Delivering low-cost, affordable advice to a mass market is a viable proposition for businesses that can count on attracting enough clients and can achieve the necessary operating efficiencies, according to Q Invest.

Jenni Erbel, executive manager of advice for Q Invest, says it costs about $300 to deliver specific advice to one super fund member, over the phone. Q Invest has operated a specific-advice model since 2004, and has conducted 8250 interviews over that time. It provides advice to members of First State Super and Q Super.

“It’s limited advice,” Erbel says.

“[Clients] come through a call centre and we try to ask them what kind of advice needs people have.”

Q Invest manages to convert 80 per cent of inquiries from a telephone interview to the point where it dispatches a statement of advice (SOA) to the member. In 95 per cent of cases, it dispatches advice (including an SOA) to the member within two weeks of the interview. And

Erbel says the model works for Q Invest because it is able to generate the volume of interviews needed to keep unit costs to a reasonable level. And because the clients who use the phone service are already members of a super fund, Q Invest’s advisers do not have to stray into product advice and can focus solely on strategy. Advisers handle no more than four client interviews a day.

Glen Hipwood, head of strategic projects at Q Invest, says the business has focused closely on streamlining business practices and workflow. He says the key is preparation.

“We ask, depending on what modules of advice we believe are appropriate, to send in information before the interview,” Hipwood says.

He says a phone interview generally creates a three-page file note, and a typical SoA runs to no more than about 26 pages. A file note wizard, SOA templates, customer relationship management (CRM), reporting and workflow issues are addressed using Xplan.

Hipwood says the service appeals to clients because it delivers a fast response to an immediate need. Q Invest phone clients typically “want a single issue resolved”. However, Erbel says 40 per cent of Q Invest’s business is either returning clients or client reviews, so there is evidence that clients value the service and are happy to return. He says the phone service attracts a disproportionate number of young clients.

The staff who give advice over the phone have as a minimum qualification RG146 and typically are at a mid-range paraplanner or junior adviser level. Q Invest invests in ongoing training and professional development.

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