As the Personal Finance Society’s youngest President to date, Garry Hale is keen to oversee the continued growth of the organisation.
Hale. 39, says the changing make-up of the business means this is not a record that will last long.
“The average age of financial planners and advisers does seem to be coming down after many years of the average age being bandied around as 55.”
Hale says that while he may appear to be a “whippersnapper” compared with many members, this will have no impact on his ability to do the job.
“The sceptics can say I am inexperienced. The other angle is that I’ve been involved in the PFS since its formation at a local committee level. I’ve been an advisor for 10 years and I’ve been in the industry since 1990 so I have many years of professional experience behind me.”
The membership of the PFS has risen from 25,000 when Hales joined the board in 2009, to around 33,000 now and he is keen to continue this growth.
Hales says his experience as a financial adviser and his long-term association with the PFS makes him well placed to oversee the transition to new regulatory regime.
Hale has been involved with the PFS since its inception was a member of both the Life Assurance Association and the Society of Financial Advisers which combined to form the PFS in 2005 where he stood as the first chairman of the local committee.
Hale became involved with Sofa through his work with the Chartered Insurance Institute, although he was not yet a qualified financial adviser.
Hale’s first exposure to the financial services was through Scottish Amicable, one of the big employers in his home town of Stirling. On leaving school Hale decided to follow a number of friends and family into the Scottish Amicable offices.
“There was no master plan going through school. I didn’t have a burning desire to join a mutual insurance company and work in a pensions department. Scottish Amicable was a big employer in the Sterling area and always has been. For a lot of people, it was just something you did. You got to an age and wanted to leave school and they paid well and provided a lot of overtime so it was very attractive for a lot of young people. I’d got to the point where I’d had enough of school and I didn’t want to go to university just yet so I decided to get out and work to earn some money at the age of 17.”
Graduating from admin roles, Hale moved up to sales support in 1995 where he says he started to see the potential this career path could offer.
In 1997, Scottish Amicable was bought by Prudential and by 2001, he had been offered a job as a broker consultant with the firm in Edinburgh, where he says he started to get his first real insight into some of the problems facing the industry and the need to progress beyond the current model of doing business.
“It was this time that formed my career progression more than anything. It gave me eight to nine years of being a broker consultant, calling on IFAs, that really shaped me becoming an IFA in my own right. Doing that job, you got to know advisors pretty well and engaged with the work they do. You get to know the types of clients and work. It was a real insight into that side of the profession and how I got to where I am now.”
Hale says this insight into what worked and what did not and what was profitable long term made him realise there was a successful business waiting as an IFA, if designed properly.
“When designing the business I do now, I looked to the good and the bad bits from that job. You had a wide range of clients on your panel so you saw it all; the good, the bad and the ugly. I took the good things that I saw and avoided the bad things.”
The result of this thought process is HK Wealth Managers Ltd which he co-founded with another ex-Prudential employee, Frank Kelly in 2002.
“In 2001, we put a plan in place to develop what we saw as a modern financial planning business with longevity in it, looking to what the future might hold for financial services. What we are going through with the RDR are a lot of the things that we were already addressing. It wasn’t about selling products or making as many sales as you could and leaving the client and moving on, it was about building up a recurring income business where you looked after the clients each year on an annual review basis and provided them with financial planning advice. The bulk of the work was done on a fee-based structure.
With the RDR deadline just weeks away, the priority of the new PFS president is to ensure that the financial services industry is fully prepared for 1 january. While broadly positive on the impact the RDR is likely to have on the financial services, he concedes that the road to reform has not always been a smooth one.
“There has been opposition from some who are against the idea of higher levels of qualifications and moving on to fee charging but I think it has been from the minority of advisors.”
However, he says the lack of clarity from the FSA has hindered advisers preparations.
“We have not been helped by the lack of clarity from the regulator up until recently on issues such as what independent and restricted looks like and the situation with regards to VAT. That drip-feeding of information has probably hindered firms making definitive decisions.”
Looking ahead, Hale wants more advisers to embrace the idea of taking on additional qualifications as he prepares to take his own firm to a chartered status.
“There are some who will choose not to and I respect that. It would be a great move forwards in terms of professionalism to move away from the compulsory additional qualifications being imposed on the industry and making a voluntary move towards level 6 rather than being dictated to by the FSA. The business benefits it can bring, being a chartered firm, are undeniable.”
Education: Wallace High School, Sterling
Career history: July 2002 – present: managing director, HK Wealth Managers Ltd, 1990-2001: sales and marketing, Scottish Amicable; September 2012 – present: president,
Personal Finance Society; November 2009- September 2012: vice president, PFS
Likes: Sailing, ambition, truth, honesty and plain talking
Dislikes: Unnecessary complications in financial services and life in general
Drives: Volvo V60
Book: Steve Jobs: A Biography
Album: Parachutes by Coldplay
Career ambition: Chartered status for my firm and to continue to support my wife and children.
Lifetime ambition: To live life to the full
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…. sailing. Either somewhere warm and tropical like the Great Barrier Reef, or off the West coast of Scotland.