If someone asks what I do, I say that I am a financial planner. This usually provokes a questioning look because most people in the UK have no idea what that means.
I do this not only to spark a conversation but also because I have found that when I say I am a financial adviser, some fear I will try and sell them an endowment.
In recent years there has been a proliferation of names that advisers have given themselves.
We have had financial architects, life planners, financial life planners, registered life planners, money mentors, money coaches, wealth managers – the list goes on.
I imagine this is largely driven by marketing and the need to differentiate ourselves from the crowd. The public (I imagine) has a stereotype of the average financial adviser as being a middle-aged male in a cheap suit occupying a bland office somewhere.
We have perpetuated this image by building identikit websites and company logos and, unfortunately, by being exactly what the stereotype suggests, for the most part.
I have had conversations with people so evangelically committed to the title of financial planner that
I had the feeling they would happily torch my house if I did not toe their particular line.
At the same time, I have met financial planners who deride the term financial adviser as being somehow inferior to their
Let’s stop for a second and ask where the client fits into all this. Yes, the client. Remember them? Sometimes in our professional introspection we neglect the very people we are here to serve.
My hunch is the average client could not care less about what we call ourselves.
When speaking to their friends – hopefully in glowing terms – they will still refer to us as their financial adviser or their finance chap/lady but never as their wealth architect guru because they worry they will sound stupid.
In my daydream version of how that conversation will go, I imagine my clients telling their friends about how I have reviewed their plans religiously every six months for the last 10 years and that I know more about them than their kids do.
Maybe they will comment on my easy-going nature and startling ability to explain complex financial concepts in easy-to-understand language.
But the subject of what I call myself does not even feature because they do not care about that.
Those of us who dabble online will have had LinkedIn requests from people calling themselves financial advisers, only to click through and discover they actually work for a pawnbroker or payday lender.
If it is that easy for imposters to call themselves advisers, how is a member of the public supposed to tell the difference?
I wonder if now the regulator should consult on this issue? It has recently clarified the independent versus restricted labels and now I think they should look to impose some set of standards that ensure only qualified advisers can call themselves…fill in the blank.
The professional bodies need to push past their corporate preferences and work together to tighten this up, not for our sake but for the sake of those who really matter in all this – the general public.
Pete Matthew is managing director of Jacksons Wealth Management creator of the MeaningfulMoney and Advisertech