How PlanHappy gained trust and loyalty in financial services

Neil Parker
Joslin Rhodes Neil Parker

CEO

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In Conversation with Neil Parker from PlanHappy Franchise

We speak to Neil Parker, CEO of Joslin Rhodes and PlanHappy Franchise, about how he started his lifestyle financial planning company and the franchise opportunity set to change franchising possibilities for independent financial advisers.

If PlanHappy had been around 17 years ago when I started Joslin Rhodes, I would have chewed through my left arm to get at it, because it saves you 17 years of pain doing it the wrong way.

What inspired you to start a business that combines financial advice with lifestyle planning?

One of the aspects I love about working with clients is the coaching element.

The real challenge was always stopping them thinking about products, charges and performance, and instead focusing on what really matters.

I always felt I could add real value to their lives by sending them away knowing more about themselves, so being able to encompass that with one overarching service just seemed like a natural progression.
I realised over the years Id created systems, tools and processes to help coach clients through certain life events, particularly retirement. PlanHappy was born from really sitting down and exploring that structure and realising it was a great process for delivering lifestyle financial planning to clients.

Has how the financial services industry evolved since you launched PlanHappy?

I think in financial services, certainly in financial advice, most advisers are seen as a conduit between the client and the underlying product, so in effect, youre arranging someone elses product for the client. The problem with this is you dont really add any value yourself. Plus, if a client can obtain the same product cheaper or faster your business model is at risk.

Also, theres no built-in loyalty, clients dont care whether they can get the product from you or from someone else, in the same way as you dont care whether you buy a tin of beans from Asda or Morrisons, youll go wherever gives you the best price at the time because its the tin of beans you ultimately want, not the experience of purchasing it.

So, PlanHappy is a product that gives value to the client who as an addition may buy a product, but thats not their primary reason for dealing with us.

An awful lot of the industry is under cost pressures and theres much more automation involving clients being able to select products online. So, if youre not adding real value as a financial adviser then your business model is at risk.

What are the biggest challenges facing the service industry at the moment and how is PlanHappy overcoming them?

Trust has always been a big issue in financial services. You dont need me to walk you through the catalogue of misdemeanours in the financial services industry. Whether that can ever truly be repaired, I dont know.

But the fact that PlanHappy is a boutique service thats designed for the local market and really builds relationships with clients before you even talk about financial products, protects it and makes it very different.

So, how the rest of the industry solves their problems isnt our problem to fix but we find clients very much like the way we do things.

The way PlanHappy is and what it does builds an incredible sense of loyalty, so we rarely lose any clients, ever, because of the relationships weve spent time building.

What would you say has been your biggest achievement at PlanHappy?

Recognising that this PlanHappy service weve been delivering and have developed naturally over many years exists and is not only a great service for us to deliver but for others to receive.

Then, extracting the underlying processes of it and delivering it in a systematised way, repeatedly and at scale, without losing any of the boutique personal feel is one of the biggest achievements.

Also, taking the time to lay that out and create the collateral needed to train other people, which has been a labour of love for the last few years, is another.

Why do you think your clients choose PlanHappy?

Clients want to feel safe; they want the comfort of dealing with someone they know, not in terms of brand, but in terms of people and they want to deal with someone local. They also want to know youre one of them, and if you can prove to them you understand how important their money is to them, theyre far more likely to trust you with their decision making.

With PlanHappy, clients really understand theyre getting added value and once youve spent time building that relationship, they dont want to go through all that again, dealing with someone who doesnt truly know them and the reasons theyve arrived at that point in their life.

Although, its worth noting not everyone chooses PlanHappy. Some clients are attracted to PlanHappy because theyve read and heard about it and thats great. Others come in wanting a transaction and we chat to them and they think; Well thats fantastic, lets give that a go.

But theres some that want a transaction and go away still wanting a transaction, we tend to pass these onto other firms, so its not for everyone, but for the majority of clients it works very well and they very much warm to the service when they hear about it.

Why would you recommend PlanHappy to those thinking of opening a franchise?

If PlanHappy had been around 17 years ago when I started Joslin Rhodes, I would have chewed through my left arm to get at it because it saves you 17 years of pain doing it the wrong way.
People often ask me; When did you invent or develop PlanHappy? and I say; I never did, were just on version 4028 and its constantly evolving.

So, as a franchise its a fantastic opportunity to get some great high-quality training in a very holistic environment, developing a feel-good business so every day youre working with clients helping them.

Were constantly getting thank you cards through the post because weve changed peoples lives. There are tears along the way, but no other job gives so much feel-good job satisfaction.
It also helps you build that recurring income stream as you bill your clients on a monthly basis for the services you provide, meaning every time you help someone, youre not only helping them but yourself.

So, its a really great way to build some value, not only into a professional business, but something thats really enjoyable too.

What are the three most important traits for franchisees to possess?

Good question.

I would say number one would be determination. Youve got to want to push yourself and have that drive to build your business. PlanHappy is a fantastic business-in-a-box, anyone can do it. But, the one thing youve got to bring is a drive to really push it on, so thats the first thing.

Secondly, you have to have pride in delivering a great service. Youve got to really want to have a good business within your own community because thats how youll build that longevity and become the go-to person for everyone when theyre approaching retirement.

Thirdly, in order to coach someone youve got to come across as someone with experience, who people can take counsel from and sometimes that means putting a bit of work into yourself, sometimes it just means being at a stage in your life where youve been around enough to have that experience.

You cant really quantify that. Its not a particular age thing, its not having done certain jobs, its just having credibility in the delivery of you coaching work with clients. If they dont respect you and they dont feel your credibility you arent going to succeed.

You're not selling a sandwich, its not a Subway franchise. You are effectively part of a product and as such, youve got to have that quality and credibility that goes with it.

What training and support do you offer franchisees?

We provide absolutely loads of training and support. So, before they even start, a franchisee has access to our operating manual library, which has hundreds and hundreds of videos. Throughout every aspect of the process we provide academic training - through the diploma in regulated financial planning.

So, it really is a very structured training programme and its delivered by people who work in PlanHappy for a living, so youre getting a strong grounding thats overlaid by personal help and support from individuals.

Having said all that we can provide the content, we can provide all the training but youre the one who must read the books and really get your head down and pass those exams.

What are the biggest challenges your franchisees face and how do you help them overcome them?

I think initially its experience. It can be very daunting to come into a new profession for a franchisee or even someone who is crossing over from being an Independent Financial Adviser and I think it can appear a little overwhelming to start with and thats why we put a lot of work into the training to make sure its delivered in modules.

Youll be able to do the training, do some examples, and some tests and trials before you deliver to a real client. So, hanging in there over that first six to nine months is particularly important and thats where the determination comes in.

Those who do, have massively successful careers and youve got to be really geared up for it and in the right frame of mind.

Its that determination to take the support and training, put it into practice and in a years time look back and think; What was I worried about? Its all so obvious now, it makes so much sense.

What are your ambitions for the future of PlanHappy?

We want to deliver PlanHappy to as many people as possible. Its a great product and a great service. Ideally, Id like everybody who approaches retirement to have the benefit of PlanHappy.

My dream has always been that a client or potential client rings an Independent Financial Adviser or some financial advisory firm and the first question they ask is; Do you do PlanHappy?

And if the firm says no, theyre just going to hear a click at the end of the line because the client understands the value of the PlanHappy service more than they desire some financial transaction that may be required at the end of it.

Joslin Rhodes franchise

Joslin Rhodes

Joslin Rhodes franchise is a Lifestyle Financial Planning process for IFAs, (or people interested in becoming [...]

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