Using Lockdown to Maximum Business Effect

Nick Platt, managing director at Henwood Court Financial Planning talks to Natalie Holt about the opportunities offered by remote working.

Nick Platt, Henwood Court

Running a business from home has prompted a rethink of Henwood Court’s business plan, and has seen the team try things they have never done before. Some planned developments have been fast-tracked, while others have been put on hold or changed altogether.

Moving to remote working

Through good judgement and perhaps a bit of luck, Henwood Court was well-placed to pivot to a remote working environment when the announcement came from Boris Johnson on 16 March to work from home where possible.

The week before, a rota system was put in place for three people out of the 22-strong team to go into the office, and everyone else work from home. When the government announcement was made, the office shut down completely, with one person going in every other day to process the post. The team continues to maintain this approach.

Nick says: “We were very lucky that our practice manager Anna Kavanagh joined us at the beginning of March. She’s been an absolute godsend in taking on stuff that either would have fallen on my plate or, frankly, not have got done.

“Last year, thank goodness, we adopted cloud-based technology, so everyone can securely access our server and work from home. We also got everyone a laptop around the same time as well. I think someone must have been looking down on me.”

Learning to adapt

With remote working in full swing, staff training was rolled out on how to use video conferencing tools Zoom and Microsoft Teams. A What’s App group was also set up for the team to communicate with each other, which Nick says has gone down really well.

Client communication has been front and centre, with Zoom guides sent out and emails to reassure clients following the major movements in stockmarkets.

Communicating with clients

“Clients have adapted very well. A couple of clients were worried about security with Zoom, so in some cases we’ve used Microsoft Teams. I prefer Zoom to Teams, so we’ve password protected video calls now, and we only allow admission on acceptance by the host. Hopefully that should prevent any ‘Zoom bombing’ or any information being captured.”

He estimates the firm sent about nine or 10 client e-shots in the first week of lockdown, and has kept up regular client communication, with a particular focus on providing resources and support to business owner clients and their employees.

Henwood Court held its first client webinar earlier this month about getting information out to business owners in a timely and supportive way.

The webinar was geared around what companies needed to know about furloughing staff and explaining the various hardship grants available. Nick appeared as part of an influential group of speakers including Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner, as well as business mentors and non-executive directors.

“We had 105 register and over 80 attendees, which was great for our first ever webinar. We realised we needed to do something and with the help of Phil Bray at The Yardstick Agency, we got the webinar set up and marketed it to our clients and via social media.

“It was quite a daunting prospect as we’d never hosted a webinar before, and the trial run was a bit of a disaster! But once we’d sorted the technology issues, we were able to get it right on the day.”

He adds: “It was one of those things we just had to do – it wasn’t going to be perfect and polished, but it was a timing issue. We couldn’t have done it now, as it would’ve been too late. We had to get it out there and get it done, so that’s what we did.

“We’re on a growth path here, and we still are. That continues.”

Moving away from paper-based fact-finds

Rather than wait for a provider-led solution, Nick has taken matters into his own hands to develop a more user-friendly, interactive fact-find in-house. The firm’s suitability reports are to be reviewed, and Nick is also looking at how the business can be more efficient from an operations perspective.

A £70,000 office refurbishment has been shelved

Nick had been looking at buying additional office premises, but working remotely has shown this extra space may not now be needed.

The focus is not just on business improvement but growth, and Nick is continuing recruitment efforts with that in mind. “You rarely get the luxury of working on the business, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Several weeks into an open-ended lockdown period, Nick reflects that this new way of working has strengthened Henwood Court in different ways, and reiterated some core values.

“What it’s certainly done is bring us closer together as a team. A family business has effectively become a business family. We’ve always had very good and close relationships with our clients, and those have probably got stronger as well. 

“What this period has reinforced to me is the importance of having not just good people, but great people. It’s enabled us to get on with things, and take personal responsibility for getting things done.”

Some other resources

A coronavirus guide to successful client communication, by Phil Bray, The Yardstick Agency

You can also find more related articles on Illuminate, Nucleus’ practice development website for financial advisers.

These include:

Seven adviser opportunities amidst the chaos by Lee Robertson, Managing Director, Octo Members Group

What now for your business continuity plan? by Cathi Harrison, Founder and Director, The Verve Group

How to support your team through the new normal by Kirsty Lynagh, Chief People Officer, Nucleus