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Rowley Turton: Building our brand, paraplanners and PR

Scott Gallacher, director of Leicester-based Rowley Turton, talks to Adviser Business Review about growing the business, the importance of investing in paraplanners and PR, and why the industry needs to work harder at promoting itself to the media

Adviser Business Review: How many clients does Rowley Turton have and what segment of the market do you target?

Scott Gallacher: We have 190 active clients and typically look to service individuals with in excess of £100,000 investable assets. We tried going down the route of segmentation and identifying our ‘target client’ but it actually wasn’t that clear. We offer pre and post retirement planning, as well as inheritance tax planning, financial matters related to divorce and help with long-term care fees. The majority of our clients are 50 plus, although we do have some younger clients who are in the process of accumulating their wealth.

We also do a lot of auto-enrolment project work, which has been an unexpected add-on for us. We are very closely tied to an accountancy firm and, as it’s an area they have been approached about, we figured it made sense for us to look at it. We offer a menu-based process, from designing and recommending pension schemes, to actually setting up the scheme and going into the office to give a staff presentation. As a business, we look to add value to clients, make a profit and potentially turn business owners and directors into private clients. Many of the directors we’ve worked with say having someone to answer their employees’ questions in detail has been invaluable.

It’s certainly been a learning curve for us, but one we are pleased we embarked upon. A lot of IFAs aren’t getting involved in auto-enrolment and I think that’s a mistake – there’s a lot to offer out there and advisers need to start pulling their finger out.

ABR: What is the ratio of advisers to back-office staff?

SG: We have two advisers, two paraplanners and two-full time administrative staff. We are happy to outsource certain parts of the business, such as accounts, but we wouldn’t outsource any advisory-related tasks like research and reports.

For us, the value of advisers is dealing with clients – their questions, concerns and forging those relationships. A lot of the work that goes into looking after their assets doesn’t have to be carried out by advisers, it can be handled by qualified paraplanners. In my eyes, back-office staff are fundamental to the business. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes and takes much, much longer than the one or two hours an adviser sits in front of a client. As such, we make a point of investing in our staff. I think there’s a real shortage of quality paraplanners out there because so many firms don’t have the inclination to train their staff. There’s still the thinking that paraplanning is just a route to becoming an adviser, but we want great quality paraplanners as we simply couldn’t survive without them. More companies should invest in their people and offer training as it would help to make the talent pool larger for the industry as a whole.

ABR: How do you build up your client base?

SG: For us, building up our client base is one of the biggest challenges. We would ideally like to build the business to a point where we have between 300 and 400 clients because we have a fantastic support network of staff which would enable us to comfortably service that many.

That said, the business has really grown over the past couple of years and that’s down to a variety of factors. In 2013, we became chartered which gave us an edge over our local competitors, we had the introduction of RDR which helped to disrupt clients and bring in new business for us and the fruits of our PR work started to kick in. To describe it, we had the perfect storm. Now we rely on a combination of client recommendations, referrals from our accountancy practice and online enquiries.

ABR: What marketing methods do you use to raise the profile of Rowley Turton?

SG: About five years ago we started doing a lot of PR work. I really believe you need to put in a solid three years’ hard work for it to pay off – it would be rare for a small firm to see a big difference immediately. It’s been a hard slog but it’s important to get your name out there in front of potential clients. It’s also helpful to have your name pop up on Google searches; if prospective clients see you commenting on issues and appearing in the local and national press it builds up credibility. We considered using a PR firm, but realised we could do a lot of it ourselves such as comments, press releases and writing articles for the press.

ABR: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your business?

SG: Without a doubt, the pension freedoms have been great in providing clients with new options, and there are a lot of inheritance tax planning opportunities we can explore. However, it can be somewhat of an educational process with non-clients, who call us up and have a “I want all my money now” attitude. We certainly wouldn’t help people do something we disagreed with – the long term negative effect it would have on them, as well as the potential for a complaint against us far outweighs the short term income. We will only support clients in their decision if we can see some sense to it.

ABR: What’s the biggest challenge you face?

SG: There is a cost issue; regulatory changes and the cost of regulation means there’s now an advice gap in the market. Clients we may previously have considered are no longer profitable for us and that’s the case for many firms. However, the biggest issue is that financial advisers, on the whole, still get a lot of bad press and this can prevent people from seeking advice. You never read positive stories because bad news sells unfortunately, but I think in order to encourage consumers to seek advice there needs to be a bit of balance. On their part, advisers need to engage more with the mainstream press – they should be actively looking to promote their success stories and offer case studies if they can.

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