Financial Planning by numbers - FP Advance

Financial Planning by numbers

BY brett

Man sketching financial planning numbers and graphs on the wall

Financial Planning firms that understand their numbers outperform those that don’t. 


Because they can pinpoint where the issues are and fix them. They spend their time working on the right issues. 

Let’s Consider Profitability

Are you making as much as you could or should? 

It’s a question every business owner asks themselves periodically. 

To answer that question you need to know that there are two profitability numbers to focus on; Gross Profit and Net Profit. Each one tells you different, but important information.

Let’s look at Gross Profit. 

How do you calculate it? 

Turnover – Direct Expenses* = Gross Profit

and therefore, 

Gross Profit/Turnover = Gross Profit Margin (%)

*Direct Expenses is any money paid to advisers or selling directors of the firm

And you need to include a market salary for yourself and any other owners in your Direct Expenses calculation. 

Here’s a worked example:

£1,000,000 of turnover – £400,0000 of Direct Expenses = £600,000 of Gross Profit.


£600,000/£1,000,000 = 60% Gross Profit Margin.

Here are a few questions for you to consider: 

What’s your gross profit margin? Is it at least 60%. That’s what good looks like.

If your Gross Profit Margin is less than 60%, why is that the case? Do you pay away too much of your revenue to the sales people within your business?

As I’ll show you in a minute, it’s going to be very hard to achieve a decent level of Net Profit if your Gross Profit is low.

When firms are paying away too much to the advisers it’s often because the value proposition to the advisers is weak.

  • Who provides the leads for the advisers. The business or the adviser themselves?

If advisers have to catch and kill their own clients, I guess it’s reasonable for them to take a bigger slice of the sales revenue pie. Although that doesn’t help you if you own the business and are trying to make some money yourself.

  • What skills training do you provide to help advisers be more effective?

If there’s little or no training provided, again, it’s probably reasonable for the advisers to demand a higher split of revenue, as they’re responsible for their own training and development. 

From your point of view as an owner, this is not ideal. Who knows if they actually spend some of their extra earnings on their own training, or if they just pocket the cash?

  • Who does the paraplanning and administration work for the advisers in your firm?

Ideally it’s centralised. That provides some efficiencies across the business and leverages the time of advisers, so they can spend more time rain-making and seeing clients.

Centralisation also allows owners to have some control over quality; to be sure that any advice going out is compliant.

You definitely don’t want a firm where all the advisers do their own thing.

What About Overhead?

The next important number in your profitability calculations is your Overhead Percentage. 

Hands at desk calculating invoices for financial planning

How do you calculate it? 

Basically, all other expenses, other than what you pay to advisers or selling directors of the firm, is considered overhead. 

Things like:

  • Rent
  • PI Insurance
  • Software licenses
  • Wages (for practice managers, administrators, paraplanners, receptionists, outsourced staff)
  • Telephones
  • Printing and stationery
  • Etc

Like I said, everything except what’s paid to advisers.

Overhead/Turnover = Overhead Percentage

What does good look like for your Overhead Percentage?

The guidance I’ve seen internationally is that overhead shouldn’t exceed 35% of turnover. And it’s not easy to hit. 

What I can tell you is that for a UK business with a Practice Manager in place, 40% – 45% of revenue is what good looks like. 

Which Leads Us To Net Profit

Why are we interested in Overhead Percentage?


Gross Profit – Overhead = Net Profit

And it’s the bottom line figure of Net Profit that will help you know if you are performing as a business, and earning what you could or should earn from your business asset.

The target Net Profit figure you should be aiming for is 25%. That is, 25% of your turnover, AFTER everyone on the team, including you and your fellow owner directors, get paid a full-whack market salary for your day job. 

The profit, should be just that; profit. 

Lots of firms I speak to casually, tell me they earn a 40% net profit margin. What they really mean is there’s about 40% of turnover left over after expenses. From that 40% the owner directors or partners take their earnings. 

There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but that’s not net profit.

What they should calculate is what’s left over after taking a reasonable level of drawings, reflecting their worth in the marketplace. And is the “what’s-left-over” anywhere near 25% of turnover?

Once you start to look at your profitability numbers this way, even more questions arise:

  • What’s your net profit margin? Is it at an acceptable level (25%)?
  • If not, where is the squeeze coming from; gross margin too low, overhead too high, or both?
  • What might you do about fixing the issue?
    • Create a better value proposition for advisers and pay-away less of the gross revenue?
    • Get more efficient and reduce your overhead percentage over time?
  • How would it feel if you could get to a 25% net profit margin and be paid a market salary for your role within the business?

These are the issues the great Financial Planning business owners are working on, over and above their all-consuming focus on delivering great advice for clients.

Getting your client care and your business performance both working in harmony is one of the keys to making your business fun and financially rewarding. 

Failure in either of these areas (client care or business performance) can make the fun leave the building really, really quickly. 

Just knowing what good numbers look like, and how to work your way to hitting them, is an important part of running a great Financial Planning business.

If you’d like to understand more about your own business numbers and the learning that comes from them, it’s all covered in my Self-Study Coaching Bundles.

We’ve got step-by-step teaching videos on:

  • The Profitability Ratios 
  • The Productivity Ratios 
  • The Client Selection Ratios 
  • Managing Your Business Quarterly Using These Ratios
  • Two Real Life Case Studies

We’ve also got answers to your biggest challenges. 

Here are some other topics you’ll get world-class training on:

  • The Business Management Essentials Pack (stay focused & get stuff done)
  • Understanding Your Client Base (know who you love to serve)
  • How To Elegantly Disengage From Unsuitable Clients (without compromising your values)
  • Creating Your Client Service Packages (deliver what clients want, in their language)
  • How To Price Your Service Perfectly (for your business, not someone else’s)
  • Working With Professional Connections (to get great referrals)
  • Personal Effectiveness For Business Owners (to get the right stuff done)

For more information on all of my self-study bundles click here.

Financial Planning firms that understand their numbers outperform those that don’t.

Don’t go searching for these awesome blogs on social media. You might get distracted and start surfing other stuff and before you know it an hour’s gone by. Let me send them straight to you every week. Sign up below. Wasting time is one of the things I’ve blogged about a lot, although I called it being ‘fake busy’ which sounds much cooler. It’s still bad though. And you can leave anytime, although I don’t think you’ll want to.


  • Hidden

0 comments to " Financial Planning by numbers "

Leave a Comment

Want to know the secret weapon that the best Financial Planners have in their arsenal?

Sign up and you’ll receive my weekly blog straight to your inbox. (You can unsubscribe any time; we won’t be offended, but I don’t think you’ll want to)

Subscribe to Newsletter and Next Level Freebie - Blog side bar (AC)

  • Hidden

ABOUT BRETT DAVIDSON When you work with FP Advance you work with me, Brett Davidson, directly. My motto is ‘advise better, live better’ and I practice what I preach. I’m straight talking and get to the heart of an issue quickly. There’s no beating about the bush, just a focus on helping things improve. Ask my clients – what I teach works.