QUESTION: I’m reaching out to you for guidance to get started on the right footing. In my opinion, the market in Jamaica needs independent financial planning, especially for younger people. My experience is that most financial advisers here are not experts but the sales team for insurance companies and brokers. They are trying to meet targets by selling investments or insurance, which is sometimes a conflict of interest because it’s not tailored for the needs of the clients. I want to take a different approach and be non-aligned to any company and truly put the needs of my clients first. What is your business advice for me as a new entrepreneur starting a business as a millennial financial adviser and coach?
BUSINESSWISE: Your passion for putting the needs of clients first is a great driving force and ethos for your new service-based business that will serve you well as an entrepreneur. My advice is that you need to marry that passion for your prospective customers with a practical focus on developing a sustainable and profitable business model.
To develop this business model, you will need to understand what is required to become and maintain your designation as an independent financial adviser, tallying all the attendant expenses in meeting the regulatory requirements.
Then having set your target market as millennials in Jamaica, you need to determine what revenue model and income streams you’ll create in order to consistently deliver value to your target market for which they’ll be willing and able to pay. This is where you’ll need to do extensive research and planning in understanding your target market and the competitive industry landscape in Jamaica.
Charging your customers for advice or coaching may not be enough, though you have your heart set on that approach. You will need to tap into your own training and expertise and apply the best financial advice to your own endeavours. Usually, that advice would be to invest where you’ll get the highest and best return based on your goals and risk appetite.
The reality is that the most lucrative business model in this niche of the financial services sector is from commissions earned or trading fees charged for their services. Independent financial advisers must be licensed by the Financial Services Commission in Jamaica to legally operate a practice. On their website – www.fscjamaica.org – the FSC emphasises its focus on investigation and enforcement of the Securities Act, noting that:
It is well known that the FSC has been seeking to enforce the requirements of the Securities Act in relation to entities that are perceived to be conducting securities business without a license or issuing unregistered securities to the public. The FSC maintains a vigorous interest in detecting and investigating these operations as they arise. In accordance with the Securities Act, entities that conduct or that propose to conduct securities business or offer investment advice to the public are required to be licensed, and issuers of securities are obliged to apply to have their securities registered by the FSC before they are issued. The licensing and registration process gives the FSC the authority to monitor promoters of investment schemes to see that they meet their statutory obligation to make full disclosures to investors so that they can make informed decisions before investing. There are fundamental principles of fairness and equity that are at stake here.
Meeting the licensing requirements will likely cost millions of dollars and entail substantial responsibility to the public. According to a short list published on the FSC’s website as at November 2, only a handful of professionals have been able to satisfy the high barriers to entry to be licensed as independent advisers.
Depending on the practice you’ll register, the requirements could include a business plan, organisational chart, ensuring you have qualified accounting staff or expertise, approval of your credentials, passing the fit and proper background tests, substantial capital, and insurance requirements, to name a few.
On a positive note, data from several countries around the world suggest that millennials have a propensity to actively seek out financial advisers and utilise financial planning and budgeting applications. If you can validate that these dynamics apply to our local market then your services may well be needed and in demand as people born between 1981 and 1996 are at the stage of life where home ownership, financial freedom, and the ability to travel extensively are among their primary goals, and they are actively seeking support to accomplish these objectives.
As an entrepreneur, it’s always preferable to enter a market that has high barriers to entry and is highly lucrative as it keeps the competitive pool small but fierce while excluding new entrants from easily entering and exiting and even destabilising the market. Therefore, if you are able to apply innovative genius to develop a robust business model, you’ll likely have a winner.
Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, and a certified trainer in entrepreneurship.