Building my business: Why I recommend using a business coach
We interview Colin Low director of Kingsfleet Wealth about how he is building his Suffolk-based business and why he says using a business coach was “a real light bulb moment”
Adviser Business Review: What did you set out to create when you founded Kingsfleet Wealth?
Colin Low: The simple answer is I wanted to create a firm clients could trust. We take our time to get to know our clients, their circumstances and their goals and our aim is to forge long-term relationships.
I had built up enough experience through my years in financial services to recognise that many advisers lack confidence when it comes to building professional connections and creating those relationships is the Holy Grail for an adviser. I wanted to concentrate on working with solicitors and accountants to help develop the business.
ABR: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced setting up your own business?
CL: When I first started the business in 2010, I was the only adviser. At first you believe you can do everything yourself, but you soon come to realise that isn’t always feasible. I employed my first member of staff within four months, but the biggest challenge for me has been to relinquish some control. At the end of last year, we had a business coach come in for a few months and it transpired that what was holding me back is that I wanted absolutely everything to pass through my desk.
Having a business coach look at the business from the outside in was a real light bulb moment. To any small business owner, I would recommend having either a coach, business mentor or non-exec director – someone you can trust and who doesn’t have a vested interest – to give you their opinion. So often you get swept up in having to set long term goals as part of your business plan and forget to look really closely at the current dynamics.
ABR: Who is your ideal client?
CL: The simple answer is anyone who wants and needs professional advice. Around 60-65% of our client base is post-retirement, while the remaining percentage are successful entrepreneurs or key decision makers within a business and their ages vary greatly, all the way from 30 to post-retirement age.
What we have found to be effective is creating a specific niche for each adviser to focus their efforts. That makes us generalist in terms of a firm, but specialist in terms of advisers. My energies are focused upon building relationships with solicitors, while another of our advisers does the same with accountants. One of our advisers, Jenny, is a fully accredited Society of Later Life Adviser, and it’s an area she’s really passionate about, so a lot of her focus is upon care fee planning and inheritance tax planning.
ABR: What is the key to building professional connections?
CL: I think the key is to be as qualified as possible. I passed my Financial Planning Certificate with STEP, which solicitors are very familiar with. I went on to qualify as a Chartered Financial Planner and received accreditation from the Society of Later Life Advisers. I also completed a Master’s Degree in Financial Planning, which is quite rare within the industry. You need to be able to communicate with solicitors and accountants and tangibly demonstrate your knowledge and experience – you need them to feel you’re capable and they can entrust their clients to you.
Dialogue is really important, you must keep the information flow going and if there are changes to legislation that I believe will impact their clients I make sure I keep them informed, for example the pension freedoms. The changes to the law could have a big impact on couples going through divorce, so it was important to highlight that. I think that increasingly solicitors are recognising the benefits of bringing in a financial adviser early on.
ABR: How do you market your business?
CL: Referrals from solicitors and accountants continue to remain our biggest source of new business. However, we are starting to look at other areas, and are considering seminars. I’m becoming more convinced that people are struggling to buy off the page – they want to meet an adviser in person and find someone they can really trust.
We’ve updated the firm’s slogan to incorporate what we believe stands out about us. We interviewed clients last year and asked them what we were like as a business, and three words came up repeatedly: professional, personal, trusted.
ABR: You use model portfolios, how effective have they been to your business?
CL: We’ve been using model portfolios since the very beginning and we now use five in total. We actually back-tested those recently and they have performed really, really well so we’re very pleased with our choice to do so. However, we only use one DFM for specialist cases as our general experience of DFMs has been really disappointing. Following some bad returns, we made the decision at the start of 2014 to stop using DFMs, as it wasn’t making financial or business sense to continue.
ABR: What would you like to achieve going forward?
CL: We have several things in the pipeline and I expect the next year to be an interesting time. More generally, the advice market itself will polarise between those self-investing clients and those seeking advice. I think on the whole people will be more tempted to go down the DIY route, which is why we as a profession really need to demonstrate our value and show people the benefits of having an adviser.
As a business, we’ve received fantastic testimonials from clients so now the focus is on communicating that to prospective clients and growing the business.
Business founded: May 2010
Total staff: 11 – four advisers, three admin staff, one marketing assistant, one accounts assistant, two interns
Clients: 450 in total – 425 active
Assets under Administration: £45.8 million