Step Beyond Traditional Marketing, says Abbie Tanner…Into the realm of the High Net Worth Private Client
In last month’s issue of IFA Magazine, I focused the second stage of our Marketing Innovation Engine™ on sharing best practice ideas for segmenting your clients and services. This month – in keeping with the 'One Step Beyond’ theme of this issue – I will explore how you can take this one step further to create a high-end HNW private client offering to viably compete with private banks for market share.
Over the last 18 to 24 months I have seen a surge in the number of financial advisory firms who are seeking to go after this end of the market. Why? Because they realise that, in the new world, the private banking model is broken. In particular, for a certain segment of high net worth private client, these advisors can offer a viable alternative.
So where exactly are the private banks going wrong? And how can the forward thinking financial planner (boutique wealth manager) compete? Well, in short:
- Investors appear to be under serviced in the asset range from £5 million to £10 million. These clients are often deemed ‘too small’ for the private bank.
- Most private banks do not offer a comprehensive financial planning service. Solutions tend to be purely product or investment-led, with little regard for the client’s long-term financial plan.
- Multiple layers of charges and high overheads make the private banking service expensive.
- A revolving door on talent makes it difficult to build long-term, lasting relationships across multiple generations. Ambitious bankers move up the ranks but then get cherry picked by competing banks for better roles or for more competitive packages –meaning that there can be a lack of continuity in relationships. These ‘smaller’ clients are then passed from banker to banker.
In the new post-RDR world, the weaknesses of the private bank are laid bare. As you would expect, with transparency of charges and the disclosure of potential conflicts of interest, the high net worth private clients are starting to realise that they haven’t been getting the best deal.
Enter the boutique wealth manager…..
The foundation of the boutique wealth manager’s proposition is a comprehensive financial planning process, supported by a robust investment offering. In addition, these managers have access to a broad product suite (including sophisticated banking services), technology and resources to build a full service private client offering.
How is this so? Many private banks have already realised that they are losing market share to this new and emerging class of wealth managers. Rather than lose out, they are opening up their banks, allowing the boutique wealth managers to plug into their services – thereby ensuring that they still capture some of the assets.
Building Your Private Client Offering
Where should you start, if you are planning to enter this high end of the market?
Firstly, you should avoid the biggest mistake I see many financial advisers making, by adopting what I call the ‘mimicry’ strategy.
It goes something like this. The adviser decides that he wants to work with high net worth private clients. He gathers a bundle of literature provided by maybe two or three private banks, and he employs a creative agency to ‘create something similar’ for a new brand and website. The private client offering is then launched, and the adviser sits back waiting for an influx of high net worth enquiries.
This idea of ‘build it and they will come’ is fraught with danger. Why would a high net worth private client come to an unknown and unproven advisory firm? And how does the adviser know that the services that it is offering will be right for the types of client they are targeting?
Every new business strategy or innovation of your service offering needs to be founded on solid research, and on a genuine understanding of the needs of your target audience. If you are serious about launching a private client service, then without a doubt the best place to start is with your existing client bank.
Begin by identifying those clients who would be the best candidates for the services you are considering. Research their specific needs or challenges and garner their thoughts on your proposed offering. In my experience the best way to do this is through a Client Advisory Panel.
Establishing a Client Advisory Panel
Setting up a Client Advisory Panel involves assembling a group of your top clients to act as panellists (think non-executive board members) who meet at least twice a year to provide input on your business strategy and the evolution of your service offering.
Run the private client concept past them and seek their feedback. Ask what they value about the service you currently provide, and whether they would utilise your firm for the additional services you are considering. And if they already use such services, where they are sourcing them today?
Take on board their feedback, and use it to build and refine your proposition to create a truly private client focussed brand. Their feedback will be invaluable and will save you from the costly mistakes that come from simply mimicking or guessing what your target audience will want to consume.
Another added benefit is that truly engaged panellists will want to have a hand in your success. The will often facilitate introductions to people within their network who fit the profile for your new offering, or could support in the delivery, thereby creating momentum around your new private client service. This is a much better outcome than the ‘build it and see’ strategy.
Get The Basics Right
When creating your private client offering you need to get the basics right. This will take an investment of time and resource, to ensure you can deliver on all promises and avoid crippling the business each time a new client comes on board or request needs to be actioned.
The basics include (although these will depend on the offering you are seeking to build based on your target client research):
- Full financial planning service – using cash flow modelling techniques and intergenerational planning.
- Slick client process – a differentiated client process that considers every interaction and touch point, ensuring your premium positioning is reinforced (no more corner stapled locally printed terms of business or fact find documentation. Every item needs to exude professionalism).
- Robust investment offering – sophisticated strategies, covering a broad set of asset classes, aligned to the needs of high net worth clients.
- Comprehensive 360 degree reporting – the ability to report on all aspects of the client’s wealth, including non-regularly priced investments such as property, fine wine and antiques.
- Online account access – linked to the comprehensive reporting, information must be readily accessible through a secure client portal (typically this will need to be more comprehensive than a standard wrap platform. Many leading advisers are investing in proprietary systems for this purpose).
- Competitively priced investments and platform infrastructure – high net worth clients are used to paying institutional prices for investments and platforms.
- Access to an expert team – a panel of experts you coordinate to manage all aspects of the client's affairs, from accountants to solicitors, tax barristers, private bankers and philanthropic planners (to name but a few).
To deliver against all of these points, you will need to decide which aspects you will insource and where outsourcing will be more appropriate. This involves screening potential partners and building your offering, then ensuring each ‘piece’ seamlessly integrates. As I’m sure you can image, this takes time and there are no shortcuts.
Bringing It All Together
Once you have decided who your target client is and built your offering to meet their needs, you then need to bring it all together with a cohesive marketing strategy that will attract and engage with them.
This is the point where you look at your branding, packaging and placement. Wherever possibly test these elements on your Client Advisory Panel before launch. This ensures you hit the mark and don't waste your budget on expensive collateral that in all likelihood will fall flat.
Below are a few examples of boutique wealth managers who have successfully launched strategies targeting the high net worth private client:
- The Aurora Group (theauroragroup.org) – a forum of boutique wealth management firms who regularly exchange best practice ideas and aim to become a voice of change, unveiling the truth about the wealth management industry to high net worth private clients.
- Cooper Parry Wealth (cooperparrywealth.com) – a Midlands based wealth management firm operating specifically in the £1 to £5m private client market, delivering a complete wealth management service by coordinating an expert team.
- Petrus Financial Services (petrusfinancial.co.uk) – a private client advisory business based in Berkshire, with a full service offering that has evolved over the last five years to purely focus on the needs of high net worth clients.
As you can see, there are no shortcuts to success when setting-up a private client business. You need to start with a clear understanding of the segment and build your offering around their needs – it’s not as simple as launching a new brand and a glossy brochures.