Team Structure - What works for you?

Hi all

I hope everyone is safe and well!

I’m currently reviewing our support team structure and exploring some potential changes to the CSA (admin) team in particular with the aim of setting us up for growth, improving efficiencies, the client experience, development opportunities for the team etc.
There are obviously a lot of different options, all of which have their own pros and cons, so I’m interested to find out what works well in other financial planning firms of various sizes.

We currently have around 450 client groups that we work with. We have 8 advisers, 9 paraplanners (one of which is currently transitioning into a trainee adviser), 6 CSAs and 2 people in our portfolio team who are responsible for the platform trading and performance analysis. Currently all of the support team except the portfolio team are client facing and have their own client allocations across all advisers.

The main aim of this structure was for the CSAs to be the initial point of contact for clients freeing up the advisers and PPs from general or quick queries. In reality we are finding that most clients are still going to advisers. Here's a very brief summary of some of the key benefits and struggles we are currently experiencing.

Key Benefits
*The team really benefits from working with a wider range of team members and this is great for their development
*Having designated client allocations allows the team to build stronger relationships and improve the client experience
*Spreading the client bank across teams works well for sickness and holiday cover and allows us to smooth out some of peaks and troughs in workload
*It encourages the consistency of process across the team
*Having a small number of specialised people trading on the platform has reduced the risk/amount of errors

Key Struggles
*Reallocating clients when people progress or move into different roles. Sometimes the clients don't stay with a consistent team long enough to build a true relationship
*Due to reallocations the advisers aren't always getting the consistent quality support they require from a team who truly knows the client and the client experience isn't great when team members are changing
*Work isn't always turned around as quickly as advisers are expecting due to the team managing and prioritising and multiple advisers and clients
*The CSA is meant to be responsible for keeping the team and clients up to date on new business but a slightly removed from the process due to having a separate portfolio team. Advisers often skip the correctly communication channel and go straight to the portfolio team for an update rather than the CSA.

I'm really interested to hear your experiences and thoughts, particularly if any of you work on a pooled rather than a client allocation bases, or 1:1 with an adviser.

Thanks v much
Tracey

Comments

  • Hi Tracey,

    You've touched on quite a lot of things I've seen discussed at length (when face to face was a thing!), I would have more questions and it's difficult to be brief. However I do have some thoughts to share re client contact.

    It's difficult to know what everyone's workload is but I've experienced a few times advisers trying to channel client queries through admin and it doesn't really work. Admin often have to discuss whatever it is with the adviser or at least let them know so offers limited benefit.

    I'm not saying I'm right as it all depends on your perspective and your firm's. I'm somewhat old school in that I believe clients 'buy' the adviser more than a firm's investment proposition. I'd actually say talking to clients is one of the only a few things I'd never want advisers to delegate (but for God's sake put down that Best Buy fund list Nigel!).

    Advisers all vary but many look for ways to maximise the 'touch points'. Time speaking to a valued client is rarely wasted whereas you (as an adviser) can lose out by not having that conversation yourself. If they aren't a valued client, chances are they are either being subsidised by other clients or the lack of value goes both ways and the adviser shouldn't feel guilty about letting them go.

    Sometimes firms have been stung by advisers poaching clients when they leave so they are often keen to emphasise the client relationship is with the firm... that is a tough one but would hope management can see a bigger picture. While I don't sign up to the infuriating dogma of a certain financial planning cult, a good point I took from one of its disciples was about 'Team Time'.

    The old time based invoicing model may have been admin at £50ph, paraplanner at £90ph and £120ph for the IFA. But nobody is sat in front of their type writer with their knitting these days so you (as adviser) take the view that it takes a team to get the work done and the fees in so a) get everyone to do what they are best at b) charge for the team time (regardless of who did what).

    I imagine it would be really useful to chat this through. I'm happy to volunteer myself but caveat my experience is mainly in small firms where I have been the only paraplanner (or me plus outsourced / adviser DIY / hybrid admins).

    I would be interested to see how this thread progresses - remember there are no right answers just what works in the writer's firm and they are all different!

    Clare

  • PS when you say client group is that like mum, dad, their business / trust, their kids and their kids' partners?

  • Hi @traceyc

    You have definitely raised a lot of very valid points. I have experience of both pooled and 1:1 approach and there definitely isn't an ideal solution but there is a solution that will work for your team (maybe even a mixture of both). I agree with @Clare_Weight that it might be helpful to chat this through (rather than write an essay) so feel free to get in touch. Maybe a Zoom/Teams call would be the way forward?

    Aleks

  • Hi @Clare_Weight & @Navigator

    Sorry for the delay in coming back to you, I've only just seen your responses.

    Yes exactly that.> @Clare_Weight said:

    PS when you say client group is that like mum, dad, their business / trust, their kids and their kids' partners?

    @Clare_Weight thank you for taking the time to reply in detail, you've made some really interesting points and have prompt me to think about the structure from a slightly different angle, which is really useful.

    @Navigator I think you may be right and I'm now leaning towards the possibility of a mixed structure within the team. It would definitely be interesting to chat this through. It would probably a good topic for the next administrator powwow too.

    If you are both interested in discussing over Teams, I'll get something booked in in the next couple of weeks.

    If anyone else reading this would like to get involved, please comment and I'll sort sending over an invite.

    Thanks v much
    Tracey

  • MB15MB15 Member

    Where I work we have IFA's & Secretaries>Technical Dpt>Admin Dpt and we all use the same office system.

    The technical department is report writers, the adviser recommends what they want and it gets written up with no paraplanners.

    Advisers/Secretaries can see their clients only, otherwise everyone else deals with all the clients letters, queries and cases etc.

  • Thanks for sharing @MB15 :)

  • Of course Tracey, send us both a private message and we'll give your our email addresses.

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