The first consideration when setting up a financial services department is set-up costs. The Law Society recommends that a financial services executive should be employed on a basic salary but with a bonus system based on performance. Our experience has shown that the guaranteed basic is vital and will help to secure a quality person.
As a guide, the basic salary of the executive should be in the region of £20,000 to £30,000, with salaries for secretarial staff somewhere in the £10,000 to £12,000 range.
Add to this the additional costs of heating, lighting, telephones, books, newspapers and magazines and office equipment and you reach a total of at least £50,000 in the first year and possibly up to £70,000 based on the salary structure in your part of the country.
The package to the executive may contain other perks such as health care, pension schemes, life insurance or company car and petrol allowance.
A service contract is required and the Law Society believes that the contract should reflect the job description and the standard of work which is expected.
Above all, firms need to attract and retain quality people whatever basis is considered.
But before they are scared off by the costs, firms should remember that they already possess the most valuable raw material necessary to produce an instant return on outlay, namely a solid client base.
It is also important to recognise that a financial services department will only be successful if the partners and fee earners are prepared to promote it to clients.
This does not mean they must sell the financial services – they are not usually qualified to do so – but they should identify a need and then introduce the financial services executive to certain clients at the earliest possible date.
If their attitude and aptitude for this task is inappropriate, you may be wasting your time.
One method of assessing this is for an appropriate person, a managing partner or practice manager for example, to grade each fee earner/partner against the following scales:
1 chance of raising financial services to doubtful clients;
2 may raise it, but not as an active opportunity;
3 will attempt to promote it, but not likely to be effective;
4 would have no hesitation about promoting and likely to be effective.
If the average answer is 3 or 4 your chances of success are good; if 2 and 3, then training may help. If 1 and 2, perhaps it is time to think again.
It is also important to review this grading system in the light of the areas of work covered by the personnel.
If there are low scores among probate and personal injury fee earners, this may be more significant than high scores elsewhere in the firm.
It may be helpful if you adopt a self-help procedure before engaging a consultant for advice. Other aids can also help such as brochures, questionnaires to clients, newsletters, advertising and editorial.
Whatever method is used, clients must be made aware of the services provided.
If not, they miss out on a valuable, independent service which you offer and, through poor marketing or because fee earners/partners simply failed to mention it, the firm has lost out on precious income.
Other problems also need to be overcome. If the division is to integrate itself into the firm, it is imperative the executive wins the confidence of the partners and fee earners. He or she must obtain a weekly list of current matters and discuss them to explore whether there is an opening for financial advice.
Firms should arrange for the partner or fee earner to be present with the executive on the first interview with the client.
Supervision is essential and if problems arise the responsibility falls on the partners.
This has a two-fold benefit. The attitude, performance and application of the executive can be observed and if any flaws become apparent, these can be ironed out.
By doing this the partner can be confident that the executive is functioning correctly and have no worries about handing further clients over to them.