Technology has been suggested as a way to address both challenges, but a more “back to basics” approach of financial coaching could also be an answer.
Within the space of just over a month, Charles Stanley, Evelyn Partners and Octopus Group have all launched a coaching service.
In contrast to when robo-advice was seen as a potential solution to the advice gap, what each of these new coaching services has in common is that clients can talk to a real person. “Ditch the robots – get personalised help from a human,” reads Octopus Money’s website.
Back to basics
Lisa Caplan, director of OneStep Financial Planning at Charles Stanley, says the feedback the wealth manager received for its planning service was that people appreciate the personal element.
“People really like… seeing someone, and talking to a real person. It was something that they valued a lot, and that’s really what the essence of coaching is.”
After launching a fixed fee, ‘OneStep Financial Planning’ service last year, in June Charles Stanley Direct followed up with the launch of ‘OneStep Financial Coaching’. Clients can have a free, 15-minute phone call with a qualified financial planner, or a one-hour video call at £150.
But Caplan says that offering a coaching service was not part of the original plan when Charles Stanley launched the fixed-fee planning service last year.
“It’s very much come out of our experience with OneStep Financial Planning – and also my experience talking to clients – that sometimes people just need a 15-minute phone call.”
In terms of what people ask during the 15-minute coaching calls, Caplan says she has been asked about pensions, inheritance tax and mortgages.
“We’re not mortgage brokers, but I talk about fixes coming to an end and having a plan for that, and if you’ve got an interest-only mortgage, having a plan for when that comes to an end.
“And I have seen some questions about investment unease – so our Charles Stanley Direct clients who selected their own investments and feel it’s been a bad couple of years.
“I can’t give investment advice [during a coaching call], but I can talk about markets and investment principles with them which they find helpful, and they find it helpful talking to someone about it.”
Coaching and advice as complements
As an existing wealth manager, Caplan says this makes it easier to set up a coaching service. “There are many people who say they offer financial coaching. We offer financial coaching with qualified financial advisers, and I have all the support that exists in Charles Stanley.
“What’s also good is, I have already in one phone call identified someone who needed full financial advice, and I was able to easily (and in a pleasant way for the client) hand them over to somebody else, and that worked well.”
Caplan also says the hope is that the OneStep coaching and planning services will help attract the next generation of Charles Stanley clients.
“People don’t necessarily want to have even a free one-hour conversation; that’s too much, it doesn’t suit them. So to be able to check in quickly for 15 minutes is really useful, and they can identify if more is needed or helpful… it’s not traditional bespoke, and I hope it’ll bring those people into the Charles Stanley world.”
Another wealth manager offering guidance is Evelyn Partners, which offers financial coaching to employees as part of its recently launched financial wellbeing service, Moneyhealth.
As a combined wealth management and professional services group, Evelyn Partners’ head of fintech, Tom Shave, notes the potential for its employee financial wellbeing service to expand both of the group’s client bases.
“We believe this [financial wellbeing] solution, which can enhance an employee proposition for employers, helps us on that side of the business from a professional services point of view, ie building out our corporate client base.
“But also, over time, we hope that as we support those employees right from early stage through to those executives, they may also see the benefit of having a relationship on the financial services side with financial planners etc, and we can use that to build out our client base.”
Besides potential growth in clients, Shave adds that the group’s “strong aim” is to bring better financial education to a wider UK population.
“We think individuals are underserved financial education as they’re going through their lives. We think in school there should be more education on financial affairs, and this solution can play a good role in bridging that gap.”
Another brand that is focusing on providing services through employers is Octopus Money, which launched in May and offers both coaching and advice.
The brand, which chief executive Ruth Handcock says will be able to offer mortgage advice in the future, replaces Octopus MoneyCoach that launched in 2021.
“With Octopus Money we can also provide one-to-one financial advice,” says Handcock. “MoneyCoach just provided coaching with a person. With Octopus Money we’ve also got some financial advisers as part of the team.
“And the reason we did that is because we partner with employers, and we found that when we went into workplaces we could help 95 per cent of people, but not 100 per cent of people. So it was important for us to be able to offer something to everyone.”
Handcock adds that there are two benefits to partnering with employers. “People are more likely to book a session if it’s in their working calendar; they log onto it just like they would any other meeting, and it becomes part of a habit that they’ve already formed.
“The second thing is, financial advice and coaching is a relatively unbranded industry.
“So by partnering with an employer who does lots of due diligence on us before they launch us as a benefit, it gives people confidence that they don’t have to say, ‘Are these people going to help or can I trust them?’ Because the employer’s done that work for them. So they will actually engage and then get the help they need.”
Although Octopus Money offers coaching and advice, Handcock says building a book of advice clients is not the brand’s endpoint. “Our endpoint is: we think there’s a massive gap in the mass market because no one has anywhere to go for help with their money.”
Shave at Evelyn Partners cites a similar goal. “As a firm we’re passionate about ensuring financial education gets out to the masses, and think that doing it through employers is a key way to achieve that.”
Chloe Cheung is a senior features writer at FTAdviser