The Practice Manager – Why You Need One

Why a Practice Manager is Pure Gold

Owners of financial planning firms often approach me when considering hiring a Practice Manager for their firm. Over the years, I have noticed that those hiring for this role for the first time tend to grapple with the same questions:

1. When is the right time to hire?

Many firms worry that their size or turnover may be insufficient to justify hiring a Practice Manager. I have worked with firms large and small, and in my view, no firm can afford not to hire for this role. When starting up, all financial planning firms have these core roles to fill:

  • Practice Manager
  • Financial Planner
  • Paraplanner
  • Administrator

While some of these roles could be either outsourced or kept in-house, every firm needs a Practice Manager. Running a business means having to manage operations, people, technology, compliance, client services, marketing, finance and emotions to name but a few.

To do this successfully is a real art and requires a dedicated person responsible for the day-to-day running of the business. Since most owners of financial planning firms are also main advisers for the firm, they need Practice Managers, who are the glue that holds the firm together! They coach and manage the team, are great at execution, project management, and can diplomatically keep the business owners in-check.

Most entrepreneurs I know, have lots of great ideas but tend to be very impatient when it comes to implementation and don’t enjoy the day-to-day aspects of running a firm. In addition, most have little or no experience of managing teams, which creates a lot of issues for all involved. As such, it’s critical that they have an ‘integrator’ on their team to bring their vision to life.

The right time to hire was the moment that you decided to start up your business. The next best time to hire is now.  

2. Is this role a full-time one?

Yes, yes it is. I have a pleasure of working with lots of great Practice Managers and they are the busiest people I know! I can guarantee that your new Practice Manager will have their hands full from the outset. In some cases but only over time, once organisational clarity and efficiency has been created and there is a great team in place some Practice Managers see scope to drop the number of working days to 4 or 3. In my Master Practitioners Club, only 1% of Practice Managers work part-time and most have been in the role for a number of years prior to reducing the number of working days.

3. What job title do we use?

The titles that are most frequently debated include: Practice Manager, Business Manager, Operations Director, Head of Operations, Operations Manager or Office Manager. As it happens, your choice has some consequences, so consider the following:

Firstly, as far as the FCA is concerned only the individuals registered with Companies House as directors can hold that word in their job title. So, that rules out the title of an ‘Operations Director’ if you are not planning on registering your ‘Integrator’ as one of the Directors.

Secondly, the term ‘Office Manager’ doesn’t reflect what the ‘Integrator’ is responsible for. Historically, the Office Manager title has always been more suggestive of taking care of the office admin, rather than being the glue that holds the firm together and brings the business plan to life! The role of the ‘Integrator’ is to act as an integrator between the Visionary and the entire team. Practice Managers are responsible for driving the business in accordance with the agreed Business Plan. You can see why it’s a key role for any firm!

Thirdly, make sure that there is scope for growth, regardless of the size of your business. In small firms Practice Managers are responsible for all parts of the business – HR, Marketing, Operations, Finance and lots more. They’re constantly spinning plates but over time – as the firm grows and evolves, so should the job specs and job titles. Most Practice Managers I work with have ambitions of becoming Operations Directors over time.

Finally, while I’ve been using the title of a Practice Manager since 2006 and it’s my ‘default label’ to describe the individual who manages and coordinates all the key areas of running a financial planning practice, but I also like the titles of a Business Manager and Operations Manager. When recruiting individuals from outside the profession the latter two are more easily recognisable at first glance.

4. Can the Practice Manager do some part-time paraplanning or administration work?

No, no they can’t! I often see job specs for the role of a Practice Manager that incorporate either Paraplanning or Administration job specs. The Practice Manager role is one of the most critical roles for your firm with many plates to spin without you adding a separate role into the mix. We all know that when it comes to very small firms, capacity is always an issue. When someone goes on holidays or unexpectedly leaves the firm, it requires those who are left behind to pitch in and take on additional responsibilities. Having said that, this should be temporary. The skills required of an excellent Paraplanner are very different to those of a top Practice Manager, so please don’t be tempted to create a mixed role!

5. Do they need to have industry experience?

Just because a Practice Manager doesn’t have industry specific experience, it doesn’t mean they’re not the right person for this key role. In fact, the opposite is often true.

In my Master Practitioners Club, I have many Practice Managers with experience and background in people, business management and process efficiencies from outside of the Financial Planning profession that put them in a fantastic position to excel in the role of a Practice Manager. While Financial Planning is a highly regulated profession and compliance underpins a lot of business functions this knowledge can be obtained over time.

It’s more important to identify individuals who have the capacity to excel in the Practice Manager role, those who have the right attitude and complement the weak points of the business owner, plus critically, who share your firm’s values. In my experience, it’s typically people and project management experience that is missing in most firms who haven’t got a Practice Manager in place and it this the type of experience that will make a big difference to your business operations.

The remaining Financial Planning specific skills can be developed in the Master Practitioners Club among other places. We hold monthly Ops webinars, Ops calls and extra valuable events with an engaged community of individuals with varying degrees of expertise and experience in this very role. Of course, that’s before mentioning our back catalogue of video tutorials, templates and documents, which have been building up since we launched in 2019.

If you are considering creating a role of a Practice Manager, don’t delay it any further. It will allow your business to grow and bloom. An internal promotion is often an option but please don’t make your longest standing member of staff your Practice Manager just because they’ve been with you the longest.  Remember that these individuals will need to have the authority to stand up to you and have difficult conversations with anyone on the team if needed.

Finally, if you’re looking to hire a Practice Manager or Operations Director, we can help.

We’d love to support Financial Planning firms across the country with their recruitment for this key role, so get in touch to register opportunities on our Job Board for free. If you have a Practice Manager or Operations Director vacancy – we’ll add it!

You may also wish to download our free Recruitment and Salary Ranges Guide.