Mark and Nick have lived and breathed financial advice and lifestyle planning for more than 30 years each and offer readers frank insights into the industry’s “status quo” as well as the new direction for advice that they are helping to spearhead.
Q: MyEva offers users free digital advice and guidance on non-complex cases and then refers them to human advisers if need be. Costs for the human aspect of the service are much lower than they are for high street advisers who are charging the market rate. How have you and the rest of the team been able to achieve this, from a business perspective?
Nick: I think this price difference is the one thing that we are trying desperately hard to communicate, because it's powerful.
So, what is this difference in cost? It's a huge, huge difference. And both Mark and I come from that ‘old school’, or more traditional route, so we do know what we're talking about when it comes to typical costs. When you try and explain that to a client, who has never been to a more traditional advisory, they cannot put any value on what you're saying. And so, you almost say, ‘Crikey, we’re as cheap as chips. Do you know that?’.
Before Christmas, I spoke to a client. He was a fund manager, of course working within financial services, who wanted to transfer his final salary scheme and do another pension transaction. I quoted him a figure of around £1,200. And then I heard his jaw drop! He started to laugh and said, “Nick..?”. So I said, ‘Is that palatable for you?’ and he said, “I've been to three advice firms and the average they have quoted me was a fee of £20,000 plus all of these additional charges.”
That is an extreme example. Not all advisers like that, but my goodness!
Mark: What we're trying to get over to the clients is that they should value our service. Just because it's cheap, it doesn't mean you're getting less, you're getting the same – highly experienced advisers.
I joined Wealth Wizards in the last six months [as February 2020] from a place which operates as a traditional IFA, where they're charging 3% of whatever monies clients are transferring, so they've got a vested interest in making sure you do transfers of pensions and other funds.
I have taken a pay cut in order to join Wealth Wizards and the MyEva team because I am one of the advisers that were of the opinion that the charges and fees status quo is dead! When the regulators really get their hands on the traditional charging system they're going to crucify IFAs with it and then advisers are going to have to change the way they're charging their clients, because at the moment, there's a whole raft of people excluded from financial services.
When this opportunity to be a part of MyEva came up for me, I jumped at it because I want to be part of the future, not the past.
Q: What drives the MyEva and wider Wealth Wizards team to offer such competitive services in a market that is often associated with sometimes exorbitant fees?
Nick: We engage with people and we take time to ‘get’ them, we don’t just perform tick box exercises. The one thing you can't do is be dictatorial, you have to be aware of the fact that we’re giving advice over the telephone so you have to constantly question what you think you’re hearing and how you’re interpreting people’s answers. We probe and ask things like, ‘Why do you feel this way?’ because we haven't got people in front of us and can’t always read their reactions easily.
Everybody wants a massive profit. That sort of growth is fantastic, but the question is, ‘What are you prepared to do for it?’. In other words, ‘Are you prepared to take more risk to potentially get that profit?’. And also, ‘Can you afford to do it?’ and that's the other measurement we use a lot – affordability.
At times we have to act as counsellor and coach as well as financial adviser.
We've got such a lovely story to tell, a great story to tell. And we're very proud, genuinely, very proud of the MyEva and Wealth Wizards mission, which is to ultimately make financial advice more affordable and accessible.
Q: How do you overcome objections from clients who think MyEva’s human advice service costs too much?
Nick: You have to show the value of taking the advice and you have to personalise that value, so that if somebody comes to you who wants to consolidate a pension for instance and they’ve never gone to an adviser before, what you have to do is you have to paint a picture for them.
You have to show them the benefits associated with them starting to take control of their future and their finances by talking about the impact and consequences of various courses of action. The examples we give show them step-by-step what they need to do to get structure within their pension planning, which then allows them to target effectively and work out when they’re going to retire.
One of the first parts of this process is doing what we call an ‘attitude to risk’ questionnaire with the client, which is a well-known measure within the industry that basically helps us to measure somebody’s feeling towards different types of investments.
Q: Do you think a lack of affordability is the main cause of the advice gap, which describes the fact that the vast majority of people in the UK who are in debt and in need of financial advice, do not receive it?
Nick: If you go and walk down the high street and visit a traditional IFA and you sit on their nice Chesterfield suites with green plants all around you and you eat their fancy biscuits....I have to tell you, you're paying for all of that. You’re also paying extra for them to come out and see you in their nice Lexus car. I don’t think most people realise just how much traditional advice costs – so yes, I do think it is an affordability problem because the fees they are aware of have been historically off-putting.
Many of our clients are new to financial advice, so we discuss pricing quite early on. We have this ‘discovery’ call, which is a half an hour long and we explain that there's no cost attached, because we cover that cost; so we attach a value to it, even though it’s free to them.
During that call we ask them what’s on their minds and encourage them to ask us questions. While they're doing that, we have to think about whether it would be of value to them to go ahead and schedule a second call which would involve finding out exactly where they are now, financially and where they want to be, how they could possibly get there and which is the best route for them. So, in essence it’s like most other fact finds.
That fact-finder, which is a very important meeting, can be quite exhausting at times as we go into such depth. And it’s at that point when you say, ‘If you want me to do this, this and this, it's going to cost you ‘x’ upfront and ‘x’ per month’.
There are two costs to discuss. One is the initial fee and then there is the retention fee which is ongoing and covers services such as our annual review. And that is probably where, even people who are experienced when it comes to paying to financial advice, wobble a bit. And yet, it's absolutely necessary to monitor financial situations on an ongoing basis because you need to monitor the performance of your funds and to take into account other lifestyle changes on behalf of the client. Our lives and expenses change all the time.
It’s at that point in the conversation that we sometimes do battle.
Mark: Traditional advisers wouldn't even entertain somebody who wanted to do a £20,000 transaction. Most IFAs will say those transactions are just not worth their trouble.
Also, for those people who, let's say, wanted to start a pension but never make regular contributions, perhaps because they're self-employed and on a tighter budget than someone who has an employer to help with contributions, may contribute anything from £100-500 a month. In those cases, the adviser would say, well, ‘It's not worth my time, because I'm only going to charge 3% of whatever that is on the first year's basis. And that's just not worth my while’.
So, there's a whole raft of people, who are not necessarily ‘poor’, but they're being misled as to the nature of the fees which are being asked for, they think that all financial advice has to be that expensive, which creates a sort of financial underclass, who are not getting advice. And that’s the majority of people in the UK so that’s where we come in and show people and the industry that there is another way to do this.
Nick: I often say to the client, our ‘bag’ at Wealth Wizards/MyEva is not about the fees or commission. We just cover our costs because we're looking for more users, we want people to use us.
That's quite unique within the industry. We’re driving a sea change right now and that is genuinely very exciting to be a part of. Mark and I have worked within the industry for a long time. And it's like a rebirth for us, because we’re now getting back to the core of doing what we love again, which is to help people and there is such a buzz to be had from that. And when the penny drops for people, that this is about genuinely wanting to help, they buy into what we’re doing as a company and into the service we’re offering.
Mark and I have gotten so used to dealing with high net worth individuals and with MyEva we’re able to help a wider cross-section of people, those that may work part-time in retail, they're very young in comparison to those we’ve worked with before.
If you're helping them, even by showing them how to invest £30 a month then one day, that person might get an inheritance of half a million and guess which adviser they’re going to come to?
Above it all, we like talking to people and that’s a big part of what drives us!