The Move to a Full Financial Planning World

By: Laura Ripley
Chartered Financial Planner
Handford Aitkenhead & Walker

For many reasons my recent move from an investment focused role to a full Financial Planning one was quite simply the biggest decision of my career. I wanted to add more value to clients’ lives rather than just measuring financial returns.

Here is how it all started, the differences I see, and why it feels like Financial Planning is the right place to be.

When the questions began

I was fortunate to have spent 14 years at a financial advisory firm who was top drawer, they are excellent at what they do and very successful with wealth management. During my time there, investments had become the main focus in my day, managing and monitoring them but also in client discussions.

There was no denying this was a passion of mine, I really do enjoy investment management but, something started bubbling away in my mind about my client relationships; I found myself asking the following questions:

  • Why is my time with clients absorbed with wealth management and why am I focusing on historic investment returns rather than future cash flow and lifetime needs?
  • Why am I presenting it this way to clients?
  • Am I adding value for clients other than financial gain?
  • Are clients measuring the success of our relationship on financial gain alone?

I felt I wanted to do more, to offer more, to add more.

Finding a firm that matched my values

I began my search … well not really a search … there was only one place as I was fastidious with the criteria they had to meet. I got in touch with Alasdair Walker of Handford, Aitkenhead and Walker (the MD) and we spent no less than a year talking about it! It was a big decision on both sides so we all wanted to make sure it was the right move.

Obviously, I knew a bit about their proposition, that’s why I got in touch in the first place but as we talked it became clearer in my own mind that this was at the heart of the questions I was asking myself. HA&W practice full financial planning believing the starting point to client relationship is to understand the objectives they have for their life, and their money, before building a financial plan. They work holistically and comprehensively rather than in one area of a client’s financial world. They spend time assessing the achievability of a client’s goals, and whilst they appreciate that the investment solution is part of that, the key for them is the overall plan and ensuring clients stay on track to meet their objectives. Overwhelmingly it was clear that the value they were adding was not just financial.

So along came December, chuck in a national lockdown and it was time to make the move.

The difference with which clients value the relationship

The ethics within HA&W and my previous firm are the same and they are run by kind, genuine people but the difference I noticed immediately was that the investment strategy wasn’t the focus in client meetings and clients seemed to have a totally different discipline in valuing the relationship. The investments were discussed but the purpose of review meetings is to revisit the overall plan and strategy to reach their lifetimes goals. Clients wanted the reassurance and peace of mind that they were on track. There was very clearly an element of support being given to clients that wasn’t being measured by financial return but was giving them the confidence in their financial future that they needed.

Lucky for me I’ve been given the opportunity to be part of the investment committee here also which means I can keep an element of the wealth management in my day to day role as I do enjoy it. The difference is that I now feel I’ve got the right balance with the client planning; its personally very important to me to have the wealth management role so I have full confidence when assessing solutions for clients but client work here is very different. My preparation for meetings / reviews focuses on the future not what has happened over the last twelve months. I’m spending more time on the planning with clients, this is the bit we can do something about whereas there are many variables in the investment solution that are simply out of our control.

How it feels now

In using a full Financial Planning process, I take comfort in knowing that I’ve assessed a client’s whole situation, I know where the moving parts are, and I have created a roadmap to achieving the client’s goal. The investment solution is still in there and I do take time to discuss this with clients but its part of the overall strategy not the main focus of it. This feels right for me.

The full financial planning proposition is in my opinion providing clients with a complete service and adds value that is not all measured financially.


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