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Profile: ‘We’re rebranding to be seen as more approachable’

In 1998, chartered accountancy practice Phillip Bates & Co created financial planning arm Phillip Bates & Co Financial Services. Here, managing director and chartered financial planner Alan Mellor talks to Adviser Business Review about the firm’s client base, its decision to focus on investment and tax planning and its mission to refresh its image through PR

Adviser Business Review: What did Phillip Bates and Co set out to achieve with its financial planning division?

Alan Mellor: The firm wanted to make sure it was giving the fullest service to clients. They felt that would be best provided under one roof where the crossover would be as seamless as possible and the accountancy firm wouldn’t need to refer clients out to other IFA firms. I joined the firm in 2004 and it’s been growing steadily over the years.

ABR: How would you describe your typical client?

AM: Our average client is around 50 years of age and starting to amass some wealth. They’ve reached a point in their lives where they start thinking about the future and understand the need to have a strong financial plan in place. We don’t operate a minimum assets level, but of course, if we feel during a first meeting with a client that it wouldn’t be economical for them to pay the fees we would tell them. We offer broad financial planning, including investments, pensions, life insurance, annuities, and so forth, but we made the decision around four years ago to stop offering mortgage advice. We simply felt that we are experts in financial planning and taxation and that we needed to concentrate on that.

ABR: How are you marketing your business?

AM: We have been fairly fortunate in that we’ve never had to do significant marketing. We’ve relied heavily upon referrals from our accountancy practice and recommendations from existing clients. We’re very well established locally so that works in our favour. That said, we have recently employed a PR company to help us freshen our image and we hope to launch our rebrand at the end of April/ beginning of May.

We felt that we had never really emphasised the strength and power of having a chartered accountancy practice and chartered financial planning practice all under one roof. We’re in the process of rebranding our logo and website, so that we’re seen as more approachable, and we are also looking at all of our client-facing material. We’ve got a simple message, but as a profession we tend to use technical language which can often detract from the essence of what we are doing.

ABR: You recently issued a pre-Budget warning on pensions, do you think there’s been too much change?

AM: People have got to be able to plan for the future and they will only do so if they’re confident of what will happen. Pensions and retirement planning has become so much more transparent and accessible to the public, yet you wouldn’t know it from the way its portrayed in the media. I think the constant changes by the government only adds to the confusion and creates a lack of confidence in the industry. For me, the pension freedoms have been a huge benefit to people, allowing them the freedom and choice to take their income in a way that suits them rather than in a prescribed fashion. What we need to do is offer people some stability and assurance that things won’t keep changing. The problem is pensions remain a huge, huge pot of money for the government so if politicians want to rebalance the books it’s pretty much their first pit stop.

ABR: How would you like to grow the company going forward?

AM: We have around 250 active clients, shared between two advisers and a fantastic network of support staff. The challenge for us is to grow with our clients, as their needs change through the years we must ensure we keep pace with those. We certainly don’t have any desire to double or treble our client numbers as that would turn us into a machine and we would lose the trusted adviser relationship we’ve worked so hard to create with all of our clients.

Visit Phillip Bates & Co Financial Services website

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