Emma Ames (pictured above), Pete Matthew and Paul Hutton discussing ways of improving productivity in the workplace.
Director, Cathedral Financial Management
As part of our monthly board meetings the directors look at the management information (MI) of the business, which includes how much business is written by advisers each month.
The board primarily checks high-risk work. Although I pre-check every report before it goes, we specifically discuss the MI in terms of: ‘Is this adviser using the same company too much or doing the same type of work too much, and why?’ It looks at how much business is written each month but we do not put any pressure on our advisers in that respect.
Streamline your service
It is difficult to strike a balance between looking after existing clients and trying to be proactive with professional introducers to look after new clients as well. The more you can streamline processes internally, the more time advisers have for face-to-face meetings with new and existing clients.
Our discretionary management service, which we introduced seven years ago, saves us a lot of time. It means our planners have to spend less time dealing with advisory portfolio reviews because all the portfolio management is done in that department. Planners can then concentrate on the financial planning for the client.
Keep portfolios separate
There is this idea advisers should not have more than 100 clients. Take your own view on that, but I believe advisers can manage more clients if the portfolio management is done separately.
It has enabled me and my co-director to manage nearer 260 clients each instead of 100.
Managing director, Jacksons Wealth Management
Productivity is a difficult thing to monitor. You do not want employees thinking every mouse click is being counted.
Trust your staff
I would rather trust people to do what they need to do. If you hire the right people you do not have to worry about people not pulling their weight.
The good people will get annoyed if others are not pulling their weight and if you have good, open-door relationship with staff they will let you know these things.
We trust people to make the most of their time. That is borne out by how much business they are writing and what kind. But this is not a bank. We are not saying: ‘you must have 15 appointments a week and five of them must be second meetings where you are signing up new business.’
That is counterproductive. You have to treat people like adults.
Invest in software
We measure key performance indicators including new business targets, new ongoing fee targets, timeliness, quality of reviews and file checks.
These are critical to the business and must be measured. If those start to slip it will usually come down to a productivity issue.
However, it is easy to get bogged down in the minutiae. Tracking too many things is also counterproductive.
You need to invest for productivity. If a computer is not up to scratch, you will have to invest to improve it. This should be a no-brainer. These are the tools of the trade.
Managing director, Black Swan Capital
One of the biggest changes has been around the amount of things we measure. We look at how much our advisers are doing and how many clients they have on a proposition, but it is hard to pinpoint one of these as being specifically productivity-related.
Consider your costs
I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can make things better at the firm.
Often that means considering a quicker, more professional or cheaper way of doing things. That applies to things as simple as replacing the printer, or as complicated as getting a better suitability report out.
Invest in tech
The biggest area our profession falls down is technology. We use Intelligent Office software, which is about as good as any system out there but I still think there is room for improvement.
However, an advice firm is not a production line. You cannot just say: ‘We will put a new robot in there and it will speed up by 5%.’ Look at all the components of advice and figure out if you can make them work together better, or if there is a better version of what you have got already.
Another consideration should be whether valuations can be obtained online. If you have to ring someone up that is typically going to be slower than getting the valuation online.
The word ‘slow’ in these instances can be an understatement. You can ring up and wait for weeks for them to send something back, particularly with closed-book life companies.
THREE TOP TIPS
Emma Ames: A dedicated portfolio management team takes the weight off others.
Pete Matthew: Do not get bogged down in metrics, but track adviser output.
Paul Hutton: Do not waste time waiting for slow provider service.