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Marlene Shalton

The new president of the Institute of Financial Planning describes how she uses skills gained as a probation officer to gain a person’s trust and understand their financial needs Interview by Lee Jones

Incoming Institute of Financial Planning president Marlene Shalton has several goals for her term as president. As well as raising public awareness and understanding of financial services as a whole, she wants to drive forward the IFP’s plans to help advisers raise their level of qualifications and see the profile of financial planning raised as a potential career.

She says: “I want to get the message out to everyone about what we are doing as an industry and what we can offer them. Education is the key and it will not only make the transfer over to the RDR easier but it will also make it more satisfying for those advisers who are changing their business models.”

Shalton is a chartered financial planner at Bluefin Wealth Management and has been a fee-based adviser for almost her entire career but she spent more than a decade working in the probation service in Glamorgan, liaising with judges, solicitors and offenders and working with families in counselling roles.

“People say probation is a million miles away from financial services but I disagree. The people may be very different and the problems might be very different but it is a people skills job. You are just providing a different set of solutions but the way you go about it is the same. You are merely using a different set of tools.”

Shalton left that career as it became less about personal communication and more about processing offenders. She saw financial advice as a more rewarding job, although her first role with Hill Samuel was a bit of a false start.

“I hated my first year in financial services as it was just about selling products, half of which I did not believe in. I initially thought I was not cut out for financial advice because I could not sell the products and kept asking colleagues how they did it. I decided I had to leave because I wanted to use what I was good at in the probation service – gaining a person’s trust by getting involved, working out what makes them tick and what they want in their lives.”

Shalton took an office in an IFA firm, using its support staff to seek out her own leads and clients. This venture grew rapidly and she had to get her own office and recruit support staff, achieving her dream of running her own business. Soon after new disclosure rules came in, Shalton discovered the Prestwood software system and moved to a new model of advice, taking fees and trail instead of indemnity commission.

“I could have made a lot more money if I had been commission-based but I wanted to clearly show my clients what I was doing for them. All of a sudden, I was not reliant on selling products, I did not have to drive round with piles of brochures for products, worried that I would not have the information on a product I had to sell.”

During this time, Shalton was an active member of the IFP and has been on the board for several years.

“It was not always the plan to become IFP president. I was vice-president for a few years and, with my daughter going to university, I just thought I could be president, so I went for it.”

One of Shalton’s reasons for becoming president is to pass on her knowledge of financial life planning to advisers still trying to find their feet.
“I feel I am coming full circle now as I am doing a lot more presentations and talks on soft skills.

“It is a way of developing lifestyle financial planning and there are some advisers out there who feel they have to hone those skills. Since I was in the probation service, it is what I have always done and it is second nature to me.”

Shalton has no fears for the industry after the RDR and is confident that by the time her presidency ends in autumn 2012, the sector will be one of mainly professional financial planners.

“I do not think everyone will rush to the restricted model and I do not think we will see the membership of the IFP shrink. There will be those advisers who choose to take the restricted route if it is available to them but that will be the minority.”

Shalton is also not concerned that the new professional industry of fee-charging advisers will put off medium and low-level earners.

“My business has never been exclusively for high-earners. In fact, a recent business appraisal by myself and my husband found that most of our clients are the middle-earners such as teachers and other professionals. They need financial planning as much as any high-net-worth individual and they will be happy to pay for your service if you can prove your worth.”

She wants to put education at the centre of what the IFP does, not just in its role as a qualifying body but also in its role to help more graduates become professional advisers.

The IFP is set to launch a level six financial planning degree with Manchester Metropolitan University and Shalton hopes the IFP can work with education institutions to make becoming an IFA an attainable and sought after career over the next two years.

“Right now, not enough students at university are aiming to become financial advisers. We need to change that and make the sector enticing to them by proving our professionalism and our worth.”

Born: Lambeth, 1950
Lives: Outside Cardiff
Education: Keele University
Career: 2007-present: chartered financial planner, Bluefin Wealth Management; 1991-2007: managing director, Marlene Shalton Financial Planning; 1989-91: direct salesforce, Hill Samuel Investment Services; 1976-89: probation officer, South Glamorgan
Likes: Art, music, dance, cooking and entertaining, gardening, reading, skiing
Dislikes: Prejudice of any kind
Drives: Porsche Boxster S
Book: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
Film: Il Postino
Album: Late For The Sky by Jackson Browne
Career ambition: IFP presidency is the culmination of my career, so more of the same
Life ambition: Again, more of the same because my husband and I have achieved most of our goals
If I wasn’t doing this, I would be…An interior designer


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There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Paul Etheridge (Member No.1 of the IFP) 24th September 2010 at 12:48 am

    I’m certain Marlene will be a superb President and will guide the Institute to new heights, building on a firm foundation of standards that will benefit both clients and advisers.

    Her commitment to ‘real’, client-centric financial planning is outstanding.

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