I was recently fortunate enough to be part of a little bit of financial services history. Myself and a couple of hundred other adventurous adviser souls climbed aboard the P&O Aurora last month, marking the final time the Pims conference will take place at sea.
For 28 years this event has been a unique experience for advisers and providers, corralling delegates together within the gilded cage of a cruise ship.
There is an intense round of networking and meetings, technical and business sessions and, of course, the social backdrop of meals and drinks that create new connections.
Add to that the imposed discipline of being at sea, away from the trill of the mobile and the click of the email, and you can see the potential for a very different couple of days.
The exact format has evolved over the years: old hands still recall with awe the ability of certain life companies and their pre-RDR budgets to drink the ship dry. More recently, the work and social agendas have been on more of an even keel.
Next year, however, the organisers are taking Pims ashore, driven partly, I understand, by an increasing inability of advisers to lever themselves out of the workplace for a three-day stint around the Channel.
But while the format of that particular event may now have passed its sell-by-date, I would argue the importance of taking time out of the whirl of day-to-day client and business activity has never been greater.
Whether it is at Pims or some of the other excellent industry events, such as the PFS conferences or Money Marketing Interactive, getting away from the coal face provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on what you do and to learn from others.
It is not simply a case of collecting your CPD hours. Yes, sometimes technical sessions can be very helpful and, yes, sometimes a speaker will inspire you to see your own business in a difference light. But the formal scripted part of an event is frequently only the starter for the banquet of experience and knowledge you can glean from it.
For me, the main course is about learning from your peers. And I certainly did not regret a minute of the time I spent last month talking to advisers in business from Aberdeen to Plymouth. This geographic diversity makes it easy to share problems and solutions with like-minded advisers who are not local rivals.
The ability to candidly compare notes on back-office systems and cashflow tools, for example, is invaluable. As is the willingness to share hard earned wisdom and tips about the way advisers handle particular client circumstances. No prizes for guessing defined benefit transfers were the hot topic on this voyage.
For me, the main course is about learning from your peers.
And the dessert you derive from any time away are the personal connections you make that add a richness to doing business. This time around, for instance, I discovered mutual friends in common with one adviser and another delegate whose son and mine play on the same rugby pitch.
So let’s raise a glass to the legend that was Pims afloat. And the next time someone invites you to an event, think twice before dismissing it because you are simply too busy.
Stephen Womack is a chartered financial planner and a director of David Williams IFA