Eldon Financial Planning Ltd
Joss Harwood, Director
“ We were delighted to be part of the ‘Bucking the Trend’ awards experience, able to learn about the businesses that had been nominated, and to meet other motivated successful local business people at the awards ceremony itself. There was a real buzz in the room, and the positive atmosphere confirmed our belief that it’s not all ‘gloom and doom’ out there. We applaud the Enterprise Agency for running these awards to showcase the talent and ability we have in Wear Valley & Teesdale, and we can see that in future years these awards will become a badge of quality and the accolade will be highly sought after.”
Eldon Financial Planning Limited was set up in 2002 to amalgamate two successful existing businesses, aiming to become the North’s premier fee-based financial planning practice.
There are as yet very few Chartered firms and all three Directors at Eldon are Chartered Financial Planners. The three directors are all experienced and qualified at the highest level. They reject the old process of financial advice which has been dominated by the sale of financial products, all too often driven by commission. Instead they run a clear and transparent fee based practice. Client needs, and advice to meet those objectives, come first. Where they are required, products are simply seen as a means to achieve client ends. This is called ‘holistic financial planning’.
Eldon’s innovative business model is very much ahead of the trend. The proposed drive by the Financial Services Authority to raise standards and improve outcomes for consumers mooted for 2012 is to make financial advisers become better qualified and work in more transparent and fee based models.
Eldon has put in place processes to ensure all clients receive exactly the same high level of service, with each client getting at least one review a year. However, they have built enough flexibility into the processes to enable them to deliver a bespoke service based on their client’s particular needs.
They have now grown the business to 245 clients. These clients came to them through personal recommendation and referrals. Eldon has set up professional referral relationships with one local solicitor and one accountant who recommend the firm to their clients but neither company takes commission for doing so. This is in line with Eldon’s passionate belief that their business methods be transparent and ethical.
The company says: “All our advice has to be paid for, and we choose to charge fees rather than relying on commissions. That’s because we feel that the fairest and clearest way for clients to know that they get value for money Before we give any advice, we quote a fixed fee for it. That means there are never any nasty surprises.
Clients know what they are getting, and they seem to like it. This may have something to do with the fact that very often they are actually paying a lot less than before, for a greatly enhanced service. An anonymous survey confirmed the unusually high levels of client satisfaction with their Eldon relationships.
The company also promotes itself widely through the use of the media with Joss Harwood regularly commenting through regional and national newspapers and local and national radio stations. Although this doesn’t bring in any income, it builds the authority of the company’s expertise and generates enquiries which leads to new clients.
However, another motivator behind the media profile is Eldon’s drive to educate the public about the importance of financial planning and redress the negative view of the financial services industry by flagging up the fact that there are ethical, transparent professional firms who are on hand to give clear and expert advice.
This is also seen in other activity in which Eldon has engaged, such as the Directors working pro bono in a pilot initiative with the Citizens Advice Bureau because they believe that the very people who most need financial advice, such as those with large debt and those on benefits, need proper provision through such agencies.
Eldon also offers to visit secondary schools to enlighten children about money management in general and is happy to speak to groups about what “financial planning” means, and what service standards they should expect from a financial adviser.
Such has been the success of their business model that they have been approached to apply it to other companies but they feel that they could not guarantee the quality of service delivered if this were the case. They have decided to expand through ‘growing their own’ financial planners and have already trained two young people who are working towards becoming Chartered. The company wants to expand this activity by putting in place a specific programme for bright school leavers and graduates who might otherwise choose accountancy or law.
In 2008 Eldon Financial Planning won national accolade as ‘New Model Advisers of the Year 2008 - North’ and in April 2009 they won the ‘Services’ category in the final of the 2008 North East Business awards after winning the Durham & Wearside regional heat. They have been nominated by the North East Chamber of Commerce for a national Award for Excellence in Customer Service, at a ceremony to be held in November 2009.