Rob Bray is a Wealth Architect, which is probably some kind of a financial planner or something, with Imperious Capital. He’s also a loose cannon and a great writer, all of which makes him someone we’re chuffed to have doing a guest blog on the site. Rob sent me this note after reading The Value of Nothing and I bent his arm up behind his back to let me publish it. This is just as Rob wrote it, minus a couple of swears and stuff. Over to Rob.

You know, I’ve been trying to get platforms and advisers to get this for 5 or 6 years now. But it is REALLY hard to push an industry that has spent a lifetime on being given sweeties from providers to advisers to understand the bleedin’ obvious.

  • the value relationship is between the adviser and client
  • and NOT between the client and provider

Stuff like smart rebalancing (reduces client tax = better client returns which is as good as reductions in costs), tax calculations etc are better than back office integrations which make the adviser’s life easier but do not necessarily add value to the client. Well, they might do if the IFA reduces her fees as a result or provides a better service!. but good luck articulating the latter.

I’ve been using a (ropey) analogy for all these years

  • clients are passengers seeking to cross the Atlantic
  • IFAs are travel agents
  • platforms are the ocean liners

Clearly, not all passengers will see value in the same way. Some want the lowest price and are happy to go steerage. Others want to sit at the Captain’s table. Some want to get there quickly and don’t care about the discomfort of a cat (ahem!. different sort of cat). Whatever. The key point is they can make a value judgement based on a visible aspect of service.

What drives me potty is when the ocean liners want to spend money on, say, better uniforms for their staff. Or, let’s say, better working conditions for the guys in the boiler room. Passengers don’t give a monkey’s. Try selling a higher priced ticket on the basis of ‘well, we provide better aircon for our stokers’.  You might find a few, socially conscious passengers who will buy into that along with cheap wool for some more badly made, home-knitted uniforms – and that’s okay if that’s a proposition you want to promote as a niche.

My pea brain rationalises that if I can get passengers there quicker, or cheaper, or in better luxury for the same cost: I’ll get more or better clients and make more money. If that puts a strain on my back office, I’ll pay more monkeys (lots of simians in this story) to bash away on typewriters to get the work done. I want the margin on the table between the client and me so we can decide what to do with it rather than any spare margin being spent by the platforms to provide something that I then have to work out how to justify to the client. Of course, I can’t: because rather like corporate hospitality, golf days and trips to Paris, many of these things are the new inducements to IFAs to use the provider rather than a reason for clients to be placed with a provider.

[/ End of sermon]
It's really not.
It’s really not.