Poulton-le-Fylde based financial planning firm Becketts recently walked away with two major Money Marketing Awards – NextGen Firm of the Year and Advice Firm of the Year.
We caught up with director Dominic McLoughney to ask about Becketts' unique approach to pricing, marketing and 'omotenashi' client care.
Tell us a bit about Becketts – who is your target client, and how do you work with them?
We’re family owned since incorporation in 1999 and became Chartered in 2018. We serve over 400 client families across four advisers and manage around £200m of clients’ assets. We also have a clear goal to be ‘the best small financial planning firm in the country’.
We mainly work with business owners looking to exit from businesses worth £2m to £50m.
We embrace the changing nature of long-term, service-led financial planning and make a point of adopting the best technological advances to deliver real client value. We work hard to make the complex simple.
One way we do this is by having a smaller number of clients per adviser. Our approach to service is built around the Japanese hospitality philosophy of ‘omotenashi’ - diligent and efficient client service silently taking place in the background. We want to cause minimal fuss to clients – however they should always be confident we’re here for them.
Our goal is for clients to experience minimal disruption. We want them to enjoy their leisure time and passions, while receiving bespoke, stress-tested financial plans delivered by our team of expert planners.
Another Japanese philosophy we’ve adopted is ‘kaizen’ meaning ‘continuous improvement’. Every part of our business is consistently under review – improving quality, efficiency and consistency. No process is allowed to fall behind the standards we set.
What is your approach to fees?
Since starting at Becketts, I've always wanted us to be transparent on costs and fees. We charge a fixed rate for a financial plan, which starts at around £2,000, but can move up the scale towards £10,000, depending on complexity. On the other hand, it’s not unheard of for us to waive the initial planning fee for clients who want Becketts to take on the plan implementation in addition to advising on their long-term wealth management needs.
Our ongoing fee is 0.75% - which is largely considered middle-of-the-road - however we pride ourselves on delivering a higher-than-top-level service.
Our reasoning is that, as a business, we're all very young – our ages range from 31 to 41 – and as far as we’re concerned, we're here for next 20-25 years. We see all our client relationships as long-term. We want to work with our clients throughout their lifetime.
The income from that kind of long-term business relationship will dwarf any upfront fee, and we don't want to create barriers to entry, which is why we’re flexible about it.
How do you approach marketing?
We issue a bi-monthly newsletter, write regular blogs and investment market updates and are active on social media sharing other snippets and graphics. However, social media is more about building brand awareness and adding value to our audience, rather than out-and-out prospecting. Last year, we worked hard on updating our website and continue to invest in it.
In terms of paid advertising, we've had great experiences with Google Ads – attracting some of our ideal clients from there. Monitoring where new client enquiries come from allows us to see the percentage split.
Finally, we communicate with professional connections and focus on building our network. If you can find the right people to work with, and you have good connections that are mutually beneficial, it's inevitable that you have a natural flow of new business.
How do you feel about remote advice?
We started video calling via Zoom in 2015, so we were somewhat ahead of that curve. Our service always puts the client first, so whatever they want, we do it (within reason, of course) – hence we’re quite early adopters across most technology and communication methods. But if a client wants to meet in-person one week, and on Zoom the next, we can do it –whatever is most convenient for the client.
While I'm happy to embrace online meetings, I truly believe financial planning is best done face-to-face. I like to meet clients in person and see what they’re up to – whether they’re restoring property or looking after their pride and joy classic car.
Our Poulton office makes meeting in person a pleasure. The entrance is inspired by 5-star hotels, so when clients arrive, they have a reserved parking space with their name on. Our offices are beautifully decorated, and we use nice, warm smells to provide a truly sensory experience. We also provide refreshments – biscuits and chocolates plus a variety of teas, beer and wine. Whatever the client wants!
And finally, do you have any words of wisdom for young financial planners?
Don't be afraid of the economic crisis. Cutting your teeth during these periods is hard work, but in the long term it gives you the steel and quality required to become a better adviser.
I'm speaking from experience. The 2007-08 financial crisis began a few years into my career. It was a baptism of fire, both in terms of building a business and advising clients during a difficult period. You learn to be open and honest, how to educate clients and – most importantly – how to provide reassurance. You get really good at offering guidance to make them feel more comfortable about market volatility, and that skill will continue to serve you well.
So make the most of it! This opportunity is gold dust.