Five minutes with...Bespoke-Advice Limited
11 January 2023
16 January 2023
In our latest Five minutes with...feature, we catch up with Suzi Lane, Chartered Financial Planner at Bespoke-Advice Limited.
Founded in Worcester in 2014 but with a growing national footprint, they design and build financial plans for private individuals, business owners and corporate clients that fit perfectly with their unique requirements and needs. They have been a Chartered firm since 2014.
Grab a cuppa and read on to see how they have been living our Chartered Ethos!
How long has your firm been Chartered?
Why is Chartered status important to your business?
As in any sector, Chartered status is a recognisable badge, an independently assessed measure of our professional competency, quality, technical knowledge, and experience which also serves to build public trust. What’s not to like? It is all very well to declare ourselves ‘all round good eggs’ and present a few favourable testimonials to prove how amazing we are. I just don’t think that cuts it anymore and I don’t think it should.
We really welcome the opportunity to be able to show off all we have achieved and all we are doing, and to be associated with others in our profession who are doing the same.
What initiative has the organisation been involved in which has had a social impact/corporate social responsibility focus on?
To highlight one initiative probably downplays the role social value has within our organisation. Social value is one of our core values and is integral to all we do. The firm has been expanding in probably one of the most uncertain times in living memory - when there has been a lot of talk about the need to shift mindsets when defining who our stakeholders really are. We feel we have responsibilities as global corporate citizens and custodians for future generations. Ultimately, we want to be able to leave a positive social legacy.
We have a Social Value Policy which details our strategies for making a positive impact in terms of environmental sustainability, employment and economic sustainability, and the sustainability of the local, voluntary and community sector. From the progress made so far, we know we can use our position to generate social, economic, and environmental benefits in our community, big or small, enhancing the positive and hopefully mitigating the negative. This is built into all our decision making. In terms of what I am most proud of, we currently have three level 4 apprentices, one is a school leaver and two are in their mid ‘20s moving over from other industries.
It has been a real privilege for Bespoke Advice to be able to offer this opportunity and route for young people into the industry. We also take measures to actively offset the carbon footprint of all of our staff and we are corporate sponsors or our local wildlife trust. On top of that, I personally enrolled and passed the Certificate in Climate Risk Exam and am busy working on how this can be championed and worked into all our policies and practices.
How do you ensure your employees remain at the forefront of their profession?
We have a robust training and competence scheme in place and have Personal Development Plans for all staff. We provide regular in-house training as well as external training where specific training needs are identified or there has been regulatory or legislative change, or new products entering the market. This is in addition to the standard training required each year to maintain general competency.
Naturally there is a focus on maintaining technical knowledge, but we also include wider skills such as dealing with vulnerable clients, mental health and wellbeing. To meet our KYC requirements, it is obviously important to really ‘know our client’ including how their circumstances could have an impact on their decision making. We are keen to expand on this training and have recently signed up to become a Dementia Friends organisation. All training received is recorded and measured against individual Key Performance indicators. We encourage and support all staff to undertake further training as relevant to their role – providing and funding access to external training providers, paying for study text and giving paid time off for exams.
Employees on our apprenticeship scheme also have a weekly study day. The aim is to create an environment where employees are confident continued development is encouraged and valued. We have a monthly internal newsletter which provides further updates and focus on individual topics.
How have you implemented the CII Code of Ethics into your business?
Along with our Social Value policy, the CIII Code of Ethics defines who we are. It has not been implemented within the business as such, the business has been built on its key principles. The Code of Ethics identifies our culture and communicates internally to our employees, and externally, our expectations and values.
We seek to create value for all our stakeholders, including our clients, employees, the local community, and environment and have worked hard to further develop these principles. We were so proud to have been accredited with B Corporation status in December 2022. The accreditation process is rigorous, with an in-depth review of our business against key social and environmental performance, governance, accountability, and transparency measures. Being a B Corporation will provide us with an ongoing framework for doing business better and aligns us with firms in different sectors and across the world who have the same goal.
What advice would you give a firm who is considering applying to become Chartered?
There are no doubt tangible benefits in terms of attracting new clients, but I think that many of the advantages come from fully embracing the process and using it to help inform the future direction of the firm, rather than simply ticking the bare minimum box. It can be enjoyable!
Many of the requirements are reflective of the FCA’s regulatory direction. Personally, I feel this is where we should want to be as a profession. Having witnessed the operation of businesses in other sectors, these place us at the forefront of the ‘best practice’ and ‘good governance’ curve and allow us to be the example for others to follow. Financial services need a reputational reboot.