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Why building a great team makes a great advice business

For your financial planning firm, having a great team doesn’t just happen by accident. It needs work and attention just like every other aspect of business – especially given the huge changes to working routines as a result of covid-19. IFA Magazine talks to Stefan Fura, Founder at Financial Planning firm Furnley House, about why putting people at the heart of the business is a solid driver for success.

 

Having an active staff engagement and retention strategy in place is one area which is often overlooked by busy advice firms which are keen to focus efforts on the client proposition and maximising client engagement. Over the past year, with most financial planning professionals working from home, it’s been the loss of direct connection and engagement with colleagues that has been most sorely missed. But does it need to be like that? Stefan Fura and his team at Furnley House have seized the opportunity presented by the Covid-19 pandemic to focus on their values and put the needs of their staff front and centre. Here we talk to Stefan about what they’ve been doing and how they do it, in what is clearly an inspirational effort to support the needs of their busy team working hard to maintain business success.

SW: Stefan, to kick off, can you tell us about Furnley House as a business, what do you do and – importantly – what makes you tick?

SF: We’re a financial planning business based in Leicestershire although we now have a presence across the Midlands and the UK. Of course, we always say that we’re really good at looking after people’s money, but what we really care most about is people. We’re a people business, whether that’s looking after our clients, our staff or indeed the wider community within which we operate. The common point that makes us tick is definitely people.

SW: How many staff do you have in the team and where are they based – usually – and now in COVID times?

SF: It’s certainly been interesting over the last year. Furnley House is part of a wider group of businesses – Superbia Group – and we very much try to work as one big team wherever possible. Across the group we have just over  50 people working with us and around 50% of these are Furnley House employees. We are quite widely spread geographically, although there is a big link to Leicestershire with many of the team within easy travelling distance of the office. We also have people who have joined us over the last year based in the West Midlands and the South West and, of course, we have our administration team based in Chennai, India. In fact, one of our team who works on the investment side is currently stuck in Italy and has been working from there since Christmas. I guess like most firms, we’re more spread out than we would have been before Covid struck.

SW: How has the COVID pandemic changed things for your business and how you operate as a team?

SF: Every business has been affected by the pandemic in some way or another. Whether or not it’s in respect of those sectors which have been winning as a result of Covid, everyone has had to change the way that they work. For us, as a business, it was tough at the beginning. The uncertainty of not knowing what was going to happen was a challenge but the question everyone really wanted to know was how long it was going to go on for. That was the key focus at the beginning.

So, right from the start of lockdown we got together as a leadership team to work out what we were going to do. We’ve always talked about living by our values and about being a family and a close team. We took a view at the time that this was a chance to really live by our values and to demonstrate them in the way that we treated our people. We believed that this was something which would come to define us in the years ahead, because if we looked after our people well then we would have the best chance of keeping them as part of the team for the long term. We felt this would give us an opportunity to continue to attract highly talented people going forward. For me, if I was going to be interviewed for a new role now, I’d be asking the potential employer how they treated their staff and what they did during this period. I think you can talk about what you do, or you can demonstrate what you do. For us, covid-19 has given us the opportunity to show what we can do.

 

SW: It’s clear that as a business Furnley House really supports staff development and wellbeing. Your walk to Chennai is a great initiative! Could you tell us about it and highlight some of the other initiatives you’ve done in the past or are doing now to support staff wellbeing?

SF: The walk to Chennai is an evolution of what we’ve been doing over the past year. For us, when Covid hit the immediate challenge was that our team was very remote. There are a lot of positives for individuals in being able to work from home more than before but we felt there were some potential downsides from being isolated in this way. We identified that there were three big issues:

· Isolation. In the physical sense, we were all more isolated than normal

· Diet choices. Because we were all closer to the fridge and not always eating as healthily as you might do if you were in the office

 · Exercise. With all the extra screen time involved in remote working, there is a risk that levels of exercise and fitness will drop off too.

We worked on these three themes and included our staff representation committee, talking to them to gain their thoughts on this. We asked what could we do around those three targeted themes.

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