Categories & criteria

Advisers are faced with the challenges of rising client expectations, tough markets and enhanced regulation. This award is for firms that have excelled in building a business for the long term underpinned by clear strategic vision. The key focus of entries should be:

  • How the firm has created a comprehensive three to five year strategy
  • Staff engagement in delivering the strategic objectives
  • How it is embracing regulation and good corporate governance
  • Evidence of consistent profitable growth.

Top quality professional staff are a key element in any successful adviser firm. Regulators demand the achievement of certain qualifications but the most successful firms go beyond that and create a professional development strategy for all staff at every level of the business. Entries should demonstrate:

  • Alignment of professional development with the firm’s strategic objectives
  • Investment in staff training and development
  • Benchmarking against relevant external standards
  • Evidence of the proportion of staff achieving relevant professional qualifications.

Clients expect advisers to offer advice and solutions perfectly matched to their needs and provide top class service. Expectations in these areas have risen steadily and advisers have developed a more sophisticated understanding of their customer base as a result. This will be demonstrated in entries through:

  • Successful segmentation of the firm’s customer base
  • Innovation in the areas of client profiling and delivery of targeted service and advice
  • Consistent levels of client retention
  • Client focused fulfillment, ongoing communication and support.

Reaching potential clients and sustaining effective communication with existing clients is an opportunity for firms to set themselves apart from their competitors. Among the features a successful entry should address are:

  • How a marketing programme has reached new markets/clients
  • Use of innovative multi-media techniques, including social media
  • Development of a content marketing strategy focused on genuine client engagement
  • Evidence that marketing strategies have supported referral and retention programmes.

The best adviser firms have adopted new approaches in investment planning and responded to new trends such as the growing interest in sustainable finance. These offer a range of in-house or outsourced solutions to clients backed by co-ordinated investment strategies and consistent financial planning processes. Among the key features of these will be:

  • Fund selection and portfolio building that addresses clearly assessed client objectives
  • The use of appropriate tools to assess clients and their attitude to risk
  • A thorough approach to due diligence and de-risking portfolios
  • Evidence of achievement of consistently above average client satisfaction ratings.

Diversity initiatives aimed at bringing new talent into the advice sector and opening up opportunities have become a key feature of the sector. This award is for a firm or a focused initiative that has addressed a diversity issue and delivered measureable success in the context of their market’s development. Entries might highlight:

  • How a firm has identified a lack of diversity and created a plan for addressing it
  • Internal programmes for enhancing the career opportunities for a disadvantaged or under-represented group or groups
  • Recruitment initiatives aimed at promoting career opportunities in the advice sector
  • Evidence of the positive impact this has had on the firm.

Digital innovation is a core business necessity. Many adviser firms are leading the way with ground-breaking innovations and partnerships. This award is for them.

Entries should highlight:

  • Innovation promoting ease of use, perhaps through enhanced online services, or app-based solutions
  • Enhanced customer service and quality of information delivered digitally
  • Increased customer engagement and positive feedback using appropriate digital solutions
  • Evidence of the impact digital innovation has had – this might be on retention, reaching new customer segments, improved service levels or other appropriate measures.

Top class businesses must run efficiently and cost-effectively. Internal systems, processes, IT, CRM, paraplanning, finance, training and HR must all be aligned with the firm’s objectives. The teams that run these functions are essential to the success of the best firms. This award is for the backoffice team(s) in your business and the key elements of winning entries will include

  • Clear example(s) of how a support team(s) has made a difference to the overall operational efficiency of the business
  • Showing how cost-effective internal efficiency supports the business
  • Examples of improvements and enhancements that have benefited the firm, especially promoting best practice, technical excellence and adviser support.

Every sector needs new blood and fresh ideas and these are often found in new businesses. This award is for firms that have been operating for three years or less. They must have been established as a trading entity on or after 01 January 2017.

Open to any firm that can demonstrate success in making a noteworthy contribution to the advisory sector and is now looking to take the next step. Existing companies that became newly authorised within the same three year time frame also qualify. Entrants could include (examples only):

  • An adviser that has identified a significant market failing and/or gap and filled it
  • An adviser that has focussed on using the latest technologies to offer innovative service solutions or target new client groups
  • A firm that has embedded best practice and the highest standards of professional advice in a new firm

The firm may not be significantly profitable or fulfilled all its objectives to date, but will need to demonstrate a plan that evidences its potential.

To enter this category, firms must submit an entry in at least one other category.

The leading adviser firms have a comprehensive, business-wide strategy for profitable growth and development. They will have a consistent track-record and can demonstrate sustained success across the business. Entries must demonstrate and show evidence of

  • Successful development and delivery of a business strategy
  • Profitable growth over more than one year and development of client base
  • A genuinely customer centric approach to advice, service and overall best practice
  • Excellence in compliance and risk management.

The winners of the regional awards for best adviser firm will be entered into the award for best overall adviser firm.