After more than two decades working with the financial intermediary channel, Mark Parry, Head of Strategic and Technical Sales at BMO GAM, knows a thing or two about how it ticks. Knocking on the doors of wealth managers and financial advisers with an offering based solely around product and attempting to differentiate yourself in a world of lookalike offerings - inevitably - proved difficult. So, Mark set about changing the conversation to a more consultative value-added service approach that proved highly engaging to the audience.
"Having talked to a lot of intermediaries, it became apparent that what was in demand was the value-added piece," he says. Essentially, wealth managers and advisers are less interested in the virtues of asset managers' products than they are in their own challenges - how do they implement regulatory changes, discover and on-board new clients, adapt to changing consumer behaviours and views, maximise financial planning opportunities and understand what their peers are doing to give themselves an edge.
Accordingly Mark, with the support of others at BMO GAM, set out to change that conversation. Rob Thorpe, Head of Distribution, UK and European Intermediary at BMO GAM said: "we planned to position ourselves as a trusted business partner rather than as a product sales organisation - with a focus on value-added service." The approach BMO GAM developed is BMO Adviser Edge. Adviser Edge is comprised of a series of events and tailored workshops backed by a website that provides educational and aspirational content, earning structured CPD, to intermediaries.
There are three main threads to the content. Firstly, ‘practice management' looks at areas such as regulation and key considerations for running an efficient intermediary business, as well as a segment with learning resources dedicated to the marketing and influencing skills needed to find, win and manage clients. Secondly the core area of ‘financial planning' looks at highly relevant topics such as trusts, taxation, and pre and post retirement planning. Thirdly, the 'investment zone' contains insights into topics such as volatility and transaction costs plus hot topics like ESG integration and tools to use with clients.
Whilst Adviser Edge is a sales initiative, it was realised early on that staffing would need to be different. And so it is. The team is small - just three including Mark himself - but it boasts a strong set of qualifications and skills, with staff holding the IMC, CFA's ESG Investing, Chartered Financial Planner and Fellow of PFS, certification in MBTI and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming - a methodology for understanding how people think and express themselves). Not to mention years of genuine practice-running experience - this is truly peer-led content, by advisers, for advisers.
The content is delivered both via the website and a series of events and tailored workshops, with the website providing a reference point for the more focused learning provided by the events. How has Adviser Edge gone down with actual advisers? When the event programme invitation went out in January last year, over 700 delegates booked within a few weeks. "We got tremendous traction right away," says Parry. When the pandemic hit, the programme moved seamlessly online, with a typical audience of over 100, and some events reaching three times that number. Events will move back to face-to-face in Q4.
For Parry, changing the conversation from product to service has been a powerful success. "We've got more new supporters coming in," says Parry. "People we've never worked with. We've been able to reach out to them and establish rapport and relationships." And Adviser Edge isn't slowing down. New modules of content are coming down the track to accompany the 110 existing ones and nearly 50 hours of structured CPD. This includes life-stage financial planning, and even how advisers can utilise LinkedIn to their advantage. "We are delighted how well it's been received and know it's meeting demand," says Parry.
To learn more about BMO Adviser Edge and to view forthcoming events, click here.
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