Behind the scenes at FAS – Part 1

By March 28, 2024Financial Planning

In our weekly Wealth Matters newsletter, we try to keep our readers up to date with developments in financial markets and information on financial planning opportunities. Reviewing the feedback we receive (which is always welcome!) we have been asked to provide readers with an insight into how FAS operates on a day-to-day basis. In the first of a recurring series of articles, we go behind the scenes to look at the role of the administration team at FAS and the vital role they play in providing excellence and high levels of service to our clients.

Our Administration Team

Our clients will no doubt build a strong relationship with their adviser, who they see face-to-face at review meetings or through other regular contact. FAS is, however, very much a team effort, with dedicated staff focused on ensuring that the administration of client assets runs smoothly. Our  strong administration team is office based and is split across the two offices, in Folkestone and Maidstone. Our team needs to be multi-skilled, as they handle all aspects of client administration, communication with product providers and providing business support.

Gathering Information

When we begin acting for a new client, it is imperative that we fully understand any existing financial arrangements they may have. To enable us to gather information, it is usual that we lodge a letter of authority, signed by the client, with the pension or investment provider. This authority allows the provider to forward information to us relating to a client’s existing investments, pensions, and other financial plans.

Naturally, we look to obtain this information as quickly as possible; however, the speed at which product providers respond varies from reasonable to incredibly slowly, and one of the administration team’s key tasks is to chase up outstanding information and responses from product providers. Our team are highly experienced and diligent in obtaining missing information, so that our advisers can provide the very best advice they can, based on the fullest set of information available.

Processing instructions

When a client follows our recommendations and proceeds with a financial transaction, our administrators deal with all aspects of the purchase, transfer, or sale, to ensure that the recommendations are followed precisely to those specified in the report. Our team always aim to process instructions swiftly and accurately on the relevant platform via an online interface, which ensures instructions are processed quickly.

Whilst most instructions are now dealt online via secure websites, some client instructions still require paper forms and applications to be submitted. This involves close liaison with product providers, and in the case of transfers from existing pension arrangements or ISAs, this will normally involve an element of follow-up and chasing to expedite the transfer. Given the poor level of service we receive from certain product providers from whom we arrange transfers, persistence and patience are key virtues that all of our administration team possess!

From time to time, platforms and product providers request further information or additional documentation at the time an instruction is lodged. Our administration team will contact clients directly as required to obtain further information, or if a signature is needed. As a result, some clients will get to know the administration team directly through this contact.

Preparing client reviews

When an adviser attends a client review meeting, it is vital that he or she is armed with accurate and complete information on a client’s investments, pensions and protection policies. Our client review service is fundamental to our business and ensures that clients receive a comprehensive review and regular contact at predetermined intervals. Given the importance we place on the value of regular reviews, a great deal of care and attention is afforded to the preparation of client valuation statements. The review preparation process involves dealing with product providers to obtain up to date valuations, and checking that the records we hold in respect of the number of units and holdings, prices and dividends match those records held by the product provider or platform.

Dealing with compliance

Compliance with all relevant regulations and following internal procedures are crucial to the smooth operation of the business. Our administration team have a key role to play here, confirming client identification and source of funds with product providers. By liaising with product providers directly, this frees up time for advisers to focus on their key role of providing advice.

Continuing Professional Development

All staff at FAS follow a strict regime of continuing professional development, so that staff can keep abreast of changes in legislation and reinforce their knowledge in all areas of the business. Our administration team fully participate in this professional development programme, to ensure that their knowledge is up to date. They also undertake regular training with product providers to make sure that the team are fully conversant with changes to platform services and procedures.

A team effort

The administration team at FAS play a key role in the business, supporting other staff in their day-to-day activities, and ensuring that client instructions are carried out efficiently and accurately. We hope this article helps to reinforce the collegiate nature of our business and the fact that FAS is far greater than the sum of the parts. We hope you have enjoyed this look behind the scenes, and in the next part of the series, we will look at the work of our paraplanning team.