Project Kaizen: Exceeding excellence through continual improvement

Kaizen the Japanese term meaning “change for the better” became synonymous with the business philosophy of continuous improvement in business process allowing companies to outperform client expectations and their competition.

Last year as the country entered the first lockdown and we moved the entire team to working from home, the leadership team started a review of the service and processes for service delivery.

As a firm of Chartered Financial Planners Henwood Court has always been synonymous with “excellence” in the delivery of financial life planning for people accumulating for their retirement, pre-retirees or those entering or living in retirement. A fact supported by our many 5-star Google reviews from clients. Plus, the national industry recognition we received last year. In July we were awarded the Money Marketing Awards 2020 Best Retirement Adviser, the judges being unanimous in their choice commending us on our “whole client approach considering clients emotional and financial wellbeing” and our communication strategy around the Covid-19 situation. September saw a second award at the Investment Life and Pensions Moneyfacts Awards 2020 for Retirement Adviser of the Year. Then the end of 2020 saw us short-listed for the Personal Finance Society Retirement & Later Life Adviser of the Year Awards and retaining our place in The New Model Advisor Top 100 – recognising prominent leaders and outstanding achievements in the UK financial community

However, we want to continue to delight our clients and to do so recognise the value of continually improving, and never standing still.

The comprehensive operational review considered all elements of the service and service delivery. The service proposition was and is reviewed on an ongoing basis considering the varied elements of the service we deliver and how we ensure that you receive the elements of that best match you, your circumstances and your needs consequent on those. This review saw the stronger branding of the two arms of the service. Financialsense® being financial life planning and Portfoliosense® the investment management service – accessible as either a standalone service or as part of Financialsense®.

We then considered how these services are delivered to you. We have a highly skilled and experienced team and wanted to ensure that we maximised these skills and experience and had the “right people in the right seats”. This review effected a change to the organisation structure creating, from a client perspective your personal finance department with the planners working as your finance manager and your client service administrator as your financial PA. And for clients with the most complex affairs with a Nick as senior lead planner the benefit of a financial Non-Exec.

The team were consulted and then briefed on the new structure which went live in December. We are delighted at how well the team have responded to these changes and have seen significant development in skills of many colleagues. In particular the Client Service Specialists, who, now working in an extended administrative role provide the specialist support to both clients and planners and are successfully upskilling. They take comprehensive contemporaneous meeting notes and lead on agenda preparation, allowing the planner to focus on your planning needs. This role continues to develop as they gain in experience and technical knowledge through in-house training and mentoring and professional qualifications’.

These “pods” team are ably supported by two “pools”. The review saw no significant change to the Technical Team, that, headed by Helen Allen, Technical Director was working well as a pool allowing research and reports to be appropriately allocated to team members according to skills and experience. Although as part of the review the Team are now wholly responsible for trading all new business.

The review did however introduce an Admin Pool. The Financial Planning Assistants in the admin pool were the first team to return to the working full time from the office as befits their role. The FPA’s in the team process the new business liaising with their client service colleagues and the technical team to ensure new business is processed effectively and efficiently. In addition, they manage a range of admin duties to include the preparation of Portfoliosense® client reviews.

This approach of combining dedicated admin support for clients and planners with “pools” managing defined tasks has worked well in increasing the support we can offer you whilst achieving greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Simultaneously, a detailed review was undertaken of the technology that the organisation uses to support the service delivery. It was acknowledged that the cash flow planning software was appropriate and Fit for Purpose and supports the complex financial and life planning your team undertake for you. However, the bolt on back-office system didn’t have the necessary functionality, and there was a desire to additionally be able to offer a client portal making client communication more slick and secure – with additional functionality, offering clients real time access to up to date portfolio valuations, the ability to update your net worth, income and expenditure real time alongside other features. Consequent to this review, the team are currently working on an implementation project for a new CRM system that will deliver the back-office benefits alongside a client portal that the current system can’t offer.

We will be updating you as to progress of this element of Project Kaizen and the benefits to you as the project progresses.

The review of these elements of the service and service delivery – proposition, structure and technology has of course resulted in ongoing and thorough review of the operational processes that allow you to receive the seamless, excellent service that you do.

Whilst we anticipate the significant completion and embedding of Project Kaizen during the summer and early autumn; there are further supporting systems that will then be reviewed to ensure they support the primary systems ensuring an ongoing cultural approach to continual improvement delivering business excellence to enable organisational growth as they excel – continually delighting their clients by meeting and exceeding the clients changing needs.

Anna is an experienced entrepreneur and business owner. Anna started her career leading her organisation to a world first – in 1994 achieving ISO9002 accreditation for the assisted conception clinic she went on to run and successfully sell with her fellow Directors. This journey saw the clinic through organic growth attributable to continually delivering an excellent and market leading service being sold to the global leading group in the field in 2016, throughout this time Anna headed operational and business functions allowing the specialist Directors to focus on clinical and scientific care.

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