Why I went for ISO certification and what it means to my business
ISO 22222 certification is synonymous with best practice among advisers. Paul Richardson, managing director, Concept Financial Planning (pictured centre with the Concept team), tells Fiona Bond what made him apply for it, the process involved and what it has brought to his business
Adviser Business Review: Why did you apply for ISO 22222?
Paul Richardson: ISO 22222 is the only certification of its kind available to advisers and I liked the appeal of benchmarking our service and internal processes against the international standard of best practice. There is a huge difference between ISO 22222 and qualifications. Attaining a qualification requires you to study, go into the exam room and that’s that. ISO 22222 takes the process one step further; it is all about applying that technical aspect to your work on a daily basis and delivering the best possible service to clients.
ABR: How long did the application process take and what did it entail?
Richardson: I completed the application within three months, which is hugely exceptional, but I had a good base from which to start. During that time, I underwent a rigorous process of assessment, which included breaking the business down into segments and rebuilding it. Allowing a third party to provide an independent review of our processes taught me a lot about how the business should behave.
Working so closely with Standards International to achieve ISO 22222 was very helpful – the practice management system has changed the way we think about things and we strive to continually improve. It gave us the framework we needed to grow the business, bring on additional staff and have those new employees feel confident about the company they were joining.
ISO 22222 is not designed for an adviser who is happy to stand still; it is all about developing and advancing. It is hard work and takes commitment to achieve, but if you asked me if the whole process was worth it, I would definitely say yes. It was, and continues to be, a very rewarding experience.
ABR: How do you maintain your certification?
Richardson: We obtained the certification in June 2009. Advisers with ISO 22222 are assessed on a yearly basis and in order to maintain the certification, you need to be able to prove yourself over and over again. Every year they come and take an in-depth look at a certain part of the business. While that might sound daunting, if you’re doing the right thing on a daily basis then it shouldn’t be an issue. Maintaining ISO 22222 is about striving for improvement – it’s not a matter of quickly dusting off the manual once a year to see what they will ask. It’s about permanent change and making sure you live and breathe the process year on year.
ABR: How has it affected your business and client relationships?
Richardson: It’s both a personal and professional achievement. It’s a fantastic feeling knowing you’ve been awarded ISO 22222 and I told all my clients by letter. It’s important to me that both clients and professional partnerships can see that an independent party has come in and judged us as doing a really good job.
That said, simply saying “I’ve achieved ISO 22222” is not enough – it means nothing to the client until it’s put in context. Not a huge amount of advisers have it, therefore it’s not widely recognised as a benchmark and clients may not understand what it means for them or the service they receive. The same can be said for chartered status; some clients won’t really appreciate what it means until it’s explained to them and they can see the bearing it has on the advice they receive.
Achieving ISO 22222 has been well received across other professions too. Several other industries have their own benchmarks so there are people who really understand what it takes to achieve something like this and respect the time and effort that goes into it.
ABR: Would you recommend it to other advisers?
Richardson: Absolutely, but you’ve got to look at it from the aspect of improving your business. It is certainly not a short cut or a box-ticking exercise. It is hard work and if your motivation is ‘how much business will I get off the back of this?’ then you’re coming at it from the wrong angle and are wasting your time. Ultimately, it refines your business and may, as a result, bring in more clients in the future but that should not be your only goal.
I feel very proud that I’m able to say I’m one of the few advisers to have achieved this certification. For those who want to deliver a first class service to their clients, I would definitely recommend going for it.
See Paul Richardson’s videos on the benefits of ISO 22222
About ISO 22222
ISO 22222 is the International Standard that helps people to decide whether or not they can be confident about the ethics and competence of professionals proposing advice on planning their personal finances.
The standard defines six steps of the personal financial planning process:
1. Establishing client/planner relations;
2. Determining goals and gathering data;
3. Evaluating the client’s financial status;
4. Developing and presenting the financial plan;
5. Implementing recommendations;
6. Monitoring the plan recommendations.
What are the benefits?
The benefits, according to Michelle Hoskin of assessing body Standards International, differ from business to business, but include:
• slicker, more efficient, more effective internal and client-facing processes
• recognition from peers, professional connections and clients that business excellence is firmly at the heart of what they do
• increased business and marketing opportunities
• a central feeling of a TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) culture, created by a single focus on achieving the highest possible standards in financial services
• exemption from the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) unit AF5 – Financial Planning Process (ISO 22222 certification only).