Raising your business standards
For advisers seeking to differentiate themselves in the market, ISO 22222 and BS 8577 standards promise to help firms achieve financial planning excellence. Michelle Hoskin, founder and director of Standards International, talks to ABR about the growing need to push the bar higher and the benefits of applying for the standards
ABR: At what point should advisers consider applying for these standards?
MH: ISO 22222 (ISO) and BS 8577 (BS) are very unique in the market and therefore, so are the advisers who work towards achieving those. The firms who contact us have normally accomplished a great deal but want to know how they can improve their service further. Previously, attaining chartered status was considered the pinnacle, but now there is a desire among many to push the bar higher and differentiate themselves from their peers.
The firms who have achieved these standards are top of their game, I like to think of them as the crème de la crème. They need to be the best they can possibly be as a business before they even consider applying. Achieving ISO and BS is all about adopting a belief system, it is not simply a certificate for certificate’s sake. It will not work if they do not already have a strong management structure in place and a firm idea of where they want to be in the market.
ABR: What kind of firms do these standards suit?
MH: We have done a lot of work around our ‘ideal client’ and it is those firms that are very entrepreneurial and forward thinking which are best suited. Firms which apply for the standards see themselves as much more than an adviser, they are normally business owners and view ISO and BS as a benchmark for the way they work rather than a box-ticking exercise.
We expect firms who approach us to have a strong management structure in place; it is not about building knowledge but knowing how to use the knowledge they already have. It is a ‘by design’ approach to business rather than ‘by accident.’
ABR: What do ISO 22222 and BS 8577 bring to a company?
MH: They create slicker, more efficient internal and client facing processes. We offer an annual assessment, bringing expertise to their business every year at a much lower cost than a consultant. We will watch client meetings as well as team meetings and provide an independent review of their processes. Our clients find it very helpful to receive constructive feedback and an understanding of where they can improve. These standards also bring scale; having them provides firms with the framework to grow their business as large as they want.
When we devised ISO and BS for the adviser market, we ensured we had a great deal of consumer input. At the time, a survey revealed that 75 per cent of consumers would have more confidence in their advisers if they had a kitemark and this is associated with ISO and BS.
Our standards are demand-led and I do think consumer expectations will continue to grow. In the run up to RDR, advisers spent so long studying they neglected their businesses. Being a good adviser is not enough today, to really excel you need to have an amazing business too. There is a growing awareness among clients for the need for great service and I expect we will see an increasing number of advisers applying for the standards.
ABR: How much time would an adviser have to commit to achieving the standards?
MH: It is not something that can be completed in a week and very few firms want to rush it. A year is normally a good amount of time; it is a journey and one that they should enjoy completing. Before we work with a firm, we carry out a best practice review to ensure that they are ready for the process. If I believe they cannot commit to the time I will tell them to park it and come back to it in the future. It is not something that can be done half-heartedly. However, once they do get started, we get them so motivated that they really throw themselves in to it and are often sad when it comes to an end!
ISO 222222: Specifies the ethical behaviour, competences and experience required of a professional personal financial planner. Find out more about ISO 22222
BS 8577: Specifies established best practice and processes for embedding an effective operational management system, both standalone and to support adherence to ISO 22222 Personal financial planning – requirements for personal financial planners.
Find out more about BS 8577
Visit the Standards International website