demonstrate the value we can offer. It’s also a nice feeling to do something good. Of course, part of the focus for us as a business is how do we grow and build a service that can work for a more diverse range of people? Our client base tends to be between 50 and 70 years of age, with our average client in their early 60s, so in a way this provides good market research. I’m in my 30s and business longevity is something I need to consider. Traditionally, businesses like mine don’t cater to people like me so part of this exercise is to understand why younger people don’t feel the need to seek advice.

ABR: Do you have plans to hold further “Ask the Adviser” surgeries?

CD: Our initial thought was to run those quarterly, but we will take the feedback from our first sessions to garner the demand. It is definitely something we want to continue doing as we feel it’s beneficial but just how often and how many slots we offer is not yet set in stone. We may also consider other ways to promote those and possibly consider other areas outside of the two we have offered now. From our first endeavour, we hope to get a better understanding of what people are looking for and work out how we can engage with a wider audience.

Visit the Cervello Financial Planning website

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