I’ve recently spent a day with some of the most inspired, fulfilled, happy professionals I’ve ever met. All of them are financial advisers. I’m convinced many of them skip to work in the morning and dance home again at night. They love the work they do and the difference it makes to clients’ lives.
I’m talking about delegates at my recent event, BACK2Y, the lifestyle financial planning conference. It’s an independent unsponsored ‘alternative’ financial planning conference that I first put on as a dare, over five years ago.
I was sick and tired of so-called financial planning conferences that were nothing more than a pitch-fest for product providers and investment houses. So, naturally BACK2Y has no sponsors, no product provider investment pitches, no free pens, no free golf balls or iPhone chargers. Instead it’s all about helping clients – and advisers – to get a better life.
Nobody mentioned Brexit. Nobody discussed charges or fund performance. Nobody was fighting. There were both independent and restricted advisers present – nearly 500 advisers from all over the planet. They were all united by one common belief; that our job as financial advisers is to take care of people, to help our clients get the best life possible with the money they have. It is to help clients do stuff before it’s too late, to help clients get a life well lived.
Secret of the profession
Financial planning really is the best, sexiest job in the world, when we do it right. We all know that. The trouble is consumers don’t know.
Most consumers – and sadly far too many advisers – don’t know the difference between proper financial planning and plain old, product-focused and untrusted financial advice. That is until they experience the difference for themselves. If we are to change things, our job is to help people experience the difference.
“The best fund is not going to change a client’s life, but proper financial planning most definitely will”
That’s the only way we will ever build a trusted profession – by breaking the shackles of the financial services industry.
We need to demonstrate that we are interested in our clients’ lives more than we are their money. We need to communicate how our service – proper financial planning – does not depend on the sale or distribution of financial products and investments. These are merely tools in the bag to get the job done.
Moreover, they should know that we have no right at all to advise clients on their money until we know and understand them, their needs, their goals, their fears, their hopes and their dreams.
Here’s the thing. When we have a service that is focused on helping clients get a better life we can help anybody, anywhere. They don’t have to have a need right now for a financial product or investment. When you realise this your prospect list grows immeasurably. All you need to do then is decide who you will permit into your life as a client and how much you want to be paid for delivering an amazing service. It’s your life too, remember.
It all starts by recalling, and communicating, the three important parts of your job:
- Life planning Know your client really well. Be interested in them more than in their money. Ask where are they now in their life, how did they get to where they are now? Only when you understand their story, do we ask where they want to get to in the future. In particular, what sort of life do they have now and what sort of life do they want to have?
- Financial planning Telling people what I call ‘the truth about money’. What needs to happen to get and keep the life that they say they want?
- Financial advice This is your third and least important job. It involves finding the right product or investment, if one is necessary, to get the job done. Ideally this can be kept as simple, painless, low-cost and low-risk for your clients as possible.
When you have a service like this you don’t have to try and knock the lights out each year with stellar performance. You don’t have to keep trying to come up with something new. You don’t have to try to beat the market. You start to realise that the best fund is not going to change a client’s life, but proper financial planning, delivered year after year, most definitely will.
More importantly, for your own sanity, you don’t have to have tedious review meetings focused on performance.
Instead, you have empowering forward planning meetings that remain focused on the two most important parts of your job – life planning and financial planning. The focus each year therefore remains their life, not their money. Their money is there to serve their life, not the other way around.
Let’s make financial planning the most trusted profession and let’s start today. When we all break the shackles of the industry and really wake up to the power and purpose of proper financial planning, that’s when, as a trusted profession, we will all be able to skip to work in the morning and dance home again at night.
Paul Armson is founder of the Inspiring Advisers Lifestyle Financial Planning Online Coaching Programme and co-founder of Life Centered Planners