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Gibson Financial: Running a small firm and attracting Millennials

David Gibson, director, Gibson Financial Planning, talks to Adviser Business Review about the challenges of running a small financial planning firm and the need to appeal to a younger generation

Adviser Business Review: What does Gibson Financial Planning offer clients?

David Gibson: We are a small company committed to providing structured and insightful financial plans for our clients. There are four of us – two advisers, one office manager and one paraplanner. We outsource our paraplanner and it has worked wonders for the business; we pay for the service as and when we need it, usually to cope with overflow.

We pride ourselves on providing a first class service to those who are retired or just about to retire. I took over the business from my father and very much enjoy working with that segment of the market. From providing pension advice, to looking at more general retirement planning, we devise a financial plan that is focused on our client’s goals and dreams.

ABR: Would you like to work with the Millennial generation going forwards?

DG: It’s a funny one; I’m 36 and a lot of my friends and people younger than myself could benefit from financial advice, but it doesn’t appear to be a priority, which is a real shame. The generation before benefited from final salary pension schemes and there was much more of a saving-mentality in place, but I think this generation won’t take it seriously enough until it’s perhaps a little too late.

I am part of a CII initiative to educate the next generation on the importance of financial planning and saving for the future, by giving talks at universities. Perhaps because I work mainly with the at-retirement market, I felt it was a good thing to do and I hope that such initiatives will have some impact on the younger generation’s thinking.

ABR: How important is technology to your business?

DG: When I took over the business from my father, there was very little in the way of technology. I spent about a year looking into and testing out different systems and now we use a back office system called True Potential, which is great as it provides clients with 24-hour access to their investment portfolio. They can also download an App and I would say between 70% and 80% of our clients do so. By using the most up-to-date technology, it keeps our time free to focus on servicing our clients.

ABR: How do you use social media to your advantage?

DG: Social media is high up on my priority list. I’m very active on Twitter and I also have a Facebook page and LinkedIn profile. That said, I have never had a potential client come to me through Twitter and neither do I use it for that purpose. I use it to interact with other advisers and keep abreast of what’s going on in the industry. The bulk of my clients come to me either through referrals, the website or Vouchedfor and we’ve also been fortunate to have attracted a couple of good clients off the back of LinkedIn. I think social media is great, but it works best when you know what you want to get out of it and you’re realistic about your expectations.

ABR: What impact has becoming an Accredited firm had on you and your business?

DG: We were delighted to become an Accredited firm, as it demonstrates the highest professional standards. I saw it as an opportunity to benchmark ourselves; you know what you’re doing but you can’t be sure how that compares to other financial planners. The process is long and rigorous, but it was great to receive suggestions about where we could make improvements as a firm. Passing the audit and receiving accredited status has been a huge validation for us and we can use it to show clients that we are just a handful of companies to have received it.

ABR: What are the challenges of being a small firm?

DG: I think running a small firm gives you the advantage of being nimble, but the greatest challenge is keeping on top of all the changes. Regulation changes often and you need to make sure your compliance and company is equipped to keep up with it. We outsource our compliance, which makes the process much easier and ensures there’s a neutral third party looking through everything. I do think if we were to bring it in house, we may not be as hard on ourselves as a third party is.

Although we are a small firm, we have enjoyed steady growth and looking to the future, I hope to maintain this.

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