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Chris Budd: Why the rise of IFAs life coaching is far from worrying

Coaching has huge advantages to the adviser/client relationship, especially if in doing so you help the client understand themselves better

Chris BuddIn his recent article “The bizarre and worrying rise of the life coach” Wingate Financial Planning director Alistair Cunningham calls into question advisers holding themselves out as coaches.

As an ex-adviser of many years who holds a EMCC business coaching diploma and who has written, presented and runs courses on the subject of business coaching for advisers, I would like to reply.

I agree with Alistair that a person should not hold themselves out to be a coach unless they are suitably qualified. However, I disagree with his conclusion that advisers have no business promoting their coaching and lifestyle planning skills.

Our job as advisers is to help clients achieve their objectives. However, when they first come to see us it is often with a specific requirement in mind. A poll of the NextGen adviser group concluded there are three overriding reasons why people first approach an adviser: pension review, investment, financial planning.

I would suggest none of these actually constitute an objective. “Your objective is to consolidate your pensions and use our investment management service” has not been acceptable in a suitability report for some time now.

We use a “coaching then planning then advice” model. Each stage is essential but need to be followed in order. They also require different skills. To help a client clarify their objectives, we need good questioning and listening skills.

This does not come naturally to advisers. Trust me, I have seen this proven first hand many times. We are trained to find solutions using our technical knowledge. Alistair may have a point: perhaps the time is coming where practices have different people performing different functions (much like the rise of paraplanners).

Coaching is a skill that needs training. It has huge advantages to the adviser/client relationship, especially if in doing so you help the client understand themselves better.

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Alistair finds it bizarre an adviser would want to use such skills. I find it bizarre they would not.

Where Alistair is spot on, though, is that going on a one-day training course does not make you a coach. My diploma took two years.

A good coach is like a good referee – you should not really notice what they have done. A good coach would not boast of clients crying in meetings. A good coach understands they are there to facilitate thinking and the more it is about them, the less the client has the freedom to think.

There have been huge strides in areas such as behavioural finance and how we make decisions. Some of us can be accused of getting too excited by the theory (guilty) but be in no doubt, the work of people like Greg Davies and Neil Bage is changing the way we deliver advice. Soft skills are indeed becoming increasingly popular.

One area in which Alistair is just plain wrong is in his conclusion. There are coaching qualifications and there are courses available.  We look forward to welcoming Alistair on one.

Chris Budd is managing director of Ovation Finance



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  1. See my comment on Alistair’s piece. Does Chis have difficulty making a living being a financial adviser one might wonder? Or did he really want to be a social worker, but find the pay too low?

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