It is often said aspiring writers should write about what they know. So when Solomons IFA principal financial planner Dominic Thomas started a financial planning blog on his website, it made sense to weave in his love of the arts.
Thomas uses references to the plots of films, television shows, plays and books in his blogs to bring issues like saving for retirement and tax planning to life for clients and prospective clients. The skill is in revealing enough about the plot for the personal finance points to make sense, even to someone who has no knowledge of the story, while not spoiling the ending for people who have not seen the film or read the book.
Having said that, he says you can blog freely about new interpretations of an old story that people are familiar with. So how did the idea to blog about film and finance come about?
He says: “I was advised that for a blog to be successful it needs new information on a regular basis. Most of the financial services stuff is really boring. People don’t want to read about tax, pensions and Isas. I’m no more interested in that than anyone else.
“But I enjoy hearing people’s stories and helping them get to where they want to go. Stories are powerful, so the blogs are about pulling things from books, TV and film, and drawing on those lessons.”
The blogs reflect what Thomas has seen recently and what he is interested in. He admits when he watches a film or TV show he is waiting to hear some good lines in the script that he can use to illustrate the financial planning points he wants to make. He also feels the blogs enable clients to get to know him a bit better.
“The best clients are the ones who are like you,” he says.
“People don’t want to read about tax, pensions and Isas. I’m no more interested in that than anyone else.”
Most people are interested in relationships and these are what films and financial planning are ultimately about.
Thomas says: “The relationship between a financial planner and client is unique. I’m not a friend so I’m able to say things to clients and look at their lives in a way that friends can’t. Friends don’t tend to have access to bank accounts, see what people are spending and come up with solutions. It’s a privileged position to be in.”
For Thomas, clients ultimately want good relationships with people they care about, to leave a legacy and to be remembered as a nice person.
He says: “I’m lucky in that I don’t have to appeal to everyone. I don’t take on clients I don’t like, so I can get away with saying things that people in larger companies couldn’t,” he says. He sees the blogs as a way for clients to understand his view of the world and how he expresses himself.
“When you meet a financial planner, you have to look in the mirror and ask: what do I want the next five, 10, 15 years to look like? It’s not an easy conversation. It’s easier and fairer if clients get a sense of who I am. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have choices but to some extent we’re all writing our own stories through the choices we make.”
The news hook
Thomas does include some technical details in his blogs but likes them to relate to something going on in the news so that it feels current, rather than abstract discussions around products such as pensions and Isas.
He says: “I don’t necessarily give people the answers but it provokes thinking and questions. I think the more engaging and entertaining it is the better. I don’t think I do it successfully but blogs should be relatively short, punchy and have a decent idea with a call to action. Mine don’t necessarily have a call to action but that is something I’ve got to get better at.”
Plans for the future include more series of blogs on various subjects. “I did an IHT series peppered with the technical and the artistic to get the story across,” he says.
So what advice would he give other advisers who want to start blogging? He says: “Do something that interests you so it’s easier to think about. If it’s technical details that interest you, blog away to heart’s content. If you’re interested in rowing, F1 or cycling pull out ideas from that – the importance of teamwork, for example.”