It’s interesting that 2014 will be the year of the horse in Chinese astrology. For the Chinese, the spirit of the horse is recognised to be the ethos of making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able.
That’s a fine set of standards for anyone practicing financial planning so if the year of horse is to live up to its billing, 2014 looks like a promising year.
Financial planners who spend most of their time helping their clients to meet their goals in life, should find it second nature to plan business activities and CPD for the year ahead.
However, as is often the case with doctors who smoke, this is not always the case for many advisers and planners.
One example is in the area of CPD which is often seen as something of a chore that just has to be done. As I covered in my article last month, as a professional, CPD is a very positive way of demonstrating your competence.
It shows that not only did you meet the relevant standard on the day you passed an exam or assessment but that you continue to do so on a regular basis to ensure that you are up-to-date and continue to develop your all round knowledge and skills. This way you can ensure that you provide your clients with the best possible advice and service – and you can prove it too.
CPD should be planned and should be personal to you and the role that you perform. Yes, if you are a retail investment adviser you do need to keep up-to-date with the latest technical changes and developments. However, with all the pre-RDR focus on technical knowledge and meeting QCF level four, you may have neglected some other areas of CPD.
It is equally important that you continue to develop your personal skills, keep up-to-date with regulatory requirements and continue to operate in an ethical manner. It is also a great time to review your marketing plans, work out how you can continue to attract the right type of client and also retain those that you already have. We know that the market is getting more and more competitive, so keeping ahead of the crowd should be a key consideration. The benefits of gaining an advanced level professional qualifications at QCF level six are now on many people’s radar.
When it comes to marketing, social media presents a particular challenge for many advisers and planners – and not just due to compliance issues.
Social media has the advantage of being low cost and can be a fast and effective way for a business to get key messages out but it can be daunting for those who have not yet spent time familiarising themselves with sites like Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook.
However, we have to accept that more and more of us are using online sources to research people, products or services that we might be interested in, and form an opinion about them well before we approach them with any commercial intent. These sites are often the first port of call for would be clients looking to find a professional adviser with whom they can build rapport with as well as having confidence in their technical abilities.
If you miss the opportunity to engage with them here, you risk sending them to competitors who can show their business brand and personality with greater clarity.
As the new year gets underway, do not miss the opportunity to set out a clear marketing plan that links in with your business aims and objectives helping you to ensure that the year of the horse doesn’t leave you standing at the starting line.
Sue Whitbread is head of communications at the Institute of Financial Planning
Our free CPD Centre, powered by technical division Taxbriefs, acts as a one-stop shop offering acredited independent CPD linked with specific learning objectives which can then be tested and logged on the platform. Go to www.moneymarketing.co.uk/cpd-centre to sign up and join the 6,000 advisers using it.