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Bruce Wilson

The founder of Helm Godfrey is stepping down as managing director to focus more on Project Eve which aims to change the face of financial services by bringing life planning to the lower-income sector.

When Money Marketing profiled Bruce Wilson back in 2006, he said that if he were not an IFA he would be a life coach.

“Did I?” says Wilson, “How wonderful.”

It’s wonderful because Wilson is stepping down as Helm Godfrey managing director to concentrate on life planning venture Project Eve.

Planning is a big personal theme for Wilson. He believes the credit crunch, the decline of final-salary pensions and dramatically altered tax rates have brought about a new genre of advisers ready to tackle the increasing regulatory burden by offering better quality advice.

For Wilson, increased quality of advice equates to comprehensive client finance plans.

He says: “What I love about financial planning is that it is about what we are each capable of being, so that when we go, wherever we go, we think, yeah, I lived a full life. So that means putting life planning at the heart of things.”

But it is not just a question of identifying short-term financial goals.

“Rather than saying, I want to go on a world cruise, which needs money, you put it in a holistic plan. You address what is really important.”

Life planning does this by assessing the client’s income, expenditure and tolerance to risk, then presenting them with a plan and selecting the most appropriate providers for the purpose.

“It is not about pushing products. It is holistic. As Thoreau said, we lead lives of quiet desperation. You could be focusing on what everyone else is doing, not really fulfilling your life. You can’t live like that. so let’s get the life planning together.”

That is exactly what Wilson will be doing this year, with increased involvement in Project Eve, wrap platform Nucleus and the Institute of Financial Planning.
Having seen Helm Godfrey “grow, survive and flourish” in a decade of economic turbulence and consistently stay profitable, Wilson will be stepping down as managing director of the company this month although he will still advise and will retain almost all his clients.

He says: “Project Eve is about changing the face of financial services.”

One of its aims is to bring the George Kinder school of thought to the lower-income sector.

“The nature of financial services keeps raising the barriers of entry, so it costs more. By the time we have employed enough people to keep the FSA happy, we have got a huge cost burden, so it has tended to target more wealthy people.

“By running group workshops, people can end up with a plan for a couple of hundred quid. That is less than I charge for an hour.”

The first workshop took place in November and more will follow this year.

“We want to do two things. We want to make this available to the mass public and to raise the profile of financial planning.”

Wilson will also be aiming to raise the profile of planning through his role as IFP vice-president, a position he was elected to in September last year.

“It is only got a tenth of the members of the PFS but they are more qualified. Half of them are certified financial planners with QCF level six, which is equivalent to being RDR-proof.”

Like many IFAs, Wilson has his doubts about the RDR. “Although I think exams are essential for IFAs to be taken seriously, my biggest concern with the RDR is that, by writing off these people, it makes financial advice less accessible.”

Wilson is big on accessibility. His role as a founding shareholder of wrap platform Nucleus may step up a notch as he campaigns for a place representing the 51 per cent of IFA shareholders on the board.

He firmly believes in the benefits of incorporating a wrap in an IFA business but he does not like the idea of non-specialist businesses working in the wrap market.

“In my mind, it was completely wrong to join something that is peripheral, such as a wrap, to a core, such as an insurance company. One of my business tenets is to try to work with things that are core. Nucleus does this by only offering a wrap service. It will sink or swim according to the success of its wrap platform.”

Wilson believes in focusing on your strengths. “I choose ease. One of the most important concepts I have learned in business is to work only in areas you are uniquely talented in. Advising clients, selling my wisdom, promoting financial planning and life planning – these are things I am passionate about and because of that I am good at them.”

The decision to take a step back from the business he set up and built will give him time to dedicate to areas of his strengths as well as to put some life planning into action and devote more time to what he wants to do.

“I will have the time to focus on making a real difference in financial services but I will also get more time to reflect and to have more adventures. Nobody ever says on their deathbed, I wish I had spent more time in the office. They say, I wish I had spent more time climbing Kilimanjaro or going on a three-month walk. And my family might appreciate it too.”

Born: 1949 in Malaysia
Lives: Forest Hill, London, with partner Fairlie
Education: Haileybury College, Hertfordshire, followed by a degree in accountancy at London Metropolitan University.
Career: 1999-2010: managing director, Helm Godfrey Partners; 1996-99: managing director, Chantrey Vellacott Financial Management; 1991-96: managing director, NBW Financial Services; 1986-91: director, Grimston Scott; 1985-86: senior unit management, FPS (Management); 1979-84: administration and financial director, Community Health Foundation; 1977-79: freelance accountant; 1975: international auditor at National Cash Register, Sydney, Australia; 1973-74: supervising senior at Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co, Sydney, Australia; 1968-72: senior at Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co, London
Likes: Courage, optimism and kindness
Dislikes: Cruelty, rigid thinking and oppression
Rides: Thorn Raven Sport Tour
Book: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
Film: Avatar
Music: Jack Johnson
Career ambition: To be a change for good
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…A yoga instructor


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