IFA Magazine’s regular spotlight feature talks to leading advisers about what is working well in their business. This month, Sue Whitbread talks to Anna Sofat, Managing Director of London-based Addidi Wealth, a finance boutique for women, their partners and families. Anna set out in 2008 to establish Addidi as a business which was “beautifully different” and in this interview we explore just what that means in practice.
Q: Addidi is certainly an unusual name for a financial planning firm – and it’s a rather unusual business model too! Can you give us an overview of your business to start us off – and also explain where did that name come from?
A: Addidi is a finance boutique for women and we have a simple mission is to help women to leverage their wealth to transform their lives into something pleasurable, rewarding and inspiring.
The name came about after much experimentation and search; we had chosen a name which ticked a lot of the boxes (availability of domain names, not already in use etc), but when we tested it the audience, they didn’t get it at all! So we started the search again and in desperation, we spent a long weekend going through dictionaries (English and Latin) over a bottle of wine! We came upon Addidi in the Latin dictionary – literally it means “to add” but in a wider context it means inspiration/add value whilst the word Didi means an elder sister so all round it fitted in what we were looking to do.
Q:Why did you decide to specialise in providing advice services for women? Are their needs really that different?
A: I decide to specialise in advising women for one key reason. Although, I had previously worked in a business which helped women become financially independent, I didn’t feel there was a need for such a business as most women were already financially independent or well on their way. What I was noticing, however, was that the increased wealth and success being generated by women was not leading to any happier or balanced life. Women were juggling more than ever and had much less time for themselves.
So I decided to create a business that they could totally trust to look after their money and could delegate to with peace of mind. I was hoping, am hoping, that this will enable them to have a bit more of “me” time and perhaps a bit more balance in their lives. If we succeed, then we would have helped many families be a happier family unit with the woman at its heart.
Are women’s needs different? I think women do have some different needs from men and they definitely think about money differently! Women have career breaks to have a family, they live longer and often they are also a carer for their parents, and they don’t have a “wife” at home who can take care of a big part of their life enabling them to focus on work! So we have, for example, devised a financial concierge service which enables our clients to delegate much of the day to day minutiae of managing their finances.
Q: What are the principles on which you run the business and what are the key drivers of its success?
A: I set up Addidi with one simple aim – to run a business which sat easily with my own conscience and values. I wanted to sleep easy at night and I wanted my clients to sleep easy too! In doing so, I also wanted to add value in my clients’ lives – by doing so, I knew I enriched my own life. With this in mind, we have a number of values/principles which sit at heart of Addidi including:
- Mutuality and balance in relationship – if you don’t have mutual respect and give and take, a relationship won’t work.
- Inclusiveness – we have some very well off clients and some not so rich, old and young. The diversity adds richness into the fabric of Addidi.
- Inspiration – we are driven to be the best we can be and we want our clients to be the best at whatever they decide to do.
- Independence – for us this is not just a regulatory statement but a state of mind. We don’t get close to anyone in our industry – you can be influenced in all sorts of ways, some conscious and some not so consciously, so we don’t put ourselves in a situation which might influence subtly. So we don’t for e.g. part take in hospitality which is so common in our industry!
- Nurturing – I think nurturing is part of the female DNA and as a female focused business, it natural for us to care about our clients, our staff and the wider community. In the early days, this was done without thinking, nowadays we are a bit more conscious about it.
As for our key drivers of success – I believe it’s:
- The focus on being the best and not taking short cuts – I have burnt the midnight candle many, many times when I have a client meeting and I needed to finish client work. I didn’t settle for less and I don’t do it now.
- Ensuring that we are on our clients’ side at all times so they can trust us totally.
- Never forgetting that it’s our clients’ money and we ensure they understand what’s happening with it, what the key risks are and they are comfortable with it. We also ensure that the money is used to add value in their lives – they can’t take it with them so it’s important that they get to do things which are meaningful for them!
Q: When it comes to the delivery of your financial planning service, how do you manage the main business processes within it? I’m thinking of key areas like cash flow planning, the use of paraplanners, review service etc.
A: As a business we have always been very focused on processes and systems from the beginning with written processes for the back office. I have also been wanting to write down all our advice processes – not so much, this is what we do but this is what we do and why we do it – a decision making process. This is a big project for the coming months.
Over the years, I have also learnt that whilst it’s nice to have written manuals, getting everyone to read and follow the processes is another thing entirely. So now, we are much more focused on the outcomes and standards/quality of work than the how and what.
System wise, we use Voyant for cashflow (but we also have our own spreadsheets), Curo for our back office/CRM, Morningstar for Research, FastTrack for review reporting to name but a few.
Q: Could you talk us through your investment management process? Do you manage client portfolios in-house or do you outsource?
A: We mostly manage clients’ portfolios in-house although we do have some funds with discretionary managers where they meet a client need. Our in-house proposition has been developed with an external research company – their job to provide in-depth research and “kick the tyre” on any new brilliant ideas we might have and provide governance in our investment thinking and processes.
Our proposition is risk focused, driven by empirical evidence. We believe it is elegantly simple, yet highly effective. We cannot control the returns that the markets deliver, but we can select and manage closely the risks that our clients take in their portfolios. We can help them to obtain the bulk of the returns delivered by the markets, by minimising both financial and emotional costs, and helping them to stay the course. Belief, patience and discipline are the key to a successful investment experience.
Q: You’re extremely proactive in marketing the business, but what do you find are the most successful ways you reach your target audience? Is your target client clearly defined or are you more flexible in the types of clients you take on?
A: We have a well-defined client proposition and a clearly defined target market – all businesses need to start with this; if there is confusion as to what you provide and who you provide it to, then your marketing effort is likely to be more scatter gun than fine-tuned. It’s an evolving process where we fine tune, then do more fine tuning! We are just going through a brand refresh whereby we are revisiting what we do, how we do it and who we are good at looking after. This will then translate into all our messaging including written and visual.
Most of our marketing effort is focused around events and PR as well as our added value propositions like Addidi Angels and Addidi Enterprise.
Q: What are the areas that work particularly well within the business? Could also share with us some of the key challenges you might be facing at the moment?
A: Our ongoing review service – we have undertaken at least annual reviews with all our clients from the beginning so this is a well-trodden path for us. There is room for efficiency as we do a fully holistic review, not just an investment review or a valuation with a nice chat so there is quite a bit of work involved. However, this has enabled us to build deep relationship with our clients and has worked well to build trust and loyalty among our client bank.
Recruitment – recruiting high quality staff especially technical/paraplanners has been difficult as there is a shortage of high quality people. As we grow, this will no doubt become even more challenging.
Q: What is your vision for the future of the business?
A: It’s simple really – I want a brand that stands out for its high quality advice and client centric proposition. I also want a business which is totally independent of me so if I were to fall under a bus, there is a little nod and the business carries on! Within this I want a business model which is long term and sustainable with the business owned by its shareholders, staff, client and community – the John Lewis of financial services perhaps.
Q: How do you manage to keep getting good ideas to develop the business, as well as keeping up to date with all the technical needs of being a financial planner?
A: Getting good ideas for business development has not been an issue – I somehow manage to see an opportunity in lots of different conversations. The challenge for me has been to stay focused on the core business and taking forward only those initiatives that will add value. I have learnt, hopefully, by experience to focus on the core before the nice to have – I am a lot more focused than I was in the early days.
Staying on top technically is an impossible job – I will never be an expert in all areas of personal finance but I like to have a good grounding in understanding a wide range of issues and knowing what I don’t know. As such, I read a lot and skim through relevant content on email feeds, Twitter and Linkedin etc.
Q: Addidi aside, how do you spend your spare time?
A: I am pretty focused on the business at present and have been for a few years but the work/life balance is getting better. My plan is to continue on that journey till I can work 3-4 days or take a few months out. Outside work, I like travelling, reading and learning.
Anna Sofat Biography
Anna Sofat is founder and Managing Director of Addidi, a finance boutique for women. Addidi Wealth helps enterprising women plan and manage their wealth whilst Addidi Enterprise provides a collaborative club for angel investing and non-executive engagement with SMEs.
Prior to founding Addidi, Anna was the Managing Director at Fiona Price & Partners, the first business set up specifically to provide financial advice for women by women.
She holds both the Chartered Financial Planning and Certified Financial Planner qualifications.
As well as advising private clients, Anna is a regular contributor to national press and TV. Anna was awarded the Unbiased.co.uk’s Financial Adviser of the year award and nominated the Top female Adviser by FT’s Financial Adviser in 2015. Addidi has been featured as one of the Top 100 Advisory firm by the New Model Adviser magazine in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Away from work, she is married and a mother of two girls. Her interests are her family, travel and current affairs.
Follow Anna on Twitter: @Addidi