Profile: Rebranding and raising my fees from £450 to £2000
Madeleine To, founder of Berkshire-based Blueberry Financial, tells ABR about her decision to rebrand to target woman between 40 and 60 and the reasons she decided to increase her fees fourfold
Adviser Business Review: What led you to pursue a career in financial advice and set up Blueberry Financial?
Madeleine To: I would like to say I followed some grand plan, but my route into financial advice was more accidental than that! I studied biochemistry at university but ended up working for Standard Life as a sales consultant. I really enjoyed it and it gave me the opportunity to learn more about the financial services industry and gain my financial qualifications. It was during my time there that I thought about becoming a financial adviser; the role and interaction with clients appealed to me. I sought advice from my mother’s IFA at the Financial Management Group and ended up being offered a job, where I stayed for the next two and a half years. It was a fantastic transitional role, but I felt I wanted to take clients in a slightly different direction and that would be easier to do if I worked alone.
ABR: What challenges did you face in setting up your own business?
MT: A former colleague of mine had made the decision to set up his own business so I grilled him on every aspect.
I used SimplyBiz who held my hand throughout the entire process. I would recommend anyone thinking of starting their own business do the same because it’s tough to do it completely alone without any guidance or support.
It was a big leap going from a regular salary and company car to nothing but I was very fortunate that my husband was my financial backer.
When I told my clients I was leaving to set up my own firm, the majority followed me. I had gone out and got their business and it was me they had the relationship with and wanted that to continue regardless of where I worked, which helped greatly.
ABR: Who is your target client?
MT: When I first started in 2008, I was very open to all sorts of business. However, I made the decision to rebrand a few years ago and that prompted me to really think about my business proposition and with whom I wanted to work. I made the decision to target women who were between the ages of 40 and 60 and had children. I wanted to feel like we could relate to one another and share similar concerns.
As part of my rebrand, I chose pinks and purples as my company colours but surprisingly, I started to attract more men! I think it’s because it looked a bit different to the average IFA website and they liked the softer touch.
My approach is very much about the person, I am not product-driven and I place no pressure on people to join.
At the moment, the ratio of men to women is fairly even; I work with a few single men and a few single women but the majority of my clients are couples.
ABR: Why did you decide to rebrand?
MT: I had just returned to work from having my youngest child and went along to female networking group Athena’s conference. As I listened to the female speakers, it stirred a desire in me to regain my passion for financial advice and redefine what I wanted to achieve both for the business and my clients.
I was introduced to business coach Alexandra Watson, who’s very motivational. She sat me down and asked me who my clients were and what I charged, which proved to be a real eye-opener.
I use Truth cashflow planning software and at first I was charging just £450 to do it all, but Alexandra made me realise I was really undervaluing myself so I made the decision to increase my fee to £2,000.
Doing so meant clients I would have previously agreed to work with could no longer afford my services, but that was a decision I had to take to improve my business.
ABR: What made you convert to passive investing?
MT: I used to fund pick and while I enjoyed it, it was also quite difficult at times. Funds blow hot and cold and I didn’t always agree with agency suggestions.
I was advised to read Tim Hale’s book on passive investing which I was very sceptical about, but it actually made sense and made me want to delve deeper.
The costs are lower than in comparison to those of active funds, which makes a big difference to the performance for the client.
Of course, you get the more hands-on individuals and that’s absolutely fine, but on the whole my clients trust me to do what’s best for them and their main concern is knowing they have the money to fulfill many of their goals in life.
I use the Standard Life wrap, which I believe is the best one out there to meet my clients’ needs.
How would you like to grow the business going forwards?
MT: I currently work three days a week but I will look to increase that to four in September. I have 30 clients, and I would like to grow that number to around 50 but I feel that would be my limit in terms of what I could comfortably deal with.
I previously used VouchedFor, and I will likely rejoin because I found it to be a fantastic source of new business. I also find client referrals extremely useful; it’s good to let them know you’re looking for new business as they’re more likely to put your name forward to their contacts.
I would like to continue working with females but my favourite is couples as I absolutely love the interaction you get. It’s important to me that women in the relationship understand their money and should they find themselves in the position that they separate or their partner dies, they know what’s going on with their finances.
I thought about bringing on another adviser but actually it’s not something I feel I need or want at this moment in time. I know some fantastic very small IFA firms and the advice has always been to ensure the administration side is taken care of. I have a wonderful assistant and I outsource my paraplanning to The Timebank, who I have found to be really helpful. As well as taking care of the paperwork, it’s good to having a sounding board and someone to provide an objective opinion when needed.
Date founded: April 2008
Client assets: £8.5 million
Staff: 2 – Madeleine and her assistant
Visit the Blueberry Financial website