OpinionDec 30 2015

Capacity crunch for smaller pension advisers

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Capacity crunch for smaller pension advisers

The watchword for me for 2016 and beyond is capacity – I am a one-man adviser business specialising in retirement advice, so I need to look at ways to improve my ability to provide a service able to cope with the demand for pensions advice.

The key here is to be able to take on new clients whilst ensuring that the service to existing clients is maintained and improved.

There are two areas where I plan to improve my capacity.

Recruiting someone to act as a personal assistant with a sole focus on freeing up my time for clients, marketing, etc.

Much depends on who applies – but I may end up with at an out and out administrative person, or possibly train up someone to take on a regulated role in a few years time.

This would not have been possible had I been focused on exceeding current capital adequacy requirements.

Generally it has been a very a positive year, with a 12 per cent upturn in recurring income and more enquiries for at retirement advice – meaning total turnover is almost 18 per cent up on 2014 to 2015.

I anticipate the demand for pension’s advice to grow apace, as people see the considerable benefits of funding and holding onto pension funds.

Regulatory fees have rocketed, but there is not much I can do about it – other than adjusting my scale fees as a result.

However, I have been more concerned about building up cash to cover 2018 capital adequacy meaning we would need to hold in reserve circa £78,000. We achieved this for the first time in September.

The announcement of a review of the figure, which for us results in a reduction of £28,000 is a huge relief, as we can now look to invest more in the business safe in the knowledge that I comfortably exceed the requirements already.

I am also very interested in the ‘robo-advice’ options which I see as a low cost help for clients in the accumulation phase. I will be looking to integrate an online option into the Lowland client services, so clients have the benefits of the lower cost online option, plus someone to talk to whenever help is needed.

The major challenges (and often as a result, the best opportunities) invariably come from change!

However it would be nice to have a period of stability, where clients can plan ahead without the threat of further amendments – in particular to pensions. I’d love to see an independent pension policy body like the Bank of England, which looked at pensions legislation on a longer term basis, than the current politically motivated basis.

I was looking back over the 15 years since I set up Lowland and updating the office profiles, when I realised I have now worked in Financial Services for 40 years! I hope and expect to have plenty of years left in me, as long as I retain my enthusiasm for this hugely challenging, varied and rewarding career.

Graeme Mitchell is managing director of Lowland Financial