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Pete Matthew: The importance of peer groups

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I was first inspired to become an IFA by reading the old LIA journal Prospect. I read articles by the likes of Bhupinder Anand and Ian Green and, to a tied adviser with the Royal & Sun Alliance, it looked like an extremely glamorous world on the independent side of the fence.

I was particularly struck by the way these industry giants were so willing to share their own successes and failures, wanting to make the whole industry a better place.

When I finally made the leap to the light side, I was not disappointed. I was never given the time to go when I was tied but LIA meetings were even better than the magazine. I met with professionals who had been doing the job for 40 years and who were delighted to pass on their wisdom to a sprog like me.

I had the sense to place some of their suggestions into the context of my fledgling client bank and my own inexperience and parked them for when I matured as an adviser. But some of the ideas I picked up I still use now.

More than anything, it was the experience of being together that I enjoyed. Stepping out of the day-to-day job for just a couple of hours brought perspective and an understanding that there are many, equally valid ways of giving financial advice. There was a real sense of camaraderie that we were like-minded individuals striving towards the same end.

We are blessed to have two very different professional bodies which provide local branch meetings for this essential kind of interaction and yet, compared with the size of the memberships of the IFP and the PFS, relatively few people attend the meetings. I wonder why that is?

We are all busy, of course, but the meeting dates are published well enough in advance and it is usually easy to plan one’s diary to be there.

Perhaps apathy is a reason for non-attendance? If it is years since you have been, you probably will not prioritise the next meeting. Or maybe you are just not the sociable type? If so, I do wonder if this inherently people-centred business is the right one for you?

Whatever the reason, if you have not been to a branch meeting for while, then do please consider it. If you do go, I can promise you these benefits:

  • Perspective – others are experiencing the same challenges in their businesses as you are in yours. You are not alone.

  • Action Points – I do not think I have ever left a branch meeting without some tidbit of information that I can immediately apply for the benefit of my clients and my business.

  • Inspiration – Even though I have come a long way since those early LIA meetings, I still look at others in the business whom I want to emulate and, without exception, every one I have spoken to has been willing to share the things they have done to achieve what they have.

All this and some easy CPD.

If we can be humble enough to admit that we are not always right in our views about the RDR or any other topic and if we can keep an open mind to alternative opinions, we may find ourselves influenced by our peers in a positive way. We may even be a positive influence ourselves. Together, we can grow as a profession.

It is not a good idea to be alone for too long. We can become blinkered, with our noses to the grindstone. Why not take a breather and meet with your excellent peers in your region?

Pete Matthew is managing director of Jacksons Wealth Management and creator of MeaningfulMoney.tv

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