Sadly, few people have properly thought through their true goals and objectives or even discussed them with partners and families let alone done anything about it.
Advisers have come to expect that from clients but what about the advisers themselves? How many make sure they have their own financial plan in place? Do they review it regularly and take their own advice? Maybe not.
Speaking at the Institute of Financial Planning conference recently, keynote speaker Bill Bachrach gave a very powerful presentation. One element of his speech was an appeal to the audience to seek financial planning advice themselves.
Yes, that is right. He was telling professional financial planners that they too needed to ensure that they have their own financial plan in place, ideally by working with another financial planner.
To put into practice what you preach, having your own clear path to the future you want, is what your clients will expect. To be truly objective, to challenge decisions and review ongoing developments, it is much more effective to involve another person you trust in that process. It is easy to avoid the tough decisions that need to be taken when you are advising yourself.
With so many really great financial planners in the room who are clearly able to deliver this service, we were preparing for a mass exchange of business cards during the coffee break!
It makes a lot of sense. Whether or not your client is another planner or adviser, it is the engagement where true value lies. The skills of the planner provide the context and the ability to make better decisions based on a discovery process that challenges both thinking and priorities. So having spent years developing strong technical knowledge, advisers now need to ensure they have the advanced soft skills that are so essential when delivering a value added service that clients will be prepared to pay for.
Some advisers seek the help of life planners and coaches, taking aspects that they like. Some will religiously follow the particular style and become experts in that particular method. This is usually because that style suits their personality and capabilities.
Most advisers will be able to make significant improvement to the service they provide by understanding the financial planning process and having a very clear client proposition. Time can then be spent understanding how their soft skills can be best improved to motivate and enthuse their clients to action.
It is widely accepted there has been a lack of skills training over the years although IFP runs integrated financial planning workshops to help with this. Many advisers appear exposed now in an environment where they have to ask for a fee and deliver the service that is going to justify the fee.
FPSB UK also report seeing this with candidates who are going through the financial planner certification process.
Those who have worked to develop their skills have the confidence as to where the value of their service really lies. They can more effectively demonstrate this value to their clients and establish trust, generate more realistic fees for the work that they are doing and build profitable, long-term business relationships
Sue Whitbread is communications director at the Institute of Financial Planning