Last Saturday I was up relatively early in the morning before my very large family awoke, quietly reflecting on how turbulent the financial services industry has been over the past 12 months, and enjoying the fact that we at Austen Morris Associates have really thrived over this time. But then, as always, 30 minutes later I had my twins screaming at me to take them go-carting and my 2-year-old son dragging me toward the swimming pool for his morning dip, so that was that.
These were my thoughts…
QROPS are now being taxed at 25%, which destroys the offshore pension transfer market. Brokerages are plotting the way forward with replacement SIPPs, and hundreds of “Financial Advisers” are either leaving the industry or moving en masse to the highest-paying brokerages. Of course, not forgetting the reams of regulatory changes, sometimes being poorly introduced, across the globe.
What a turbulent year it has been across the offshore financial services industry and to think that there is yet more to come. I believe adversity creates opportunity and that the changes that have come into place, and the changes that are still to come were, and still are, long overdue.
It has become very apparent over the past 12 months that there were many more brokerages that solely focused on pension transfer business than first thought, and of course this has led to many “Financial Advisers” finding out that actually they were not financial advisers – they were simply great pension transfer advisers or a one trick pony that has no idea about in-depth financial planning.
Gone are the days of mass recruiting, opening up new offices every 3 months, or recruiting a legion of cold callers and “financial advisers/financial salesman” that really should not have ever been introduced into the financial services industry to begin with.
This is where the Austen Morris revamped 80/20 rule comes into play, mixed with a large investment into information and technology, and create the right environment within the company so that not just the upper echelons can thrive.
What is the Austen Morris 80/20 rule?
It is pretty much a given that the top 20% of financial advisers in a company will be placing 80% of the business for the entire brokerage. This really is the norm. However, it is also generally true that these high producers are hard to manage, difficult for other people to work with, do not follow the rules and generally don’t play well in a team. Furthermore, these top producers are fed leads, receive preferential administration and are treated very differently from the other 80% of the advisers.
Although AMA has been in business for 24 years, we only instigated the following thought process and recruitment strategy over the past 8 years and it has served, and continues to serve us, well. We still only recruit the top 20% of financial advisers from other brokerages, but we don’t measure the top 20% of financial advisers based on business volume alone, as most other brokerages do. For example, we look at the quality, diversity and persistency of past business submitted by the potential recruit. Another key focus is how much management they will require, and how well they will fit into the existing team in their chosen region. They must also be willing to learn, be coached, embrace change and regulation, not fight it. It’s not just a matter of business volume or the size of their book that dictates Austen Morris Associates’ 80/20 rule for recruitment purposes, it’s the entire package from the person, their skills and abilities, their strengths and what they can contribute to the global team that is important to us and ensuring both their and our success, as well as that of our clients’ experience and investments.
Information and Technology
Technology and innovation should now be at the forefront of any brokerage for many reasons. From 1999 to 2010, Austen Morris Associates had 4 offices in China alone, spread across this vast country, but by investing and embracing in technology, the costs of running and staffing those offices became obsolete, simply by introducing secure video conferencing facilities and online investment data and applications. By teaming up with Praemium (previously WealthCraft) and utilising Microsoft based platforms such as CRM Dynamics, we created the Austen Morris Associates’ “Wealth Management Service” specifically designed for Austen Morris Associates’ clients only use. This allowed all of our global clients to go online 24/7 – 365 days a year to evaluate their positions and make investment changes at any time.
Furthermore, over the past 2 years we have invested heavily into new technology across our South African offices, furthering our reach to surrounding African countries without the need for expensive offices and additional manpower. It could be said that, and I did happen to agree with this once, “a financial adviser’s job is served best by conducting face-to-face meetings”. Austen Morris Associates’ global business, which includes referral and incremental new business from existing clients, was at a 42/58% split average over the past 3 years, with 42% of the business conducted over conferencing technology or via internal systems and the internet. Now I have no doubt that technology is the way forward and will, over a very short space of time, become the norm for conducting 1st meetings with potential investment clients. Of course this allows the entire team, regardless as to where they are based, to build a “global client base”, and not be limited by their employer to just one city, or at best, one region.
It has been said, and it is true, that the modern “Austen Morris Associates” has been built by recruiting from other companies using our version of the 80/20 rule, but of course the retention of these quality people is just as important as recruiting them, if not more so. By visiting the AMA LinkedIn home page or our Facebook page you can see the stats for yourself, people who join Austen Morris, stay with Austen Morris. We are very proud of our team and celebrate these massive milestones (and loyalty) starting with our Managing Senior Partner Mr. James Colclough 17 years, Senior Partner Mr. Jon Holand 12 years, Senior Partners Mr. Matthew Riddington and Mr. William Coppin 7 years, Partner Mr. Alan Vassallo 14 years, Senior Consultant Mr. Alistair Skinner 17 years, Senior Consultant Mr. Ted Shen 13 years, Senior consultant Mr. Keith Strong 13 years and a further 15 employees who have contributed to the company with 10 plus years!
Moreover, this longevity is not limited to our Financial Consultants, but include staff in the support team such as Billie Jin & Bessie Jia with an impressive 16 years of service, Phil and Jen Morris 12 years, Kelly Olver 12 years, and Anu Aggarwal with 11 years. The average tenure reported for Austen Morris on LinkedIn is 6 years, which of course takes into account the 120+ other people that work across the Austen Morris Group.
The above employment figures are pretty much unheard of within the offshore financial service industry. So what is the secret to retaining excellent staff and outstanding financial advisers? It certainly is not mass recruiting, nor is it employment contracts that are simply bordering on the ridiculous, or trying to create a profitable company by employing the old school carrot and stick approach.
Instead, the answer lies in treating your people with the respect that they deserve, letting them explore their true potential, supporting them, recognising and encouraging their growth. And whilst many companies believe they are doing this, they are in fact falling short of the mark. Equally as important is having a strong management team that take full responsibility for their roles and don’t just rely on any one key individual barking orders down from the top. It’s a team effort in which creating the perfect environment for everybody to work in, throwing away the carrot and stick approach and working with people that you truly respect and like for mutual benefit and towards a common goal gets results and ensures everyone’s success.
I am looking forward to next Saturday morning, who knows what will transpire up in the old grey matter when I get another moment of peace, but I’m sure the 3 kids will soon shatter that illusion again.
Founding Senior Partner
Austen Morris Associates