The Next Generation of Planners

The story about how I ended up in Financial Planning is probably similar to most people in the profession: I got there by accident. I was always interested in Finance and liked the idea of giving advice to people, so when I stumbled across Financial Planning on the Mazars recruitment website, I was curious to find out more.

After starting this job, it soon became apparent that I’m fascinated by the psychology of people when it comes to their finances. Money is a very complex and emotive subject; a study by University College London confirmed that you are seven times more likely to tell a stranger about your sex life than discuss what’s in your bank account.

The key differentiator

The advice process is reliant on being able to obtain high-quality and in-depth information about a client so that you can provide an appropriate solution to meet their objectives. It’s therefore in the client’s interests to be open and candid, however we still see that this often isn’t the case.

I believe this is what differentiates the good financial planners from the great financial planners; how do you get someone to reveal their financial worries, their concerns, their ambitions in order to help them understand and ultimately achieve their lifestyle goals? I’ve been fortunate enough to have exposure to many different planners at Mazars who are very adept at this. However, this doesn’t happen overnight.

Soft skills

Over the last four years, I have been encouraged to dedicate a significant amount of time to improving my soft skills. One of my mentors explained that she’s continuously trying to better herself by improving this side of her skillset. This demonstrates that you’ve never truly finished developing a person, as there are always aspects you can work on.  

I’ve also come to learn that outstanding technical knowledge doesn’t necessarily help a client with their problems, what’s equally important is how this is communicated. The irony of this is that you spend countless hours studying for an exam and how to answer the questions, only for you have to completely rethink how to explain this information to a client, ideally in the fewest number of words possible.

‘Case study scenarios’

This represents a gap in soft skills which is bridged over time as you start to gain more experience. From my experience, the training scheme that I have been part of over the last four years has helped me to recognise that it takes time and a considerable amount of input to develop someone towards a finished product.

During the second and third year of the graduate scheme, we were introduced to ‘case study scenarios’ where we were given selective information about a client and then questioned to see how we would approach the situation from both a technical and a non-technical perspective. In other words, identifying if we could uncover the client’s needs, their aspirations, spot the planning opportunities and then how would we discuss this with the client to lead to meaningful actions.  

The reason I found this so beneficial was because I was learning from my peers and several different planners from around the country – it wasn’t just something I read in a textbook! This gave me exposure to lots of different styles and ideas and over time it has helped me to start to establish my own style so I feel confident, rather than looking to replicate someone else.

‘Role plays’

During the fourth year of the graduate scheme, we were introduced to ‘role plays’, where we learnt how to build trust with a client, when and how to ask open/closed questions and how to approach difficult topics such as divorce and death. An aspect I found particularly challenging was being comfortable with silence during a meeting; I previously felt the need to fill the silence, particularly if I was feeling nervous. However, over time, I became more confident in this respect which helped me feel more relaxed in client meetings. I also learnt that sometimes it is what isn’t being said that can help you get to the source of an issue.

Concerns remain over the average age of financial advisers in the UK, coupled with the lack gender and ethnic diversity in the profession. People are living longer, face ever-changing legislation, have more financial freedom and are facing more choice than before.

It’s essential that we are reflective of the clients that we will serve in the future and therefore reaching out to the next generation of planners, helping them with training, guidance and knowledge transfer is key so we are well equipped to advise clients and help them achieve their long term goals.

For me training to be a Financial Planner has been so much more than passing exams and learning from a textbook, its equipped me with a different skillset that I hadn’t realised I possessed, its challenged me on many levels and its made me want to focus on how I can be better.