Solomons targets growth via low cost, pared-back service and social media
Solomons Financial Planning may be a small business but as founder Dominic Thomas tells Fiona Bond, the firm is still focussed on growth through the launch of the One Hundred Club – a lower-cost, pared back service – and the use of social media
Adviser Business Review: How has Solomons Financial Planning evolved over the years?
Dominic Thomas: I started the business in 1999, with around 25-30 clients, which I was fortunate to bring with me from my previous job. Over the years, I have grown organically, through word of mouth and referrals, and I now have 86 full financial planning clients. We serve clients in and around South West London.
My focus has always been on forging long-term, mutually respectful relationships with my clients. We provide a bespoke service, working closely with clients to identify what is important to them and helping them to achieve the lifestyle they want; so trust and getting on well with each other is crucial.
ABR: Do you have an ideal client?
DT: We don’t have a ‘typical’ client as such, but 55% of our client base is over the age of 65. I find those clients tend to be good at delegating and making sensible decisions, and understand the importance of making their money last. I enjoy working with that segment of the market, as they are generally more relaxed, there are lots of options available to them and on the whole, they have more money to make decisions with. The focus for these clients is on preserving their spending power, and maintaining their financial freedom for life.
I also have clients approaching retirement age and still in the accumulation phase. Those clients tend to be between 50 – 60 and seeking to reach a point where they can choose whether to work or not. I do have a few younger clients in their 30s and 40s, however, these clients tend to be high-earning professionals with huge financial commitments, so the focus is upon clearing debt and making sure expenses are controlled. In my experience, the older generations have been better at saving and now have the luxury of being able to spend that money.
ABR: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing small companies like yourself?
DT: The biggest challenge is growth – realistically, how do you grow? Michelle Hoskin estimated that there are 27 roles in each financial planning firm, so as a small firm owner it’s my responsibility to cover all of those jobs. I think you need to recognise your strengths and weaknesses and identify where you could benefit from help. I would like to bring on a paraplanner within the next 12 months, as I know my time and skill is best spent on interacting with clients rather than report writing. However, it’s a challenge finding the right people for my business.
On the other side of the coin, being a small business means I have flexibility. I take all the risks and the responsibility lies with me – I don’t have to answer to anyone and I can change what I want without seeking someone else’s permission.
ABR: You’re active on social media, how important is that to your business?
DT: Social media is very important, not so much in attracting new clients through the door, but helping to generate interest and promote awareness of Solomons. Financial planning is a job based upon building lasting, trusting relationships with clients and I believe having a social media presence makes you more human and accessible. If people want to work with me long term, it’s important they get a sense of what I’m all about and what makes me tick. Social media provides me with a platform to air my views, passions and grievances.
ABR: You recently launched the One Hundred Club, what does that involve?
DT: The One Hundred Club offers a low-cost service to those with portfolios under £100,000. It is a pared back service, providing clients with an inexpensive means of building up their investments and having those well managed, rather than simply doing it themselves. Client’s investments are managed in accordance with their investment risk and they can view and interact with everything online.
The thinking behind it was to provide a service that would be able to help as many people as possible. Everyone has to start somewhere and the starting is the important part. The fees that firms charge mean it’s not always feasible to offer full financial planning, but I wanted to create something that would encourage people along the right path with the basic principles and possibly get them to a point where they would benefit from full financial planning.
How would you like to grow the company going forward?
DT: In terms of full financial planning clients, I think I’m close to the maximum but I would like us to be able to look after more people on differing levels of service. We are fortunate that technology enables us to deliver a lot of other services, and enable people to learn to do a lot of it themselves.
I’m also looking into developing charitable goals for my clients using cashflow modelling so they have the option to either give money to their families or charities.
Visit the Solomons Financial Planning website