Managing Referrals. An emerging market opportunity for financial advisers and wealth managers

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1 Managing Referrals An emerging market opportunity for financial advisers and wealth managers

2 Managing Referrals - an emerging market opportunity for financial advisers and wealth managers 1.0 Foreword Referring client case work externally is a fact of life for today s financial advisers and wealth managers. If a longstanding client needs specialist advice in an area like equity release or pension planning, a significant proportion of the UK s estimated 20,000 advisers would not be able to provide this service in house. Instead, they would refer their client to an external adviser whom they know and trust. But is this the best way of doing things? Taking this approach to managing case referrals can be timeconsuming and there are no guarantees that clients will get the best outcome either. The adviser that benefits from the referral may have out-of-date qualifications or may not offer your client the best deal. Instead, by going to the open market to find an adviser, the referrer can protect the interests of their clients and generate revenue at the same time. While regulating referral systems would be unnecessarily heavyhanded in my opinion, there is a need for the industry to adopt best practice and find a way of managing such processes in a way that works for both referrer and client. To help the industry to decide what best practice looks like, we have conducted research to find out more about the referral market for financial advice and other professional services in the UK. I hope you find the report enlightening and helpful as an introduction to a new world of possibilities about how to deal with referrals in a way that brings rewards for all. Ash Patel, Managing Director, FBA.com

3 2.1 Introduction 2.2 The Background The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) caused industry uproar in March 2014 when it published a review paper stating that advisers could not describe themselves as independent if they refer cases to specialists, either internally or externally. The regulator has since reversed its decision with regard to internal referrals, but the picture for external referrals remains unclear. Facing significant industry opposition, in the last quarter of 2014 the FCA updated its advice telling firms to consult guidance originally issued by the FSA in 2012 on the matter of independence. However, this guidance is not as clear as it might be when it comes to the business of case referrals. It appears to permit a firm that provides independent advice to refer clients internally or externally for advice in some circumstances but states that they would be expected to perform sufficient due diligence on a service before recommending it to their clients to meet their obligation to treat customers fairly. Whatever the outcome for external referrals, compliance with any new rules is bound to become an important issue for financial advisers and wealth managers who wish to describe themselves as independent in the future. In the meantime, a significant number of advisers have opted out of the FCA s vision of independence in favour of a new middle ground where they offer a select group of clients the option of an independent, whole-of-market fee-based service, alongside a more restricted service for the majority that they may only see once a year. Many financial advisers and wealth managers believe that external case referral should be permitted by an IFA where it is in the best interests of the client. For the vast majority of advisers, case referral is a well-used channel, especially where clients are seeking advice in specialist areas where they might lack the necessary qualifications. The industry has been responding to the high level of demand for such services by launching distinct offerings that promise to reward each adviser or broker on a case-by-case basis the Equity Release Supermarket s dedicated online equity release referral service is an example of this. However, some firms may not believe that such services are the best option for their clients and prefer to deal with case referrals on a more one-toone basis.

4 2.2 Objectives The ad hoc nature of most case referral activity and the variety of options that exist to support it, make it difficult to assess how prevalent it is and its potential value to the UK s financial advice sector as a whole. At a time of rising costs and lower profit margins combined with the prospect of ever-increasing regulation, greater understanding of the referral marketplace could open up new money-making opportunities. Biggest business concerns for financial advisers in % 31.5% 24.3% 23.1% 22.7% 21.5% 8.8% 1.2% Regulatory Increasing Low value Reduced Difficulty Needing My Other pressure/ overheads clients margins finding new to diversify business red tape due to clients with added has no industry value concerns guidelines services in the next year To shed light on this subject, FBA.com has commissioned research to: establish exactly how much case work is being referred externally and why help advisers to identify strategies for making the most of case referrals without compromising their commitment to deliver the best outcome for clients

5 3.1 The research Methodology FBA has conducted research among 251 UK-based financial advisers and wealth managers to find out more about how much business they refer externally and how they currently manage this. The research was conducted in Q The vast majority of financial advisers and wealth managers refer cases to external professional advisers on a reasonably regular basis - Only 7 per cent said they never do this. One in three financial advisers and wealth managers (33 per cent) refer between 10 and 50 clients externally per year and a fifth refer more than one client per week on average - this finding shows that external client referral activity is widespread across the industry and most advisers regard it as a necessary part of their work. Referrals mainly happen due to a lack of specialist know-how - The main reason that financial advisers and wealth managers refer cases externally is if they or their firm lack the necessary training and qualifications to provide the advice in house. The majority of respondents (56 per cent) considered this the main reason they would refer a client to an external professional adviser. Other reasons given included workload pressures (15 per cent), the need to reciprocate by referring a case to a professional adviser who gives them leads from time to time (11 per cent) and a need to restructure their client base (10 per cent). Number of clients referred to an external professional adviser annually 2% None 21% 14% More than % 30%

6 Main reasons why financial advisers refer business externally 55.8% 15.1% 11.2% 10.0% 6.8% 1.2% Lack of necessary qualifications to advise Work load pressures Need to reciprocate referrals to someone who refers to me Need to re-structure client base due to too many low value clients I would never refer a client to an external adviser When considering their own client portfolios, most respondents (35 per cent) estimated the value of the work they refer externally each year to be worth between K. A fifth (20 per cent) estimated it was worth between 10-25K and 3 per cent thought it was worth more than 100K. Other

7 Total value of business referred externally each year 0 1-5,000 5,001-10, % 8.4% 10,001-25,000 25, ,000 More than 100, % 17.9% 16.3% 19.9% Most advisers don t generate additional income from their referrals More than half of financial advisers and wealth managers (59 per cent) do not generate any additional income at all from the referrals they make. One in three (36 per cent) advisers said that while they have considered increasing their income from referrals in the past, they have either done nothing about it or have tried and been unsuccessful. 15 per cent said they had never considered increasing their income from referrals. Financial advisers that have thought of generating additional revenue from referrals Financial advisers that receive payment for each referral 24% 76% 59% 41% Yes No

8 Property-related client work is most likely to be referred The cases most likely to be referred externally are those seeking mortgage advice (41 per cent), followed by property legal services, such as conveyancing (32 per cent). Other areas of advice commonly referred include pensions advice (31 per cent); stock market investment advice (30 per cent) and corporate finance advice (24 per cent). Type of advice most commonly referred 40.6% 32.3% 30.7% 30.3% 23.5% 5.2% 4.4% Mortgage Propert Pension s Stock Corporate No Other advice legal advice market finance common advice value advice referral type

9 Most advisers would increase fees before considering other strategies to increase profits Most financial advisers and wealth managers (39 per cent) would consider increasing their fees if they needed to make more profit. Other strategies they would consider include joining a network or larger group (33 per cent) and introducing new, added value services (31 per cent). Most commonly considered methods for increasing profits 39.4% 32.7% 30.7% 29.1% 8.8% Increasing fees Joining a network or larger group to reduce overheads Introducing added value services Making money from referrals None of the above

10 4.1 Conclusions 4.2 Referral practices The research shows that referral practices are widespread across the industry and most financial advisers and wealth managers refer client cases to external, professional advisers on a regular basis. Most case referrals take place for practical reasons; because an individual adviser lacks the expertise or qualifications to provide a specific type of advice. However, a significant number of case referrals are made because an adviser needs to reciprocate a relationship they may have with a professional associate. In today s highly-regulated world of financial advice, questions need to be raised about whether such practices are out-of-date. Implicit in the findings is the belief among advisers that they should only refer cases to people they know and trust. This is concerning in a world where transparency and fairness are all-important. Advisers who operate a reciprocal agreement with third party professional advisers may not be doing their clients any favours; does the third-party adviser have up-to-date qualifications and are they offering their client a competitively-priced service? If the referrer can t answer these questions or is unwilling to invest the time to run regular checks, they may have to accept that the process they are using to manage referrals needs to change. Adherence to reciprocal agreements may also be preventing some advisers from seeing the extent of the referral opportunity. The referral networks that most financial advisers and wealth managers have formed include people from the same sector, not necessarily lawyers and accountants too.

11 4.3 The referral market The research provides an insight into the estimated value of the client work referred by financial advisers each year. Most advisers believe that the case work they refer externally each year to lawyers, accountants and other financial advisers is worth between K. When considered cumulatively as a lump sum, this represents a major market opportunity for the financial advice sector and other professional services. In particular, forward-thinking advisers who refer case work externally on a regular basis should be considering what they can do to secure more value from this activity. The prevalence of case referral activity and its estimated value make it particularly surprising that so few advisers have tried to make more of it. In other instances, advisers say they have tried and failed. The lack of proactivity in this area could be due to the sheer variety of online tools and other solutions that exist and advisers lacking the time to explore them fully. Alternatively, it could be that the piecemeal nature of most case work referred to an external professional adviser is hiding its true potential value. 4.4 Turning a profit Most financial advisers and wealth managers said they would consider increasing their fees in order to secure more profits. However, this is a short-sighted approach. In a market where consumers are encouraged to shop around for advice and products, advisers need to stay competitive. More attention should be given to other ways to boost profits. For example, joining a network could provide more leads and support business growth, but it could also increase work load and this should be factored into account. There could also be scope to add services or adopt new ways of working that might bring efficiencies. Using the latest smart solutions to streamline the way referrals are managed could deliver value to the bottom line, protect clients interests, minimise business risk and help to generate new client leads when needed. 5.0 Recommendations Based on the research findings, summary recommendations for financial advisers and wealth managers include: Review case work referral processes are they robust and do they represent good value to you and your client? Set goals for how much value you would like to achieve from case referrals in the year ahead. Review the market to establish the options that exist to make more of referral activity and trial them if necessary. About FBA Financial advisers, mortgage advisers, wealth managers, estate agents, lawyers and accountants now have access to an innovative solution that can help them to monetise case referrals and manage the process from start to finish as efficiently as possible. FBA.com is an innovative platform, which gives the referrer access to a host of practising professional advisers. Using the platform, referrers can post client case details, invite bids in the form of quotes and weigh up the best option before making the referral. Users can bid for new client work too. Reviews left by users of the system help to highlight advisers who have been easy to deal with and have generated positive client feedback. To trial the service free of charge, visit

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