I travelled to Scotland at the beginning of February to see a number of our clients F2F, going back out properly for the first time in two years. Eight client meetings and ten T&C 121s in five days. It really did take me back to how things used to be, but the irony is when I got there and met these clients F2F, some of whom I’d only ever met on Zoom, I got a real sense that I was actually looking into the future.

The future being innovation, youth, diversity and forward-thinking financial planning practices.

As Cathi has mentioned in a previous edition of Eclipse, we had a kick-off event in the first week of January to bring all of our team together. One of the key elements of the day was our new Chief Technology Officer, Peter walking and talking us through some of the work he’s doing to take The Verve Group forward in terms of our tech and systems. At the time I was struck with how far ahead of the game we were in appointing a CTO with projects that had us all gripped to our seats. Cathi also talked through her vision for The Verve Group and the desire to have a group structure that combined employee engagement and collective ownership, and a way forward for everyone to benefit from the future growth in the group. Again, so far ahead of anything I had seen or heard from a firm of our size.

We collectively talked and shared what we all felt a great career could look like at The Verve Group. We talked about how people wanted to feel valued, respected, engaged, what employee benefits mattered to people, and how that differed from new graduates fresh out of university, to those who had now been in employment for ten years, to those of us who may have been in the industry a little longer than that (cough). Again, ahead of the curve in my eyes in terms of listening to your employees about what’s important to them.

And then, low and behold I arrive in bonny Scotland for a week of meetings, talking to firms of varying sizes, ages, demographics and pretty much all of them are doing, if not all of the above, certainly some of it.

Two now have CTOs in situ, one is building their own client app, one has put an EMI scheme in place for their staff, one now has an EBT in place, and two are working on building adviser academies (with the help of The Art of Finance). All were using some form of client portal, digital engagement with their clients and employees and none were standing still with their succession planning for the future in any way, shape or form.

So, where am I going with all this?

I guess what struck home to me is that the world has changed in terms of what firms, their clients and their employees are seeing as being important. Covid has clearly had a massive impact on so many people in so many ways, but thankfully, for the advice firms we are talking to and with the examples above, the changes coming on the back of the last two years are largely positive and will change the shape of the adviser space for the better for a long time to come.

It’s made me realise how firms are embracing the changes we are seeing happen all around us and the changes we are trying to make to better the profession we work in for the long-term benefit of their clients and their employees. The pre RDR days are thankfully long behind us in terms of value that firms deliver to their clients and with Consumer Duty coming very quickly down the line (a recent blog on this here if you missed it), this is a must, as demonstrating that value will only become a more important element of what firms do and how they operate. It’s very refreshing to actually see this taking place now and not something that firms talk about. But as we know, talk is cheap, it’s now time to deliver.

I guess my question to you all is, where are you at on this journey? Are you feeling ahead of the game or do you still have some work to do to get your business model, technology, employee engagement, succession planning etc to where you want it to be?

My inbox is always open to anyone who would like to discuss this as this is a real passion of mine and I’m very open to hearing about how firms are tackling their future, and I’m always happy to share ideas and innovation we are seeing in the marketplace.

Christian Markwick – Head of Adviser Support