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Profile: ‘Some clients were suicidal at retirement having lost their identity’

Henwood Court managing director on why he wrote a book to prepare people emotionally for retirement

As advisers know, retirement can be a wonderful time if you are adequately prepared. The freedom from having to work means people can spend their lives doing what they want to do; things they did not have the time for when they had a job.

Advisers spend much of their own working lives helping people to prepare for retirement – maximising retirement savings during the accumulation stage, enabling clients to make crucial financial decisions when it comes to decumulation, and ensuring they have enough money to last them.

However, there is more to preparing for retirement than money, as Henwood Court managing director Nick Platt discusses in his book, Retireability: The Smart Executive’s Guide to Thriving in Retirement.

“I’ve always wanted to write a book but not necessarily on retirement. I’ve been an adviser for 25 years so I’ve got some funny stories to tell,” he says.

“The subject matter that fascinates me is highly intelligent business owners and senior executives who are like rabbits caught in the headlights when it comes to retirement; not knowing if they can afford to retire or whether they
can emotionally cope with leaving work behind.”

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As a business owner himself, Platt is mindful of how the hours you have to put in to establish and grow a company can easily tip into workaholism. So, when someone who has lived for their work over a long period finally gets to enjoy the fruits of their labour, it may take a bit of time to get used to.

Many of Platt’s clients have gone through the transition from work to retirement, so he spent a lot of time speaking to them and asking them to complete questionnaires to provide material for the book.

His intention was to give more people – not just his clients – the benefit of his expertise.

“Henwood Court is limited in the number of clients we can take on due to capacity issues, so the book was a way of getting it out to a bigger audience,” he says. “There are executives who are five to 10 years from retirement who don’t have a life outside work; they don’t have any hobbies, so what do they do when they stop working? I know how difficult it is to make that transfer.”

Platt learned a lot about his clients while researching his book. “Some clients admitted they were suicidal at retirement as they had lost their identity. It affected their very worth; they felt they were not contributing,” he says.

CV

2005-present: Managing director, Henwood Court

2000-2005: Senior associate director, Towry Law

1997-2000: Mortgage adviser, BP Financial Services

1994-1997: From trainee to personal financial manager, West Bromwich Building Society

Adviser authors’ words of wisdom on how to get published

Platt has identified different characters among people who retire, including those who play a lot of sport, those who spend time in the garden and those who never really retire but carry on working on their own terms, whether that is two hours a week or 40.

He says: “One person’s idea of the perfect retirement can be another’s nightmare, so it’s important you discuss what you don’t want to do as well as what you do want to do.”

He found writing an enjoyable experience and says that because of what he does for a living, with the need to write reports and express complex ideas in simple language, the words came easily.

“My publisher made it easier to read with copy edits – she was superb. I found her on LinkedIn,” Platt says.

He started out in financial services as a trainee manager at West Bromwich Building Society and then became a mortgage adviser at a local IFA firm, before moving to Towry Law. If you had asked him about the sort of business he would want to build before founding Henwood Court in 2005, he would probably have suggested something in the image of Towry Law.

Five questions

What is the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career?
You don’t get anything for nothing; it’s about hard work.

What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing at all!

What has had the most significant impact on financial services in the last year?
Mifid II.

If I was in charge of the FCA for a day I would…
Allocate each authorised advice firm an account manager to encourage greater dialogue.

Any advice for new advisers?
Be inspirational – not an order taker.

Platt spent around five years at the national IFA firm that was eventually absorbed by the Tilney Group in 2017. However, when he started his own business, his vision was perhaps more Towry with a twist: a traditional IFA firm that provided clients with an ongoing service.

Platt recalls: “Towry Law had been target-driven; you were transactional with the advice you gave and it was very old-school.

“I moved away from that as I wanted to do more ongoing care for clients and to be more selective about those I worked with.

“It was about building a business that reflects you; how you are as a person, your DNA, rather than corporate diktat and not having much say in how things are done.”

Platt remortgaged his home to raise some money to pay his bills for the first few months and, although it was scary, he says setting up on his own is the best thing he ever did.

“Towry Law was a massive brand and, when I worked there, clients were not buying me, they were buying Towry Law.

“But when I started out on my own, it was just me. I’ll never forget the first client who signed up with me on my own and who is still with me now. The joy was that they were buying me.”

Platt concedes he thought that, 15 years on, his business would have been bigger than it is, but says he has been “cautious and careful” about growth. Having evolved from a traditional IFA practice to a lifestyle financial planner, does he think the Henwood Court he started with would have survived in the current environment?

“It would have survived but it wouldn’t be as good, as we’d be a traditional IFA practice. But we’d probably be bigger as we take a lot of time looking after clients and you can’t get the scale if you do things so comprehensively,” he says.

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That said, Platt is still looking to grow the firm and has received lots of enquiries in his quest to recruit a financial planner, a paraplanner and an administrator. He concludes: “The big thing I’m looking to do is make the business more digital – upgrading client management technology, adopting portals and online fact-finds this year.”

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Comments

There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. A very good article and very true in many respects. I think it really breaks down into two main categories – whether you were a wage slave or owned and ran your own business.

    In the former I think it is true that many just can’t wait for the day to retire. Always providing that they are able to manage on their retirement assets. Whether one cares to admit it or not a happy retirement is very closely correlated to money. The more you have the happier you are likely to be. Working beyond NRD may be an option that some would be prepared to entertain.

    In the second category I would say that there is no stigma in being a workaholic. Retiring at 65 from a reasonably successful business is rarely a good idea. Each year the State Pension is deferred adds a further 5.8% (compound. Continuing in some kind of part time role is often a very favoured option. It can bring in extra funds and helps maintain a feeling of worth. For many in this category, just spending time on the golf course or playing bridge or just travelling just feels as if they are in God’s waiting room. People who have been chievers like to continue to feel useful.

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