Developing a less antagonistic relationship with accounting firms, and other business partners, could be a lucrative gateway to increased practice revenue for financial advisory firms.

But working around potential business partners’ processes is the key.

In the past, financial planning firms have been reactive in their approach to dealing with business partners as a way of gaining client referrals. But a more targeted marketing plan, which has clear benefits for the accounting firm, may be more beneficial.

Axa’s Financial Advice Network has recently developed a number of support enhancements, including a business partnership program, which aims to help advisers be more proactive, rather than reactive, in their relationships with other businesses – specifically accounting practices.

Employing the expertise of Roy Morgan Research, the program includes an analysis of an accounting firm’s database – segmenting it by demographics and buying habits – and then, for each segment of clients, gives an indication of how likely they are to purchase advice.

National manager of Axa Financial Planning and Charter Financial Planning, Paul Williams, says once clients are identified as needing advice, the next step is to tailor a specific marketing plan to that need. “Using the Roy Morgan research data helps the accountant determine the propensity of their database to want a plan,” he says. “It puts the discussion of who owns the client on the table and the accountant and adviser can then work together on who can best service them. We are the only licensee with this capability.”

Axa recently launched a series of client-support solutions, which it boasts will return an additional $63 million in practice revenue in the next five years, half of which could be delivered by this business program. The three support enhancements, developed in conjunction with 17 financial planning businesses over the past 12 months, also include a client referral program and a client reactivation program.

Sam Aylett, national manager business improvement at Axa, says there was one instance in the pilot where an accounting firm undertook the Roy Morgan analysis, and developed a marketing plan, which identified about 120 clients who needed advice.

“Part of the program is to educate accountants on what advice is, what it covers and what it involves, which helps them see the opportunities which might be outside the accountant’s scope,” he says. “On the back of this, referrals have increased and so have the quality of referrals.”

According to Williams, the benefit for accountants is a more relaxed working relationship with advisers, plus the transparency of information and segmentation of their database, which enables them to go to clients with more targeted solutions.

One of the other new solutions includes an option for practices to outsource to Axa re-engagement with clients who have not had communication for some time but who, due to changes in personal circumstances, have been highlighted as targets for an update in their plan.

“Financial planning businesses that are busy day-to-day can outsource the initial contact to a specialist within Axa that can have a conversation, and even book a meeting, with the client. Through scale, Axa can have relationships on behalf of the practice and re-engage clients,” Williams says.

“So far, 27 per cent of clients Axa has contacted have wanted to re-engage with planners.” Axa’s philosophy is that there are three parts to a framework for business success in financial planning: business strategy, operations and quality advice delivery.

Williams says marketing, which fits within the business operations category, is a significant part of an adviser’s business, with research from past initiatives showing those businesses with a sophisticated approach to marketing have grown revenue by a third more than others.

Axa, which charges adviser practices a flat fee plus 3 per cent of revenue as a licence fee, plans to increase its charges in January next year, in line with inflation, for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

The Axa network has a total of 380 businesses, with more than 800 financial planners, under the AXA Financial Planning and Charter Financial Planning brands.  

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