I could easily be accused of being obsessed with football. I bought my wife home three days early from our honeymoon to watch Bristol Rovers play. I will watch it at every opportunity. In fact, I have probably spent more time watching the Euros recently than listening to the political nonsense of the Remain and Exit camps.
Football is my go-to analogy whenever I am talking to my colleagues about our team-based approach to financial planning. A team will always trump the individual, and no more so in the world of the financial services intermediary.
So when I refer to my administration team as the defenders they know I mean they are a safe pair of hands (or feet) and that their job of capturing and storing the data we need to suitably advise our clients is as vital as any other role in the firm.
Their role, of course, is to provide that data to the midfielders (paraplanners). Their analysis of that data and the turning of it into meaningful reports for clients is as important as the football equivalent of sliding a ball through to an attacker who has turned the opposition defence. The financial planner is the equivalent of a Sturridge, Vardy or Kane, with the role of putting the ball in the back of the net – or financial plan in the hands of the client, if you prefer.
So what is it about a team that works better than a collection of individuals? One element is about risk management: multiple pairs of eyes examining the content of the advice before it is actually delivered to the client. Experienced team players, whatever position they play in, are able to spot a problem long before it gets to a become a client problem. Of course, they are all human beings and therefore can make mistakes but, in my experience, these errors tend to be picked up by fellow team members before they turn into something likely to cost the business or destroy a client relationship.
What then – if these players are so experienced and skilled – is the role of the manager? Just as in football, it can be a number of things. Creating and fostering a team spirit that puts the client at the centre of everything is a key part of the role. We might sometimes refer to this as “culture”; certainly the regulator does.
It may also be a management function to change the position of players from time to time, promoting an administrator to become a paraplanner, or a paraplanner to become a financial planner. In any event, while there will always be personal responsibility for the work done, the ultimate responsibility must lie with the manager. He or she is where accountability for the results rests.
I have not gone as far as to make my colleagues wear the same kit to the office (although I quite like the thought of us all wearing blue and white quarters) but to all intents and purposes there is little difference between the goals and objectives of a financial planning team and those of a football team. We all want to be winners because that is what delivers good results for clients.
Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice