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Life lessons

At this historic time, with Britain’s first peacetime coalition Government since the 1930s outlining their policy agreements, it certainly is a defining time for the future of our financial services industry.

There have been many defining events in my 30-year career in financial services. The excitement of opening the door of my IFA firm to the public for the first time led to the sadness of advising grieving widows who were frightened, confused and lonely, through to the happiness provided to hard-working clients when it became evident I could save them thousands of pounds in tax or obtain the investment growth they sought.

Being a financial adviser means you share life events with people you may not have met before. There is no more relevant phrase that applies to financial advisers than, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Every financial adviser will mention death and taxes to clients each day.

Although death and taxes cannot be ignored, we sometimes forget that the whole purpose of financial planning is to plan for the life we hope for, within reason, and to live in the home we want, debt-free. We often overcomplicate this message when boring clients to death with issues on the retail distribution review and qualifications, demonstrating our knowledge rather than listening properly to their needs and aspirations.

One man who truly understood how to give IFA clients what they wanted was David Elms, former chief executive of IFA Promotion, who passed away last month at the tragically young age of 47. I worked closely with David over the past 10 years. He was one of the most passionate pioneers of online marketing the industry has ever seen.

We sometimes forget that the whole purpose of financial planning is to plan for the life we hope for

He grasped very early the benefits of offering consumers relevant information on financial products and advice they could access easily online – the benefits for the consumer, IFAs and the industry as a whole. He also had a talent for spotting how Ifap could best use its modest budget to promote IFAs through online promotion, marketing and content placement on partner sites.

Over the last decade, he and his capable team developed Unbiased.co.uk into the best search tool for consumers in need of an IFA. It grew to include mortgage advisers, solicitors and accountants, bringing together all the professional advisers a person might need in their lives.

At his funeral near Bath, his girlfriend Helen spoke of David’s passion and love, his father of his son’s intellect and interest in the world as a child and Tony Langham of Lansons described how adept David was as a businessman, his (annoying to some) ability to nearly always be right and his individual style. The funeral was exceptionally well attended, with colleagues past and present, journalists, agencies and IFAs all paying their last respects.

Let’s build on David Elm’s passion that consumers should be dealt with in the way in which they would expect and make independent financial advice accessible to those who need it – and not solely for those who are cash-rich and tolerant to fees.

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