Shin­ing a wel­come light on your fu­ture

EIC has been ad­vis­ing clients on how to plan for their fu­ture for 20 years – and de­mand is grow­ing

The Herald Business - - Commercial Feature -

WHEN the Her­ald re­ported at the end of Jan­uary that al­most half of all Scots were dip­ping into their sav­ings to pay for daily liv­ing ex­penses it was hardly a sur­prise. Al­most ev­ery­one has felt the ef­fect of the eco­nomic chill in an era of aus­ter­ity that has been the worst in liv­ing me­mory – es­pe­cially as many pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies have frozen pay rises for the fourth year in a row.

EIC, the Ed­in­burgh born in­de­pen­dent ad­vi­sory busi­ness has been help­ing peo­ple get the most out of their money for 20 years now – and sees no de­cline in the de­mand from those need­ing help with their fi­nan­cial plan­ning: from tax and busi­ness plan­ning, to mort­gage ad­vice and money man­age­ment.

So much so that a year ago, the com­pany ex­panded into the west of Scot­land, open­ing an of­fice in Glas­gow’s fi­nan­cial ser­vices district.

“We felt that there was a gap in the mar­ket and that we could bring some­thing new and fresh to the area,” says di­rec­tor Scott Mack­in­tosh. “When I joined the com­pany, my per­sonal client base was mostly in Glas­gow and Ayr­shire and we felt that it was an op­por­tune time to bring the ethos of what we had al­ready built to Glas­gow and take the busi­ness to the next level.”

EIC was also able to draw on and de­velop its part­ner­ship with Wil­liam Dun­can & Co, one of Scot­land’s most es­tab­lished Char­tered Ac­coun­tancy firms, and with which it shares premises at Blythswood Square. “There is a real syn­ergy be­tween ad­vis­ers and ac­coun­tants given the com­plex world of tax plan­ning and we feel WD are fan­tas­ti­cally placed to sup­port us with our clients and for us to do the same for theirs.

“We are build­ing a busi­ness that has close pro­fes­sional con­nec­tions, and that strength­ens our propo­si­tion,” says Mack­in­tosh, who ex­plains that the com­pany has a wide client base – one that ranges from in­di­vid­u­als at the ex­ec­u­tive level through SMEs to larger cor­po­rates.

EIC’s staff num­bers have grown sig­nif­i­cantly: there are 19 in to­tal with plans to grow fur­ther. The ex­pan­sion has been even more prom­i­nent with some com­peti­tors con­tin­u­ing to cut staff hours or even make re­dun­dan­cies, which Mack­in­tosh be­lieves has been to their ad­van­tage. “There are good ad­vis­ers and sup­port staff alike in our in­dus­try who haven’t been given the op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue do­ing a great job, and we be­lieve this can be to our ad­van­tage to have a busi­ness that ap­pre­ci­ates that good staff are in­te­gral to our on­go­ing success.”

“Be­fore the eco­nomic down­turn fi­nan­cial ser­vices ex­pe­ri­enced good times and it was a pe­riod that seemed to be pos­i­tive for all con­nected with it, in­clud­ing clients. That has cer­tainly changed. But we don’t just speak to the client when times are good: we are just as ac­tive with our clients when times are chal­leng­ing and this ac­tive ap­proach I be­lieve has helped us to buck the trend,” says Mack­in­tosh.

This growth in­cludes In­de­pen­dent Women (IW), a sub­sidiary and niche brand of EIC. The brand was cre­ated 16 years ago by CEO Les­ley Mack­in­tosh where there re­mains a fo­cus on in­creas­ing brand aware­ness. IW points out that women make or in­flu­ence 80% of con­sumer pur­chases and are so­phis­ti­cated clients with ca­reer paths and choices that are of­ten dif­fer­ent to those of their male coun­ter­parts.

“The IW brand is recog­nis­able: it’s about un­der­stand­ing that there are times when a woman would pre­fer to en­gage with a fe­male ad­viser although it is im­por­tant to note that our brands aren’t de­signed to seg­re­gate male and fe­male clients; the ob­jec­tive is to of­fer tai­lored ad­vice ap­pro­pri­ate to a client’s needs.”

Re­dun­dancy is an­other area that re­quires a sen­si­tive ap­proach and is in­creas­ingly an is­sue.

“When some­one is made re­dun­dant or is ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment they may ac­quire a sig­nif­i­cant cash sum which needs to sup­port them and there­fore ad­vice is key,” says Mack­in­tosh. “We are passionate about mak­ing peo­ple aware of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of mak­ing the right de­ci­sions about tax and sav­ings – not just hop­ing that things work out for the best.”

As of Jan­uary, we have seen a trans­for­ma­tion of the re­tail in­vest- ment mar­ket, with the in­tro­duc­tion of changes en­forced by the Re­tail Distri­bu­tion Re­view (RDR), the most no­table be­ing fur­ther trans­parency of fees and costs as­so­ci­ated with ad­vice and ser­vic­ing of fi­nan­cial plans – plus the de­mand for higher pro­fes­sional stan­dards.

Mack­in­tosh views this as “a huge op­por­tu­nity for busi­nesses to get it right.” He con­tin­ues: “RDR en­sures the client is aware of the costs for a par­tic­u­lar level of ser­vice and also means that the ad­viser is able to state clearly what the cost of pro­fes­sional ad­vice and sup­port is. For too long, the in­dus­try has re­lied on com­mis­sion and up-front ini­tial fees – and that isn’t suit­able for main­tain­ing a longterm re­la­tion­ship with clients.”

In the fu­ture, EIC, says Mack­in­tosh, is eye­ing fur­ther growth. “Lon­don is on our radar and in our busi­ness plan for the next two to three years,” he says.

“But we will go at our own pace and re­main fo­cused on get­ting the busi­ness ab­so­lutely right at the core, com­pre­hen­sively sup­port­ing our clients – and that will not be jeop­ar­dised by any ex­pan­sion or re­cruit­ment plans and will be de­signed to at­tract clients and more qual­ity staff alike.”

Scott Mack­in­tosh says that close pro­fes­sional con­nec­tions strengthen EIC’s propo­si­tion

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