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What makes a successful adviser business?

Nia Williams

November 18, 2013

The findings show that although no single formula for success exists, there are many similarities among the firms studied.

The report identifies seven key attributes that leading advisory businesses all share:

1. Strong leaders with a consistent vision, who set clear direction and expectations

2. Employees who put the firm’s interests before their own

3. The structure of the business follows its strategy

4. Clarity of who and what the business is

5. Regulatory change is embraced

6. Clear, regular and open communication with both clients and employees

7. A culture of continuous improvement and operational excellence

The research also reveals that of these attributes – three are critical success factors which many adviser firms may want to emulate: excellent leadership, a culture open to change and operational excellence.

Having a strong leader ensures that everyone in the business knows their role, can positively contribute to the business and ensures a strong focus on the customer. The research shows that a strong leader should enable a culture of continuous learning, set clear direction for the business and be obsessed with quality and customer experience.

According to the research, a culture that is constantly embracing change is vital for a successful adviser business. This helps firms prepare, and often stay one step ahead of potential changes to regulation and market demand. A successful adviser firm knows not only when change is required, but how opportunities or changes in the market relate to their business model and brand.

Innes Miller, head of business services at Standard Life, said: “We wanted to understand the attributes that enable certain adviser businesses to be so successful – a combination of delivering a positive outcome both for the client and the business.

“While no single business model or client proposition stood out, we did discover a set of consistent behaviours, activities and processes that combine effectively to drive a business forward through change and beyond.

“There is a clear theme: successful advisory businesses do not “carry on” until regulatory pressure of financial necessity forces change on someone else’s terms. They seek to control their own destiny through strong leadership and efficient execution.”


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