Three advisers talk to Money Marketing about taking time out to help the community
Christmas is traditionally a time for giving, so as our thoughts turn to the festive period, how are advice firms giving back to the community or the profession?
The great outdoors
As a seasoned mountain walker and scout leader, much of what Berry & Oak managing director Andrew Elson does to give back involves the great outdoors.
Elson and his wife Sarah, the firm’s co-founder and director, recently hiked the Yorkshire Three Peaks to raise money for St Gemma’s, a local hospice. “It might sound corny but financial planners like to help people and that is why we want to give a bit back. As a profession, we are in a privileged position to be able to help people in that way,” says Elson.
“At the end of last year, we had a discussion about what to do for St Gemma’s, our charity of choice. We wanted to do something big so that people would be happy to donate, as they could see the effort we were putting in. Our team wanted a physical challenge and we had to do some training for the hike. I’ve been mountain walking most of my life – in 2009 I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for the Martin House hospice in a similar challenge.”
For the past seven years, Elson has also given his time to the local scouts organisation, having joined because his son’s group was short of volunteers.
He adds: “I’ve always been an outdoor person and it was natural for me to help. I started as a beaver leader, then my son went to cubs and scouts, so now I’m a scout leader. It is hard work. It’s not just turning up once a week; it involves planning what we are going to do. But it has been rewarding, helping the children with life skills they can use in the future.”
Elson’s main tip for other advisers keen on getting involved in the community is to volunteer for something they are interested in. “If it’s something you enjoy, you are more likely to commit to it,” he says.
The young ones
Ascot Wealth Management has been giving back to the local community and the advice industry by working with young people over the past five years. Managing director Mark Insley has committed the business to everything from giving talks and partnering with schools and universities, to taking students on placements. He says: “We started initially as a local firm that was going into schools to talk to students, doing four or five sessions with private schools. Then we ran the AWM Young Entrepreneur Programme with Charters School in Sunningdale – my old school.”
The three-month Young Entrepreneur Programme was aimed at developing students’ business skills while raising money for the school. It resembled a task on Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice in that 12 teams of students created, marketed and sold products to see who could make the most profit.
The winning team went on a business day out in London and also received £1,000 to spend on an event of their choice.
Insley says: “We want to give a bit back because it’s very rewarding, but we also do it for business reasons, as we can make good connections within the community. When we did the Young Entrepreneur Programme, we had a 16-year-old come to work for us – she did that over the past three years, during the holidays.”
But he points out that if advice firms are working with young people and offering placements purely to recruit, this investment may not pan out, as those with some skills under their belt can be tempted by other offers. Insley concludes: “We’re going to keep doing what I call the charitable side, where we partner with local institutions, but we have paused the student placement side of it because we need to revise the format.”
The charity challenge
Fiducia Wealth Management organises an annual Charity Challenge event, which involves other local businesses donating prizes and auction items, then taking part in an afternoon of fun activities. This year’s event, which was held in October, raised more than £2,000 for the Essex Community Foundation and Suffolk Community Foundation.
Director Susie Laws is heavily involved in organising the event and says the firm is already planning for next year’s challenge.
“Financial services has a legacy of bad press so it’s particularly important to do something for the local community. We look for smaller local charities ideally because we want to make the biggest difference to local people,” Laws says.
“Getting prizes and auction items involves a lot of ringing around and we get a lot of people saying no.
“But we have a lot of support and people have been very generous this year – we had Newmarket race tickets and a cricket bat signed by the Essex team.”
Laws’ tips for other advice firms looking to organise a charity event include preparing for all eventualities: “Our event is held outdoors, which is challenging with the English weather, so I’d also say have a reserve day available and send that out on the invitations just in case it’s a washout.”