Lee Robertson: Lessons from our US counterparts

Lee Robertson

I often look beyond those I respect most here in the UK to other jurisdictions for further examples of good practice and financial planning insight. While not always an exact fit for how we operate, there is much to be learned from the challenges advisers face globally.

After all, a client just about anywhere else in the world faces much the same issues in terms of longevity, low returns, tax reliefs, market volatility and the need to carefully protect and grow their lifestyles well into retirement.

Similarly, advisers face many of the same problems. Regulatory oversight abounds, as does the ever increasing cost of paying for the failure of advice firms they had nothing to do with. There is also the issue of short-termism from governments and some investors, as well as, most recently, the growth of technology designed to disrupt advice models.

We know the US and Australia got into platforms long before we did but UK advisers soon followed suit. Indeed, the advice community has now adopted and/or adapted much of what was first seen overseas, from risk profiling to digital marketing tools and CRM systems.

There is, however, more to it than just tools and systems. We also need to think about the softer areas like business processes, educational standards and innovations designed to inform the client. Here, it is interesting to see what is happening overseas.

For example, there are plenty of advisers in the US prospering despite having to contend with more developed robo solutions than we are yet to see here. They put this down to adopting as much digital capabilities as possible, such as client portals, virtual meetings and easy access to online calculators and information systems.

Degree-level financial planning education also seems to be high on the US agenda. While we do offer some here in the UK, it is now possible to gain a CFP accredited degree at hundreds of colleges and universities across the pond. It is good to see the profession proactively supporting students with internships and placements, and reporting a fantastic standard of critical thinking, technical ability and client care ethos among graduates.

For more experienced advisers less inclined to academia as they progress in their careers, there are more and more sophisticated knowledge exchange hubs and best practice sharing portals coming online. A host of other innovations to help them develop and ascertain what others are doing to assist clients can also be found.

Of course, I am aware we already have some of this here in the UK and like-minded people will develop similar solutions, particularly if they share ideas, best practice and experience. Community-minded companies (Nucleus being a fine example) allow access to their knowledge hubs whether an adviser uses their services or not, and are to be commended for doing so.

So it appears that together there is a continued move by forward-thinking companies and individuals to demonstrate higher standards of financial planning education, share technical and practice knowledge, and adopt the very best of digital to complement advice models. It may not be perfect but it certainly seems to be getting better all the time. And about time too.

Lee Robertson is chief executive of Investment Quorum