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
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