Here is Jane Hodges' CV:
2017-present: Money Honey Financial Planning, financial planner
2013-present: 4theRecord, compliance managing director
2016-2017: Alexander House Financial Consulting, compliance consulting
2012-2017: Total Plus, director
2013-2016: Alexander House Financial Services, chief operating officer
2011-2012: The Consulting Consortium, chief operating officer
2010-2011: Sesame Bankhall Group, head of customer services
2008-2009: Sesame Services, head of direct
2001-2008: Sesame Services, head of programme office, complaints, compliance
2001: CMG, business consultant
1995-2000: Halifax, policy officer/project manager
1990-1995: Halifax, personal finance adviser
1990-1991: Allied Dunbar, financial adviser
1984-1989: GT Unit Managers, data co-ordinator
Chartered Institute Insurance Associate
Fellow of the Personal Finance Society
Chartered Financial Planner
Jane Hodges, director at Money Honey Financial Planning, is a self-proclaimed digital nomad, working everywhere from Kent to Cambodia.
She conducts all client meetings by video call and laughs at my requests to meet ‘face to face’, meaning in person, for this interview.
‘Lol, Skype is face to face, which is the point of my advice model,’ says one of Hodges’ emails. However, I eventually track down this lively character at one of her bases, a smart static caravan in Strood, overlooking the Thames estuary.
‘Some clients want to meet in person, but only before they understand our model,’ she tells me. ‘Our Unbiased profile explains we are remote and use video conferencing.
‘We get 25 leads every month. Most advisers our size are lucky to get one a month.’
Hodges also has a niche of financial services clients, thanks to her many previous roles in the industry. Others come from reading her entertaining and outspoken blogs.
She denies that an online-only model loses the essence of personal advice.
‘I do meet clients in person but only socially,’ she says. ‘You can get to know people well online. I’ve been invited to someone’s wedding and I’ve never met them.
‘I realise the rest of the world still tends to have offices. But we can work from an office, a house, a caravan, or a motorhome – wherever we want.’
The ‘we’ refers to herself and partner in business and life, Rod Reed. Between them, they own four businesses, with the others in paraplanning, IT support and compliance.
Reed handles the technology side, making sure they deliver a professional service from anywhere. Among many gadgets and apps, they use mobile Wi-Fi routers and Microsoft Teams, a workflow system they regard as indispensable, partly because it enables instant, recorded video calls to staff and clients.
Working three months a year from hotels in Thailand or Cambodia, or a mobile home in Spain, is certainly different. But Reed says internet connectivity has made working from anywhere easy.
‘Actually, Cambodia is one of the easiest,’ he says. ‘Every hotel, restaurant and café has a strong signal. These places are full of digital nomads now. Buying offices makes no sense.’
Hodges adds: ‘Where do we call home? The planet. But if I could live on a spaceship I’d give it a go.’
Money Honey’s five other staff also work remotely from various locations in the UK. Hodges plans to nurture a small pipeline of talent and has already started training Money Honey’s Shropshire-based client relationship manager Rachael Varney towards a more senior role.
Hodges is also involved with promoting the wider profession and is vice-chair of the Personal Finance Society’s (PFS) Financial Planning Expert Practitioner Group; and on the committee of her local PFS group in Kent.
The expert practitioner group promotes financial planning, for example, through publication of its ‘Power guide’ series and Power Live event, the first of which is on 5 June.
Hodges is campaigning passionately to eradicate wet signatures from the profession. She blogs about it with an apparently enraged picture of herself due to what she says are providers’ painfully slow pace of adoption.
‘Post, paper and wet signatures drive me insane,’ she exclaims. ‘They waste so much time and money, which all go into the client fee.
‘We must make every provider, lender and fund manager paperless and accept digital signatures or stop using them.’
Hodges and Reed appeared in a previous New Model Adviser® cover star interview together with Nick Kelly, chief executive of national firm Alexander House Financial Services (AHFS). Hodges was chief operating officer at that firm, and Reed was technology and digital marketing director.
They left AHFS to set up Money Honey, which they named after the Elvis Presley song, in August 2016 and started trading a year later.
Hodges says her and Kelly’s views on strategy had diverged. They initially planned for advisers to work remotely, but some were still reverting to old habits such as driving to meetings, she says.
Also, AHFS was recruiting advisers quickly, but Hodges says she prefers smaller scale expansion.
‘I want to grow younger advisers in new ways of working, and build client relationship managers around a few advisers, not many,’ says Hodges. ‘This gives better control and understanding. Driving to meetings is costlier, wastes time and you have fewer controls.’
She says it is also safer for advisers, and clients are more relaxed online compared with having an adviser in their kitchen, which makes them feel more pressured.
‘Also, I don’t believe in one or two rigid annual appointments,’ adds Hodges. ‘You should educate clients regularly, [which is easier to do online].’
Time for change
Hodges says the profession’s addiction to assets under advice-based charges also needs to change because soon computers and artificial intelligence (AI) will manage those funds.
‘Also, the retail distribution review drove advice costs up,’ she says. ‘We want to close the gap, with lower fees and a range of services offering different ways to access advice: guidance, self-service and financial planning.
‘Older people have paid advisers and not found value in them. Younger people will never pay big fees because so much information is online. We need a middle ground. But it’s a big change.’
Before AHFS, Hodges worked for compliance firm TCC and before that she held several senior positions at beleaguered network and services provider Sesame Bankhall between 2001 and 2011. This included head of compliance change, programme management and change management between 2001 and 2008.
Part of the role involved dealing with thousands of complaints relating to mortgage endowment advice.
Sesame Bankhall had other regulatory issues, including a £330,000 fine for poor handling of complaints relating to structured products in 2007; and a £1.6 million fine for ‘pay-to-play’ arrangements with providers in October 2014. The network closed to investment and pension advisers in 2015.
Hodges says hers was mainly a project-based role focused on integrating five legacy networks into one. ‘I wasn’t responsible for any endowment advice, nor any structured product issues, nor with the [pay-to-play] marketing packages in any role,’ she says.
‘But I handled thousands of complaints because it was one of the largest and oldest networks, responsible for advice dating back 20 years or more. It was a high-pressure role. But it was in such a mess, it had to be sorted out.
‘I have never struggled with my moral and ethical compass. Everything I have learned in the different roles in my career (project management, compliance, past business reviews, building a 25-adviser practice with AHFS) has reinforced my understanding of [ethics] and how to avoid the endemic errors in the industry. This all catalysed into how we put Money Honey together.’
She says these lessons include: ‘You can’t disclose yourself out of bad advice. So focus on good advice from the start. Record all client meetings so there are no misunderstandings.
‘Build a proposition that minimises conflicts. Charge for your work. Do continuing professional development with a purpose, not to tick boxes.
‘It’s not enough for the client to trust you. You must educate them, so they understand the consequences of their decisions. Do not progress until they do understand.’
AHFS’ Kelly only has good things to say about Hodges. ‘Her career has been in support services, which gives her a different focus,’ he says. ‘She’ll be good at the ethics and technology.
‘Money Honey appears to be a boutique business: good for specific people, especially those with limits on time or movement.
‘She’s fitting the business with her personal requirements for travel. But why burn fossil fuel [driving to meetings] when you can do it in new ways? With lower cost to the consumer and recorded video meetings, it can actually be more robust.’
Money Honey is a trading style of 4theRecord Compliance, Hodges’ compliance support and paraplanning company, which she launched in 2013.
She says Money Honey has already become the biggest of her four businesses by revenue. It is set to make a £70,000 profit in its first full year of trading with a 47% margin; and £84,000 with the same percentage next year.
She plans to focus on Money Honey now, and delegate much of the daily running of the other businesses.
‘I’d also like more client relationship managers, so I can maximise my time with clients; then to recruit three advisers,’ says Hodges.
‘After that, we’ll see. Technology will move on. Money Honey may focus more on AI with hybrid advisers as back-up. Firms that integrate AI with the advice process will be the ones that do well.
‘We’ll adapt with a race of nomads, allowing freedom that has never been possible before.’
Hodges says she is not building Money Honey for sale or planning to retire, but instead will build succession with younger advisers.
The hours are long in these early stages, but Hodges insists they already have the perfect work-life balance, due to the ability to work anytime, anywhere.
‘I’m not beholden to a 9-5, a commute, or to managing people onsite,’ she says. ‘I’d give up a £1 million salary for this flexibility.’
The fee bit
Money Honey offers guidance, self-service and full advice.
Self-service is an automated advice package, currently from Parmenion, providing passive, risk-matched portfolios for lower amounts. It costs 0.25% plus Parmenion’s fee. It refers clients to advisers where necessary.
Guidance offers generic answers to questions without personal advice, and costs £25 per 20 minutes.
Financial planning starts at £500 for an initial meeting, which includes risk profiling and cashflow modelling; plus 0.5% for any investment design and implementation.
Ongoing planning is £50 per month, plus 0.25% on investments.
The retainer includes an annual review, regular financial education, unlimited contact and a client portal from Intelligent Office.
The investment bit...
Money Honey’s investment proposition is 90% outsourced. For the remainder, which is usually smaller sums, Hodges chooses from a variety of funds including multi-asset ranges Vanguard LifeStrategy or Royal London Governed.
Outsourced options come from Parmenion, AJ Bell, Morningstar and Brooks Macdonald.
‘I use AJ Bell for Sipps. It is useful for expat clients, of which I have several,’ says Hodges. ‘Parmenion has good passive, active and ethical portfolios and is very professional.
‘I use Brooks MacDonald for bespoke management. And Morningstar has a range of portfolios that perform well at a good price.’
Hodges is also considering an automated system, the 8AM Clever Model Portfolio Service, which ‘evaluates every fund every month, sells the bad ones and buys the good’, she says.
The 8AM portfolios launched in their current format in November and have outperformed their MSCI counterparts, albeit with more volatility, since then. They have also beaten other managed solutions, she says.
‘They won’t work in every circumstance, but you can’t ignore that they’re working well so far,’ she says.
The tech bit...
Back office: Intelligent Office
Fact-find: Intelligent Office
Cashflow analysis: CashCalc
Attitude to risk: Distribution Technology
Fund analysis: Synaptics, FE Analytics
Fund platforms: Parmenion, James Hay
Client portal: Intelligent Office
Other significant technology: Microsoft Teams, Skype 4
Jane's 12 month business goal is to:
Make every provider, lender and fund manager go completely paperless
You can follow Jane on Twitter using the handle @Hodges3J. Here are some highlights from her feed:
This happened back in 80s- it is really important that you have an agreement on how to get out as well as in- and keep your friends! https://t.co/nSQacwVgmy— Jane at Money Honey (@Hodges3J) September 26, 2016
Thankfully we have big thinkers with real vision for the future- most of our worries are petty and short-term- hopef…https://t.co/YLAHZNLuDf— Jane at Money Honey (@Hodges3J) July 24, 2016
Excellent advice https://t.co/PCK2YLI6zO— Jane at Money Honey (@Hodges3J) June 1, 2016