An interview with Graham Slater, Director of Haven

We chatted to Graham Slater, Director of Haven, to ask him about the move to new offices and how he came to work at Haven.

Joining Haven

I joined Haven in 2005. It had been set up in 1999 by some old colleagues their Halifax days. I came in as a self employed financial advisors at first – cut me teeth for a few years, then bought into the company in 2008.

We have grown since those early days. We have seven experienced financial advisors and admin staff to support them. It’s been a good steady growth for the company, though we’ve never looked for a meteoric rise to become too big. For us, it’s most important that we maintain our standards above all else. We take on people who are well qualified and can add real value to the company, but we are also committed to funding all of our staff and advisors through personal development. A good example of this is Greg. When we took Greg on seven years ago, he had the excellent basic qualifications that all advisors need, and we’ve funded his training and growth to bring him to where he is today.

High standards of service

For us, it’s all about standards. We have a very high standard that we expect ourselves to work to.

We work for the client first, not for any product or service. Our clients are at the heart of our proposition. Whatever the outcome, we focus on what’s in their best interest and putting their needs at the top of our priorities.

This sometimes means we actively argue ourselves out of writing business! But if it’s better for our client, it is better for us in the long run. Advice is the heart of our process – advice done with integrity.

All our advisors follow the same value, that with us, you know exactly what you are getting. We aren’t here to be clever and sell products that other financial institutions are forcing onto us. We try to deliver strong financial planning that is completely independent. We have no bias, not restriction. No attempt to shoe-horn our clients into a financial product they don’t need. We have full market place to go at, which means that we really do have a fully independent approach to our clients needs.

We are in it for the long run

As a result, most of our clients have been with us for well over ten years. Because we are not about single transactions, but a long-standing, ongoing relationship, we can walk with them through the journey. Regularly reviewing how things are for them, changing things we need to as circumstances change, and really understanding and responding to their needs, not ours.

We see it as a long-term journey. Once we put plans in place, we have a responsibility  to make sure we are seeing it through every year, and make recommendations where we can.

To this extent, we aren’t really interested in the quick fix clients, those who just phone up and want a fast solve that gets them lots of money quickly. With all our clients we make sure that we tailor expectations, find out what motivates them and then deliver the best propositions we can.

Whatever business we write, it’s important we continue to look after it, to make sure that our clients stay close and that we continue to keep them completely covered throughout their lives.

It’s a process of integrity, honesty and true relationship. And that’s what our clients love about us.

Chartered status comes from Trust and Integrity

Part of this process was applying for and getting chartered status. Haven is now a CII recognised independent financial advisor. It’s a gold standard and means that we are highly recommended, have very high standards of service and deliver the best for our clients.

We’ve seen this as an opportunity to renew ourselves as a business. We’ve reworked our brand, making sure that it reflects the fact that we are focussed on our clients first. And we are also moving to new offices. A move is always exciting, as it gives us fresh impetus. Not to change how we do things, but to continue to improve and work to the highest standards we can.

Pension transfers are important at the moment

My own work with Haven has developed over the years. Having the qualifications J04 J05 and AF3 means that I am qualified to provide pension and occupations pension transfer advice. It’s something that is very much on people’s minds right now, with pension transfer values being so high. There was a time when no one would touch a pension transfer, but with gilts being so low, and the cost of providing recurring income very high, liabilities on pension trustees has dramatically changed, pushing transfer values to an all-time-high.

The most important thing we do for our clients here, though, is not to get carried away and to make sure that the decision they make is absolutely the best one for them.

If you don’t know what you’re doing what this stuff, you really are playing with fire!

We take it as a big responsibility, so we make sure that our clients understand that by transferring out they are entering a different world, and that they need to understand all the ramifications so that we can help them make an informed decision.

Job satisfaction comes from doing a good job

I think that when you’re a bit younger, money drives you. You’re thinking about your commission, or how much you’re going to make every time you write business. I’ve always believed that when people are like this, it comes through when they are presenting to clients. They aren’t putting the client first, they’re thinking of their next flashy motor.

For me now, the biggest kick comes out of solving problems, helping our clients meet their objectives and also putting a smile on people’s face.

As I’ve got older this really has been put this at the heart of everything we do. The more we have a mindset of helping the clients, and the more interest we take in them and their needs, the better we do in return. And then, as a result of us getting better, our clients get better as well! It’s a cycle, and through it everyone wins. It’s the best way to be.

Long term goals for Haven

Most people would tell you they want to grow and grow and become bigger and make more money. It may sound odd, but we don’t want to become a massive, corporate style business. We want to stay small so that we can focus on clients. Building our assets and looking at keeping clients happy and having long term relationships. The new offices give us perfect establishment to look after our clients, and to work with new clients in our new area. But we want a sustainable, quality company, that puts the client first. By definition that turns us into a successful company.