Monday 16 September 2019

Financial adviser gets business as well as likes with Facebook chats

 

Paul Merriman, CEO of Pax Financial Planning and Founder of AskPaul.ie: Picture by Steve Humphreys
Paul Merriman, CEO of Pax Financial Planning and Founder of AskPaul.ie: Picture by Steve Humphreys

Whether you're self-employed, employed, wealthy, or not, we all need money to fund our family's lifestyle today and for our future. Money can cause awful stress if you are not in control of your affairs. When you know where you stand and you have a plan, that brings great peace of mind.

We're all so busy that many of us do not take time to stand back to plan the future.

Do you have a pension. Do you have income protection in case of sickness? Is your company pension adequate? Are you managing to save for the rainy day? Are you maximising your inheritance tax planning?

This is specialised knowledge that the average person cannot answer effectively. And that's why we need to consult trusted experts that can advise us.

Pax Financial Planning

The company was founded in 2011 to help clients develop financial peace of mind. Paul Merriman is a 20-year veteran in the industry, having started out with Royal Sun Alliance and then Irish Life. He developed a passion for the industry and became a walking, talking encyclopaedia of financial knowledge.

All financial advisers must have a Qualified Financial Advisor (QFA) designation to give financial advice which, of course, Paul and his team have. Paul, however, also has a higher level Certified Financial Planner (CFP) qualification. This is the world's most respected industry designation, held by only a select number of advisers.

With offices in Dublin and Limerick, the company has a reputation for jargon-free and common-sense advice.

Its mantra is to help customers protect themselves in the event of some loss (insurance), to protect their income in case of sickness - and to maximise savings and investments.

Customer Focus

For many years, customers had a choice of dealing directly with insurers such as Irish Life, New Ireland or AIB Bank. Or they could also deal with brokers who would give independent advice and recommend the most appropriate solution, regardless of the underwriter.

The market is changing now with so much choice online. The advance of robo-advice and auto-enrolment options means that new competition from global jurisdiction could bypass the QFA function.

Pax believe that financial advice has to be tailored for each individual and can only be done via a meeting in person or a Skype/telephone call. His company's approach is to listen intently to get a full understanding of the customer's life events and wishes for the future.

Unlike generic online robo-advice, the team know what questions to ask and which issues to drill down into.

Using spreadsheets and cash-flow analysis, they use that information to paint a tailored and honest picture for the customer.

Paul told me of a recent example of a widowed lady who remarried. Her daughter and new husband didn't get on and she was concerned that it might affect his decisions if she pre-deceased him. With that sensitive information and with Paul's advice, she made arrangements to protect her daughter's inheritance.

Attracting New Customers with 'Ask Paul'

Like many other professional service industries, this sector has always been challenged with finding new customers.

I have supported many of them through the years and I know their perpetual goal is to have a strong pipeline.

The stories of Monday morning war-rooms with databases spread across the desks are very real indeed. Using modern technology and social media, Paul has cracked this challenge for Pax.

Building on his passion to educate and build trust, Paul uses scale to convince people that Pax is a credible resource for financial advice.

He developed the 'Ask Paul' brand, starting out with short video posts on Facebook. Each week he recorded himself giving advice on practical issues such as how to save interest on your mortgage or how to manage within your weekly income.

He now has 12,000 followers and interacts personally with every question he gets. He no longer has to pay for Facebook boosts as the current activity provides Pax with ongoing new business.

It's a great strategy but it is not just a walk in the park. It takes about 20 hours of his time each week, to record the review of the Sunday papers and to answer each question. But it's working.

The Future

The traditional model is for the financial advisor to listen to a customer's needs and wishes, and then to advise them on the products that best suit them. That is what Pax is all about and will continue to build on that.

 

FINANCIAL PLANNING

Business: Pax Financial Planning

Set up: 2011

Founder: Paul Merriman

Turnover: €1.8m

No of Employees: 16

Location: Sandyford Office Park, Dublin, and John's Square, Limerick

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