Dennis Hall, managing director of Yellowtail Financial Planning, is focusing on the niche of widows and couples with terminal illnesses. He also aims to offer consultations to couples who wish to plan ahead for when one of them dies.
‘Almost half of our existing clients are married couples who are in or approaching retirement. A conversation that acknowledges the future without one of them being there is helpful to them,’ he says.
Hall has been developing information and a network of support services to assist these clients.
‘I have already identified information products that will help people who are trying to arrange their financial affairs during the last months of their lives. It is intended we make these available to people without cost,’ he says.
‘We are building a network of support services to help couples in this situation and, again, these do not necessarily have a financial services connection.’
Hall puts financial planning at the heart of his service. ‘We have always delivered a full financial planning service as the precursor to anything else we subsequently provide, such as an ongoing wealth management service,’ he says.
‘It is very much a full hand-holding service and we work best with people who are either time-poor or don’t want to become too involved in the day-to-day aspects of their financial planning.’
What distinguishes his firm, he believes, is how he adapts financial planning to his niche market.
‘To a large extent the financial planning output our financial planning software generates is not so different from anyone else’s, so we have had to package this in a way that appeals to our market,’ says Hall.
‘This usually involves changing the language used in various reports and making the information more accessible. We place a lot of emphasis on face-to-face time, as this is what our clients tell us they value.’
He has also focused on clients with a higher level of assets. ‘As the cost of doing business has escalated and the levels of service demanded by clients increased, we have had to raise the bar even higher in terms of our minimum charges per client,’ he says.
‘Invariably this means clients have had to come to us with a higher level of assets for us to provide value for money.’
Unlevel playing field
Hall believes the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has not gone far enough in providing a level playing field for fee-based advisers.
‘The fee conversation is perhaps the biggest drawback when taking on new clients. When they have come from an environment of smoke and mirrors and commission, it is difficult for them to appreciate the full transparency we have when it comes to fees,’ he says.
‘I’m not convinced post-RDR the new world of adviser charging will remove all the problems we currently face.
‘The FSA should have bitten the bullet and banned all provider-facilitated charging.’
Dennis Hall’s plans for life after RDR
'My plans for the development of the firm seem counterintuitive to the typical growth model of selling more services to more people. I am narrowing the focus of what we do and who we do it for, and we are already some way along that journey.
'I don’t want to be all things to all people, and would rather be highly visible to our intended market and invisible to everyone else.
'As part of our retail distribution review (RDR) preparation, we discovered that around 50% of existing clients were single women who had been widowed.
'We already have a great deal of experience of dealing with widows, and are now working on developing services and information products to help couples [in circumstances] where a terminal illness has been diagnosed. This involves offering services and information that sits outside the traditional regulated financial advice arena, and developing skills to help people who are going through an extremely emotional time.'
Verdict: Brett Davidson
Hall’s plans are the most exciting to date.
From some self-analysis, he has discovered Yellowtail’s niche: ‘50% of existing clients are single women who have been widowed’. But he has taken this further and identified that couples in circumstances where a terminal illness has been diagnosed is a market his firm is perfectly placed to assist.
While much of our industry thinks ‘what can we sell them?’, Hall has moved on to ‘how can we help them?’ This is a more interesting question and has led to the development of new services and information products for the firm’s target clients with an aim to be the go-to solution.
Also, although Yellowtail uses existing industry software and technology, it has made it client-friendly by improving the language and the presentation. Go, Dennis!
Brett Davidson is chief executive of FP Advance.