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‘Quiet revolution’ of pro-bono advice

Offering pro-bono work can help consumers see the real value of advice with adviser firms reaping a range of benefits, one advice firm who offers this service once a month, has said.

Since the implementation of the Retail Distribution Review, commentators have warned that the man on the street will no longer be able to access advice due to the cost.

However, chartered financial planner Andy Brooks, director at Brooks Wealth, believes offering limited free advice is one way consumers can understand what role a financial adviser can play.

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“What we do is simple - I am sure other advisers do similar but it’s a quiet revolution - each month we provide time for charity work, community work and to offer advice to those who would otherwise not be able pay for it.”

The pro-bono service has been offered for over a year via presentations at community centres and care homes. Mr Brooks said that around 70 people have been given a free session in the last 12 months, with around seven of those going on to become paying clients.

“The sessions don’t directly generate a great deal of revenue, but have been really good for spin-off business, as those people we’ve helped talk positively about our practice.”

He added: “I would love to inspire others to do the same, but I accept how hard it is to run a profitable planning service with the weight and cost of regulation increasing.”

Last month, as part of Financial Planning Week, 60 financial advisory firms across the UK agreed to offer free consultations to the general public.

Brooks Wealth’s advisers are not forced to do pro-bono sessions, but Mr Brooks does encourage his staff to give back through community or charity work.

He stated that the aim is to create a bespoke offering for the middle England client who has accumulated some wealth and needs a planning service to support them through the rest of their life.

“We are limiting clients per planner and investing in heavy support staff numbers to gain the best client outcome we can.”

Mr Brooks took over the Ashley Law practice in 2013, with the mortgage, protection and general IFA business rebranded by the other existing adviser Mark Chiva as Haverford’s, while Mr Brooks is rebranding the wealth management side as Brooks Wealth.

“We have grown in the last 12 months from a single adviser and one administration firm, to three advisers and three support staff. We plan to increase our numbers as and when we find suitable staff and to upskill our existing staff through qualification and training.

“We took on Richard Olsen of Olsen Partnerships to help with the marketing and web presence and we have just contracted Phil Billingham for the next step in creating a bespoke investment approach and business model based around the client.”

In August, the Personal Finance Society and Citizens Advice Bureau announced they were in the final stages of agreeing funding for a pro bono financial advice to be rolled out across the country later this year, with PFS president David Ingram stating advisers should get involved as it would help “build trust and awareness of the value of professional advice”.