For years financial advisers have been attending “off-site” workshops and conferences to help them stay ahead of the curve of product and industry developments.
But given all the technological advances we’ve seen in recent years you could easily conclude that live events are now less important. If you are a time-pressed financial adviser why would you travel to a conference or workshop when you could keep up-to-date with developments online and potentially spend more time servicing your clients?
Yet anecdotal evidence from organisers of such events suggests that live, best practice sessions – held in London and across Britain – have never been more popular.
Nucleus – the adviser built wrap – recently launched an initiative called Illuminate which brings together independent specialists from across the industry to deliver workshops on everything from how to market a business to keeping up-to-date with compliance changes. Some 150 advisers attended the first three sessions.
Meanwhile, Thesis Asset Management hosted its first conference earlier this month, attracting more than 100 attendees. Key to the event’s success was securing high quality speakers, including Rory Percival from the FCA, Keith Richards from the Personal Finance Society, David Ferguson from Nucleus and Frank Potaczek of Defaqto.
Lawrence Cook, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Thesis said it “works in partnership with financial advisers so it makes sense for us to help them manage and grow their business.” He added: “If we can do that by providing a forum for industry learning, discussion and improvement, so much the better.”
And last year support services provider Bankhall announced it was running a series of events on the ‘Future of Financial Advice’ in conjunction with the Phil Billingham Partnership. The initial sessions focus on how business models are evolving on the back of factors such as independent and restricted advice, alongside changing corporate structures.
But why, in an age when technology is advancing year-on-year, are these live initiatives proving so popular with advisers?
Martin Bamford, Chartered Financial Planner at Informed Choice said: “It takes something pretty special to get me out of the office to attend a live event these days, with other forms of information so much more accessible and time efficient. But the right speakers and topics, and the opportunity to spend time working on rather than in my business, combined with the chance to network with my peers, and I am happy to spend the time and money to attend live events. Product and fund updates from providers are best delivered online; but meaningful, original and inspirational sessions which add real value to my business are great when delivered through live events.”
Barry Neilson, Business Development Director at Nucleus added: “Live events are increasingly of interest to advisers again as they are moving away from being thin-veiled sales pitches delivered by whichever provider coughed up the most cash to assess the audience to becoming genuine educational events, principally driven by the needs of the audience rather than the needs of the speakers.”
Advisers feel they get something out of these physical events that they wouldn’t get from sitting in their office in front of a computer. They like the fact they can ask specific questions that are pertinent to their own businesses and discuss issues with their peers in a relaxed environment.
When I have spoken to advisers in lunchtime breaks at such sessions, I’ve been told that they often find that the challenges and opportunities of running an advice firm are the same as the person sitting next to them in the break-out room. It makes sense to get together and share ideas.
There have been a raft of change in the industry in recent years, not least post Retail Distribution Review (RDR) and firms are keen to ensure they stay safe by complying with new regulation. I have also met advisers in the last few months who are upbeat and optimistic about the future. They are committed to seizing opportunities to grow their businesses, but they need the support to help them put plans into practice.
Of course, technology still has a role in helping financial advisers stay up-to-date on industry best practice. Nucleus last week launched a website for its Illuminate initiative that will complement the programme of live events. Advisers have access to a library of educational and informative content from some 30 industry experts that will grow over time.
Combining the best of the traditional world with that of new online offerings is therefore the future for anyone delivering support to financial advice firms. Live adviser events are certainly by no means dead. Organisations in the distribution space will continue to run them as long as they are well attended.