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‘We feel like teenagers about to leave home’

The Finance Planning Group network launched with little fanfare yesterday, but there’s nothing low-key about its plans. “We feel like teenagers about to leave home. That’s how exciting it is,” says Terry McCutcheon, CEO of The Finance Planning Group (FPG).

The group with 60 advisers set out on its own after months of planning and preparation to leave Legal & General, following 16 years as an Appointed Representative (AR).

It’s been a life-long relationship as McCutcheon (pictured) joined L&G in April 1988 as a financial adviser, moved into management in 1990 and ended up as an area sales manager for the insurer before leaving to start his own financial advice firm.

McCutcheon says: “I really liked 90-95% of L&G’s network proposition, but for us to have more control over policy and operating procedures is really exciting for us.”

The West Sussex-based firm applied for network permissions in August 2015, finally got a case-handler in February and was authorised a month later in March, after being caught in backlog of consumer credit authorisations.
“Once we were picked up by the case handler, everything moved swiftly. Any questions were answered as quickly as possible and other than the time we waited for the FCA to do due diligence checks, everything was completed in good time,” says McCutcheon.

The Finance Planning Group made the transition with the help of the Huntswood Consultancy, which made sure it submitted everything ‘right first time.’ Most of the hard work was done upfront because it took months of preparation to submit the application, adds McCutcheon.

The brand-new network already includes two AR firms – Elysian Financial Services and Key Financial Services. In addition, the firm’s multi-tied advisers are trading as Finance Planning Mortgage & Protection Solutions.
FPG traditionally offers mortgage and protection advice and 30% of that business is buy to let. It plans to refer all specialist business like adverse loans or bridging because McCutcheon wanted to keep the Professional Indemnity insurance and regulatory permissions simple.

Setting out the strategy

McCutcheon consulted his advisers last year and the L&G relationship is one of this adviser’s key priorities.
The group has big marketing plans, including online-only advertising, has already relaunched two websites and is unsurprisingly keen to recruit new Appointed Representative (AR) firms beyond the two it already has excellent working relationships with.

But he is vehement that he doesn’t want any ‘bad apples.’

“We take on people carefully. We’re very picky. We are looking for people like us who are good, honest, trustworthy, look after their clients first and have a good attitude. It’s very much a culture thing.”
McCutcheon, managing director Dan Maskell and compliance director Pete Burgess constitute the experienced senior manager team and interview all potential AR candidates separately to ensure consistency.
He adds the firm made a conscious decision after the credit crunch to be more profitable and still won’t just grow just for the sake of it.

But McCutcheon says adviser development is key to FPG’s business plans.

“The advisers do the important £200 an hour client-facing work, and our experienced admin team pick up the administrative £10 – 15 an hour work. Support has been ramped up and as a result, top adviser turnover has substantially increased. They’ve been able to give higher quality advice and more of it. Paraplanning and quality support is the answer,” he says.

The future

McCutcheon is already running a tight ship like many advisers after a series of hard-won lessons learned during the recession.

But what’s he most looking forward to? “Marketing the new network and business as a whole and getting out to talk about the firm. We thrive on challenges – we are really looking forward to our new venture”.

So far, McCutcheon is the only ex-L&G AR to launch its own network and the insurer wishes him well. Stephen Smith, director of Legal & General Housing partnerships says the insurer is delighted to be a partner in the network’s future, adding the firm’s DA authorisation will stand it in great stead.

“Our erstwhile network relationships have truly evolved into partner relationships, which was always planned as the L&G Housing Partnerships name evolves,” he adds.

McCutcheon’s plans to get all the basics right by looking after TFPG’s advisers and treating the customers “how you would like to be treated yourself” to generate referrals and repeat business is a strong formula.

As the fledging network takes flight, it’s clear that becoming directly authorised isn’t for the fainthearted. Over the last 16 years, whilst working with Legal & General, The Finance Planning Group has matured and grown but now feels it is the perfect time to fly the nest.

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