Concluding her two-part look at working with external providers, Cherry Reynard examines what advisers can do to ensure their outsourcing relationships operate to their full effect
Once an outsourcing provider has been selected, it is tempting to believe the hard work has been done but the most successful partnerships have structures in place to ensure the relationship continues to be profitable and efficient for both parties. With this in mind, what can advisers do to ensure their outsourcing relationships work to their full effect?
Appointing dedicated personnel on both sides – whose responsibility it is to manage the relationship, share problems and give feedback – should ensure the process runs smoothly. Having clear points of contact prevents confusion and helps build personal relationships.
From the outset, it is important each side knows what is expected of them. This includes what information they need to provide to their outsourcing partner and, in turn, what information they expect to receive back. Advisers should also ensure they know exactly what is included in the cost of services and what will be extra. Many outsourcing relationships fall apart because the outsourcing provider has overpromised in the pitch process or the adviser group has not understood the nature of the services provided. All of this should be set out in writing and agreed by both parties.
This is likely to be bound up with a client’s objectives. The outsourcing partner and adviser need to set performance criteria in order to provide a framework for discussion and action if the relationship starts to go wrong, or if one side believes they are not obtaining what they need.
Although day-to-day contact should be handled by designated personnel, there should be regular reviews with senior management from both groups. This provides a forum to air any problems, iron out any grievances and discuss any next steps. It goes without saying that honesty is a valuable commodity in such discussions and addressing problems early can save considerable difficulties later on. The failure of an outsourcing relationship is often likened to a divorce – emotionally exhausting, expensive and time-consuming – and it is therefore better to seek counselling early.
Ultimately, successful outsourcing is all about building and maintaining trust. Both sides need to feel listened to and understood and believe that their needs are being met. This means being open and honest – but also setting out expectations clearly and addressing problems early. Outsourcing can work wonders for business efficiency, but only if it is managed well.