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Profile: Adviser Justin King on ‘flogging policies’ vs financial planning

The MD of MFP Wealth Management on finding meaning in advice and connecting with clients 

Chartered financial planner Justin King has not taken a conventional career path into financial services. After leaving home at 16 and taking several spells out to travel as a yachtsman and windsurfing instructor, it took the discovery of financial and life planning for him to find meaning in giving advice.

“When I worked for Halifax Independent Financial Advisers, I was just churning through clients because it was all about volume and I was not building up relationships,” says King. “What I now realise is that I was unfulfilled by the work.”

Setting up his own advice firm, MFP Wealth Management, has been a completely different experience.

“The life planning piece we can deliver as financial planners is huge,” he says. “If through an enquiry process you can work out what is important to somebody, empower them to do it and create a financial plan to support it, that is the most remarkable work.

“Deep down, we all know what is important to us but it can be hard to bring that out because people often hold it close and are scared to tell others for fear of it being dismissed.”

After narrowly missing out on a chance to join the Royal Air Force due to his asthma, King started his career with an insurance brokerage on a youth training scheme, initially working on motor insurance and later selling life cover.

He says: “I had an interesting childhood – I went from a foster home to being adopted.

“I left home at 16 and was lucky that Martin Wood, the managing director of KGJ Insurance Brokers, saw something in me. He had fostered and adopted hundreds of children so he saw beyond my rough edges.

“But it was a tough time, coping with living on my own at such a young age and earning a low wage.”

He quickly realised the key to progressing in the profession was qualifications. “I felt that people saw me as a second-hand car salesman, flogging policies and earning commission,” he explains.

“I thought that if I was qualified, clients would see me differently, so I enrolled on the financial planning certificate.”

However, after a life-threatening motorbike accident at the age of 30, King decided to take several years out from financial services and become a professional yachtsman.

“I registered with Positive Solutions so that I could keep a licence without doing much business and went sailing full-time; delivering yachts around the world, racing and teaching.

“Through sailing I met my partner Kathy and my life changed quite dramatically. We had two daughters and I decided to set up my own financial advice firm.”

King met like-minded advisers through the Institute of Financial Planning.

“I met people who were doing what I call proper financial planning – and not only that but finding out what is important to people and doing life planning alongside it. I realised that was what I had been wanting to do.”

MFP is a chartered firm which specialises in retirees with at least £500,000 in assets.

He says: “For a lot of my clients, the reason they deal with me is because the husband wants to make sure his wife will be looked after when he dies. They want to leave their finances with someone they can trust and there is a lot of value in that peace of mind.

“But financial advice is expensive and I only take on clients where I can deliver a lot of value, so we have a lot of £1m-plus customers.”

Despite this, King also strives to help those he cannot take on as clients by offering them a free “master class”. He explains: “If someone comes to me and says ‘I’ve got £50 a month spare and I want to know whether I should put that towards my mortgage, my Isa or my pension’, then I can do a quick cash flow analysis of those options.

“Perhaps I should be charging for that but I can do it very quickly. I don’t go near a product so I am not getting into regulated advice territory.”

King uses an “idea wall” to sketch out financial plans when speaking to clients. 

He says: “I draw all over the wall with temporary ‘idea paint’ – it’s like back-of-a-fag packet financial planning. I find that when you draw it out for people, they become more connected to the plan.”

He is considering developing the service into seminars.

“A lot of people feel there is nowhere for them to go for this kind of help. I could do what I do on the wall but to 50 or 100 people.”

King is also writing a book – Ready, Steady, Retire!  – which is set to be launched later this month alongside Informed Choice’s documentary on the financial planning challenges for the baby boomer generation.

He says: “The documentary addresses the issues but the book gives people practical solutions. We are hoping other financial planners will use the book to open doors with clients.

“It gives people strategies for issues like having to go into care. We want to say to people; these things are going to happen so don’t shy away from them, put the plans in the drawer so when it happens it does not derail the whole family.

“As a yachtsman and a pilot, one of the key things I was taught is to have secondary ports of refuge – when something goes wrong, you know where to go for cover.”

Career history

2010-present: Managing director, MFP Wealth Management

2005-10: Financial adviser, Positive Solutions

2002-05: Professional yacht master

1998-2002: Director, KGJ Insurance Brokers

1997-98: Financial adviser, Halifax Independent Financial Advisers

1995-96: Windsurfing instructor

1991-95: Life insurance salesman, KGJ Insurance Brokers

Five questions

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career? 

Listen more, talk less. Advice I admire but have not always adhered to.

What keeps you awake at night? 

Books.

What has had the most significant impact on financial advice in the past year? 

The debacle of proving independence.

If I was put in charge of the FCA for a day I would… 

Ask if I could have a few more days.

Any advice for new advisers? 

Join the Institute of Financial Planning.

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