Every month, I like to conduct a full work meeting with everyone involved at Interface Financial Planning. These meetings are conducted via Zoom, mostly because I have employees based all over the country (and even the world!), so it makes meeting up much easier than taking the train, bus, car – or even plane over to an office. It’s efficient too and I rather enjoy seeing all those faces popping up on my screen!
The First Meeting of the Year
This January, we held our first meeting of the year which is probably one of the most important work meetings of all. It’s a time to get back into the swing of things, to put the festivities of Christmas and New Year away for another year and get on with helping others.
Our meetings are relatively straightforward in their format. It always starts with a welcome from me, a chance to quickly catch up on what everyone’s been doing and helps to get people into talking mode! Of course, sometimes everyone can’t make the meeting – so we co-ordinate any apologies if necessary. We also touch on how everyone’s feeling and begin by opening up the discussion to chat through ideas. After a nice, long Christmas break, it’s refreshing to hear people are ready to go and the time off has helped to open up the mind to new suggestions!
The Monthly Topics
Every month, we set a specific topic which is normally the focus of the team meeting. It’s used as a springboard and often leads to lots of other interesting discussion. Following the topic of the month, we review any recent developments and changes. This could be legislation, finance in the news, or anything else – for example, for the past 2 years, COVID has been a topic well versed at our team meetings! We also plan ahead for the month and beyond. Finally, we summarise our discussions and put together an action plan.
Once the meeting’s finished, the minutes are compiled and distributed. I always ask team members to feedback on the minutes and offer any suggestions they have.
150 Years of Financial Experience!
With 2022 here already, I’m excited that it’s going to be a great year, there’s just so much happening, and the team consists of an amazing bunch of people. I worked out that together, the team has accumulated over 150 years of experience in financial services, and I am grateful that every member aims to be the best they can be in providing help and advice to our clients.
My son, Tom, is almost a fully-fledged IFA and he’s got his last exam coming up this month. Once the results are in (probably in March), we will be applying for authorisation from the FCA. His exam is based on two case studies – once he’s authorised, Interface’s future is secure for another 25 years! We’ll be celebrating when this happens.
A Busy Start to 2022
This particular team meeting focussed on the number of tasks that come back to me to review (sometimes 50 a day!). One of the aims of 2022 is to delegate decision making to the individual team member. I believe that most of my team have more experience than me, so decision-making should be easy enough to do without my input – that’s what’s going to happen this year.
2022, The Year of Sustainability
As always, sustainability is high up on my list of priorities for 2022. With 100% of Interface’s investor clients now only choosing sustainable funds, it’s a brilliant starting point! It’s our chance to make a stand and make a difference to the world, for our children and grandchildren. This is our unique selling point for 2022 onwards.
Interface’s Social Media
During our work meetings we always touch on our social media. Did you know that we have over 1,300 subscribers and that’s thanks to our team – we’ve even got our own unique YouTube URL and we’ve gained access to lots of other YouTube facilities because we reached the goalpost of 1,000 subscribers. This is all down to Jo Morgan’s efforts, and I have to say, she leaves no stone unturned so, as Jo is also our protection expert, in charge of arranging life and critical illness insurance for clients. I’ve given her a new project for 2022. She will be reviewing all of our clients’ general insurances (house etc.) and will be reconsidering re-broking our Higos policies to 3XD and offering the service to new clients.
As well as our thriving YouTube channel, we have a Podcast too, thanks to Orry Henderson who organises it for us. Did you know that we have listeners from as far away as the Philippines and Columbia? Our blogger, Emma Crossick has been amazing, producing over 40 blogs and monthly articles, some for Professional Adviser. She’s also helped us with a book I’ve been writing, called Financial Planning can Change Your Life. Currently, the book is with Matt Morris who’s checking and typesetting it. This month, we’re excitedly preparing graphics and discussing our launch date for publication on Amazon! Thrilling times!
Our design is all down to Rae Shirley, and we’ve just engaged her husband, Craig Ward, to develop our Instagram channel – we’re getting very social indeed! As for our website, which is a wealth of information, it’s all down to Lark Ismail, our web expert who has looked after the website for 6 years, making a tremendous difference. Lark lives in Oregon USA, and due to the time difference, she often can’t make our monthly meetings, but she’s kept in the loop with our minutes. Lark’s husband Matt often gets involved too and we’ve become great friends (as well as superb business partners).
We also conduct search engine optimisation to make sure we’re visible on Google and other search engines. Laura Phillips is responsible for that, and she works with Lark to ensure all of our guides, blogs, videos, and podcasts get out there!
All of the above is marketing – and some businesses may question the financial return. For me, it’s more than a return on investment, my passion is for people everywhere to have access to good financial information in whatever format suits them best. Using Interface, people can read, listen, or watch our content through multiple formats and channels. In fact, it’s down to all of the above that we’ve earned the accolade of “Interpedia” and there’s more to come!
Back in 2015, I became Sarah Challenor’s first client when she set up Adviser Outsourcing and since then, she’s been a rock. Even though she now helps over 60 financial firms, she’s available to help us at any time. Only yesterday (a Sunday afternoon) I had a software issue with a new client in Southampton, and Sarah was right there at the end of an email to help. Sarah deals with all my Intelliflo or PaperCloud issues and I asked my team at the January work meeting to direct any of their Intelliflo or PaperCloud issues direct to Sarah, she has more expertise on these systems than anyone I know.
Estate Planning, Wills and LPAs
Almost all of our clients want to undertake estate planning and with good reason. That all goes through Katie who’s also our expert on drawing up Wills, trusts and LPAs. I’ve been writing client Wills since 1990 and we work with Countrywide Tax and Trusts, who provide secure storage of these wills (as well as software training, support, and other services). This is such an important aspect of Interface, and without Katie, we simply wouldn’t have enough time to do it.
At the January meeting I offered Wills and LPAs free of charge to all of my team – and one of my team members Sarah Harvey, has already had hers and her husband’s Wills completed. The same goes for regulated business, Sarah has moved two of her paid up DC pensions and she’s delighted that she has control over investments in sustainable funds for her son Alfie’s future (at no charge of course). At this point, I will mention that it irritates me when the companies that people work for say that they can’t deal with their own employees’ pensions or investments because they’re too small for them to deal with. I don’t subscribe to that; I will always help my team when I can.
That leads me nicely onto funeral planning which is associated with Will writing. I’m still waiting for my application to the FCA to be approved. Funeral plans will become regulated advice from July of this year. The application for the variation of permissions associated with funeral planning regulation was not for the faint hearted! I cannot tell you the amount of paperwork and the number of emails required by the FCA to obtain approval – it was way out of proportion to the risk. There will no longer be any commission on funeral plans and the amount of a plan will be to the order of £3,500 and there is no ongoing advice required. Yet, the FCA wanted more information than you need when investing a million pounds! I’ll be interested to see how many firms gain permission – I’ve been told there are only a few applying – we may indeed be the only one!
Online Financial Calculators
Moving on. I am really enjoying developing our online remote business. It’s fun and exciting, and I love the challenge – pushing the boundaries of what can be done. There’s so much more to come. I’m developing an online financial calculator library. I have an initial list of 30 which will be branded and hosted by us. Tomorrow, we have a meeting with a software development company to take this forward. I’ve done a lot of research. Most IFA websites don’t have calculators and the few that do are limited in what they provide. My aim is to do what we’ve done with YouTube, podcasts, and guides and of course, be the best at what we do.
Using Mind Maps
Every week we get enquiries from potential new clients and my team need to be involved in all business processes. I’m now using mind maps thanks to one of our clients who uses these for her own business. I’ve sent all of my team an invitation to register on MindMeister so that we can collaborate. The first mind map will be out later this week.
Finally, let’s talk Intelliflo. There’s a huge development programme available now and our clients will see some significant enhancements to their Personal Finance Portal accounts as we move through the first and second quarter of 2022. We’re on the cusp and leading the way. The firms that don’t embrace the same approach will undoubtedly go the same way as the fax machine!
Continuing to Be The Best We Can
As for our financial goals for 2022 – after all, we’re all about finance. I would like to say it’s to increase our AUM from £12 million to £20 million, however that is nowhere near as important as being the best at what we do and ensuring that all of our clients receive the care and attention that they deserve.