Ian McKenna: Tech tips from a trailblazing sole trader

Ian McKenna

For understandable reasons, the Money Marketing award for best use of technology by an adviser tends to be dominated by larger firms, with recent recipients including London & Country and, on many occasions, True Potential.

The fact this year’s award has been won by Money Honey Financial Planning, a sole trader IFA that has been running for just two years, demonstrates not only an outstanding performance but also proves technology can genuinely transform even very small advice practices at very little cost.

This should also be an inspiration to many other small IFAs in demonstrating that getting the best out of technology is not the sole preserve of large firms. Last week, I took the opportunity to talk to Money Honey founder Jane Hodges about her top 10 tips for technological success.

I’ve known Jane for over 20 years, during which time she has played a key role in both technology and compliance for some of the largest advice businesses in the UK, including Halifax when it was an IFA. She has had key roles at firms including Sesame and Alexander House Financial Services.

Since establishing Money Honey in 2017, Jane has championed the ability of advisers to give face-to-face advice without the need to meet clients in person. Her firm’s profile on Unbiased explicitly states all client meetings are conducted virtually using screen-sharing technology.

Many advisers have challenged if this is a viable way of working, but Jane has made it a core part of her business and is inundated by clients who want to work this way.

These are Jane’s tips on how to transform an adviser business using technology:

  1. There is always technology out there for every part of your business, and normally it doesn’t cost a lot, so don’t give up.
  2. Work out the client journey precisely, from onboarding through to implementation and review. Continually improve upon it through constant practice and reviewing of feedback so it becomes slick, effective and user-friendly.
  3. Use technology all the time with everyone in your firm and family. Become totally fluent in its use so you are always confident about how it works. You will get glitches from time to time; firewalls and other technical issues sometimes mean a particular video conferencing/screen-sharing system won’t work, so always have plans B and C just in case. Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting are all powerful low-cost tools. Money Honey has set up multiple video conference options so it can quickly switch system if there is any problem. This means it is always confident that technology enhances the process and is never detrimental to it. Such tools also mean you can record client meetings, so you have a permanent record of what was agreed for compliance purposes.
  4. Be stubborn: stick to your model. Don’t let anyone tell you it is impossible, because it isn’t – and our team and our clients love it.
  5. Make sure you get your data security right and ensure everyone in the team knows how to protect your client data at all times.
  6. Be flexible with your clients and give them a free techie session at the start of your relationship if they need it. This is how you work, so put in some time with them to make sure they also know how to do things. Get them to embrace video conferencing and a client portal immediately and then only use these communication channels if that is your chosen model.
  7. In the same way you spend time doing CPD to find out about new taxation, new products and so on, spend time reviewing new software and always do due diligence on platforms and/or providers with a view to their technology enablement and facilitation of paperless processes.
  8. Spend time properly learning how to use the technology you adopt. Never skimp on training. Advice is a complex process and we need powerful tools, but you can only get the best out of these if you learn how to use them properly.
  9. When carrying out your due diligence and selection of providers and platforms, heavily weight their ability to support having paperless services and digital signature options. This will have a major impact on the extent of savings you are able to achieve and pass on to your clients, so bits of post or huge documents aren’t winging around the place.
  10. This approach can give you a better lifestyle balance and allow you to recruit the best people from a much larger pool. It can also lead to cost savings, which you can pass on to your client, and allows you to educate and collaborate with your clients in a more interactive way, which gives them a far better understanding of the decisions they are making.

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