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Stephen Womack: My ‘new boy’ observations on path to enlightenment

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New recruits to the world of financial advice have to master a host of wondrous new skills.

There is the Art of the Reasons Why Letter. Here we strive to create a fabled document that can explain a recommendation in language the customer can understand while ticking every regulatory box in the book and using less than 17 trees-worth of paper.

There is the Zen of Risk Profiling. This is an almost mystic skill that, as I understand it, allows you to see inside a client’s mind to understand their deepest hopes and fears, assess this complex psychological picture against a balance sheet of their assets and liabilities and then encapsulate the result in a single word – “medium”.

And then there is the Tao of CPD – an infinite path towards enlightenment that each adviser must tread, collecting the prized points of knowledge along the way.

This path of CPD can take many routes. There are sessions organised by professional bodies, seminars run by product providers, conferences, technical training, webcasts, online tutorials, local branch meetings and in-house events.

As the new boy at David Williams IFA, over the last six months, I have been keen to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can. So I have been saying yes to many of the invitations that have come across my desk. This has involved events delivered by, among others, Prudential, Fidelity, Nest, Partnership and The People’s Pension.

I have also attended a few Personal Finance Society regional conferences, both in Birmingham and in the East Midlands. Overall, each of these days has been worthwhile, with something in the wide-ranging sessions to inspire.

The very best of the training events I have been to are genuinely fascinating, packed with valuable technical and market information and led by inspired communicators. For example, Paul Kennedy, FundsNetwork’s director of tax and trust planning, is on the road running a series of seminars on pension and trust tax developments. Book while you still can because he sure can deliver a cracker.

Against this backdrop, I have been interested in the comment and reaction around the FCA’s latest guidance on inducements. Some advisers fear this may stop such provider training altogether or rule that it is a corrupting influence.

I have read FG14/1 and to my new-boy eyes there seems little to be worried about for those running genuine events aimed at improving adviser knowledge. 

One key criteria, in section 2.28, is the proviso that any event is made “…reasonably available to all advisory firms that could recommend the provider’s products or services on an equal basis…”.  

Provided you invite every one, and the bacon rolls are not too lavish, your event should comply.

In this age of webcasts and online training, there is still a need to sit down in a room with other advisers to learn. Some of the most valuable insight I have gained from these events has come from meeting IFAs, chatting over coffee and hearing how they see the world.

Giving up on the seminar circuit would put a major roadblock on my path to enlightenment – and on those of many others. So do not over react and keep on learning.

Stephen Womack is a consultant with David Williams IFA, Chartered Financial Planners

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  1. Reasons why letter? You don’t do suitability reports?

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