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Changing adviser work practices need a different admin support offering

As more advisers discover the benefits of the part or fully virtual office, outsourced administration services are helping to support this developing market, says Debbie Condon, director, Intuitive Support Services

As technology has progressed, more and more people see working from home as a viable option, saving time commuting and the cost of renting office space. Nowadays, more and more advisers are using serviced offices for their client meetings, whilst working from home the rest of the time. Homeworking provides a great work life balance, enabling us to dedicate more time to both work and our personal lives.

If you’re a financial adviser working from home, how do you go about having dedicated and experienced admin support if you don’t have an office? You don’t want someone sitting in your house, nor do you want to rent an office purely to give the administrator somewhere to sit.

Neither are you likely to have the time to train a novice or to be tied down supervising someone.

But how do you find an experienced administrator who is willing (and able) to work from their own premises, whilst using their own equipment and who, whilst you might want them to be available all day will only charge you for the hours they actually work for you?

Virtual support

One relatively new option is using the services of a firm that provides outsourced personal assistants (PAs) or administrators. Assuming a quality firm is selected, the PAs or administrators should be fully vetted and have access to technology which ensures your data will never be compromised – the outsourcing firm should be able to provide due diligence information. The PAs work remotely, or ‘virtually’, so not having an office is never an issue. While the PA is employed by the PA firm, they will present themselves to your clients and product providers as if they are an employee of your firm.

There are numerous firms providing virtual PA support, but only a small handful that are specifically experienced in financial services. However, they do exist, and with current levels of demand, it’s likely the market will continue to expand.

What are the costs?

If you were to employ an experienced Administrator (outside London) you might to expect to pay anywhere from £11 ph to £15 ph. An outsourced PA, on the other hand, is likely to cost you around £25/£30 per hour.

That may seem like a big difference but then you have to consider what you’re saving when you outsource, rather than employ, over and above the basic hourly wage.

Firstly, you’re not tied to employment contract, or the legal requirements that come with that. You won’t need to think about auto enrolment, or paying an employee’s Income Tax and National Insurance. Recruitment costs through an agency can easily exceed £4,000, and whilst advertising on job sites might be cheaper, it involves a lot of work your side to filter and interview candidates. Not forgetting, of course, you’ll need a job description, contract of employment, offer letter, and you’ll be responsible for requesting references, checking ID and possibly arranging a credit check. You might also need a staff handbook, along with written procedures, and did you know that it’s a legal requirement to have grievance and disciplinary procedures available? Then there’s training and induction time, employer liability insurance, and also additional staff benefits you might need to provide.

In addition to this, you’ll also have to cover sickness pay, which you can’t reclaim, and provide IT equipment, IT support and pay for their telephony equipment, along with the costs of calls. Not forgetting, of course, the cost of renting premises from which they’ll work, and the desk and chair they’ll use.

Furthermore, employers often feel tied to the office having to supervise the staff that they employ.

There is also the question of how to motivate and incentivise staff, along with review meetings and performance discussions. Then what about disciplinary issues, which can take hours of time?

Someone needs to manage your payroll, and then there are also health and safety responsibilities – which believe it or not still apply even if your staff work from home.

Lastly, did you know that a full time employee is legally entitled to holiday of 5.6 weeks per year, so you’ll be paying a salary when you’re not even receiving support. And what happens if you have a quiet spell? Well, you’ll still be paying the full rate regardless of whether there is work to do or not. And as for calculating holiday for someone who is part time – to say it’s complicated, don’t even get me started!

If this doesn’t cause you to break out in a sweat, maybe employing someone is a good route for you and your firm. However, if this is feeling like more hassle than it’s worth when all you actually want is good administration support, knowing that there is another option might come as a welcome relief.

The bottom line is that you can have access to experienced support on a long-term basis, without making a long-term commitment. You can pay to have someone ready and available when you need them, and only pay for the support you actually need and use – an option well worth considering for many advisers whether working virtually or not.

Visit the Intuitive Support Services website

See also Should you be outsourcing your back-office administration

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