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10 years on: Fingerprint FP has grown through ‘steady, sustainable growth’

As Kent-based IFA firm Fingerprint Financial Planning celebrates its 10 year anniversary, Adviser Business Review speaks to principle partner Paul Spencer-Nixon about growing the firm’s client base and why value for money is more important than low cost.

Adviser Business Review: How difficult was starting a business during the financial crisis?

Paul Spencer-Nixon: When my business partner Ben Beslic and I started planning, the financial crisis had not yet hit and I don’t think we anticipated it being quite as severe as it was. However, I do believe the banking crisis was a real game-changer as it became more visible to clients how banks operated and made independent financial advisers a more attractive option. At the time our focus was upon providing the best possible service to our clients, but of course, we look back now with gratitude that we were able to grow and come through the other side unscathed.

ABR: How have you grown the business over the past decade?

P S-N: It has grown from Ben and myself to a team of 10; six advisers, three administrators and one compliance person. Our client base has been primarily built through referrals from existing clients, largely due to Ben and I not having the time to invest in marketing the business. However, now we have a solid foundation we are looking at ways to raise our profile and attract new clients; we are doing more work with introducers and we joined Unbiased last year.

ABR: How would you describe your typical client?

P S-N: Our clients are varied, in both age and financial situation, and we work closely with different generations of families, but I would say our core client is 40+ and in the accumulation phase. They are often professionals and many are business owners. While it was a conscious decision to focus on the accumulation phase, it has also been quite a natural step for us. We offer mortgages, which broadly speaking tends to attract a younger client and we often find that those clients have other needs, which can benefit from financial advice. We have built a team whereby we have different specialisms, which enables us to cover all areas.

ABR: What would you say has been the biggest change in the advice market over the past decade?

P S-N: There have been so many changes, with one of the biggest being RDR, but because we’re a younger business that was never an issue for us as we were prepared for it. I would say the biggest and most significant change was the introduction of the pension freedoms. They were a huge game-changer for the industry and have made the word ‘pension’ attractive again. It’s been a really positive development for clients and the pensions market, as it’s made pensions a viable option once again.

ABR: What change would you like to see in the advice industry?

P S-N: There have been so many changes, it would be quite nice to have a year with no changes! Everybody has their gripes and criticism but it’s not a perfect world and I think complaining too much about legislation or FSCS costs is futile – I try not to worry too much about things out of my control. What I would like to see, however, is more focus on value for money rather than cost. A lot of criticism focuses on the price of something rather than whether it was right for the client. Cheap isn’t always cheerful and I think we need to be careful not to place too much emphasis on the lower cost options as there’s a danger clients will look at what’s cheapest rather than what’s best for them. If clients always chase cost, then we may well experience the fall out of bad decisions 20 years down the line.

ABR: What role do you see technology playing going forwards?

P S-N: Developments in technology will certainly have an impact, but I do think as a community we’re a bit slow on technology and we could always do more. My biggest bugbear is back-office systems; they don’t seem to represent the best value for money and can often be very frustrating! We may well look to build our own in the future.

ABR: What are your plans for the future?

P S-N: Steady, sustainable growth is key. We don’t want to grow too fast as doing so would harm our business. We want to grow the number of advisers we have and work more closely with professional introducers. We are considering acquisitions – it’s not something we have done as yet but something we would like to do providing we can find the right fit for us. We would lean towards someone looking to retire as that might be the cleanest option and from speaking to others seems most preferable but nothing is set in stone and we’re open-minded. As two people in their 30s, Ben and I plan to be around for a while yet and we’re excited about what the future holds.

Visit the Fingerprint Financial Planning website

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