Fixing Problems or Enhancing Lives. Where would you rather be?

By: Scott Millar
Financial Planner
First Wealth

From leaving school in 2015, I worked for two financial advice firms whose clients were British expats heading back to the UK after spending varying periods of time overseas.

My role was to help these clients align any financial products they had accumulated in the various jurisdictions they’d worked in with UK regulatory needs. They came back with their own unique challenges. My weekly routine slipped into moving clients from a commission-based model to assets under management.

Our actions were product focused

I felt we were only rectifying problems that should never have been there in the first place. It was not exciting and most importantly I felt there was something missing. Was all this truly helping our clients? It did not feel as though we were making the impact we should have been.

When I joined First Wealth in 2018, I kept saying to myself, “Why hasn’t everyone been doing it this way?

Before First Wealth my focus was on the money and the best ways to grow client wealth with no great purpose in mind. This has no real impact and led to me questionning myself about the value I was really bringing. I am sure the clients were questioning this too.

Experiencing great conversations with clients is key

At First Wealth, I was fortunate enough to work with several great advisers early on in this part of my career. I shadowed both of our directors, Anthony Villis and Rob Caplan. This experience allowed me to see first-hand that the key to providing great outcomes for our clients is to ensure we are having great conversations by asking impactful questions.

We must focus on asking meaningful questions to truly understand our clients, their background, their philosophy, their motivations and only by having these conversations can we work with our clients to find the correct solutions. It’s about getting to grips with each individual situation and prioritising what needs to happen today to make their future aspirations a reality. By doing all of this financial planning suddenly becomes life enhancing. Not just for clients but for you too.

We must be the best financial partner for our clients, we must encourage our clients to live a fulfilled life. I’ve learnt that in order to drive this profession forward we must keep our mind open to new ideas which enhance how we provide advice. We have a duty of care to our clients to embrace change if this will lead to better outcomes for them.

Only by creating advocates for this profession will we be able to change the culture of financial planning.

 If you are interested in becoming a Financial Planner, this is how I’ve done it:

Finding a firm like First Wealth

My first step was to join the next gen community, a great group of financial advisers, paraplanners or those entirely new to the profession who are all striving to learn and provide their clients with the highest level of advice and service.

NextGen hosts numerous roundtable events where an individual who has set the standard, talks about their experiences and what we can learn along the way.

This is how I ended up at First Wealth. I attended one of the events after hearing about them from a close friend. The speaker was Robert Caplan, director of First Wealth. What Rob spoke about resonated with me and my values so much that I contacted First Wealth to enquire about opportunities and they recruited me.

Qualifications

I have now completed RO1-R06, various gap fills and AF exams and I’m on the route to becoming a Chartered Financial Planner.

Reading has been important:

  • Start with Why
  • Financial Planning 3.0
  • Organised Minds
  • Rebel Ideas

Professional bodies

For me personally, I believe the Personal Finance Society and the CII is the most beneficial route to becoming a qualified financial planner. The knowledge we learn through these exams is invaluable to understanding how to help our clients. However, it is one thing passing an exam and it is another to apply it correctly. Technical knowledge is one part of the puzzle. Equipping yourself with interpersonal skills is also essential.

Knowing when you’re ready to work with clients is very personal

For me I’ve always enjoyed the inter-personal element of financial planning and speaking with clients. I find really helping clients discover what matters most to them liberating. I don’t feel I need to reach Chartered level before conducting a client meeting. It’s all about personal expereince, shaddowing others and building the confidence. From a compliance view, authorisation is needed to allow you to conduct meetings by yourself without the need for a mentor/supervisor.

The client feedback has been good

From what I’ve learnt and put into action, focusing on the client first, the lifestyle and the motivations we are trying to achieve rather than the money is extremely refreshing for clients. They appreciate and understand this approach

Some clients question: “What was my adviser doing before?”

I believe everyone should have a financial plan

It’s a cliché I know but a ‘goal without a plan is just a wish’.

We must help individuals have a basic understanding of the fundamental principles of finance, to enable them to have financial freedom and live the lifestyle they want. This must start with education in schools and area I aim to be more involved in alongside First Wealth’s education initiative ‘Lets Talk About Money’.

I encourage more people to become advocates

It’s going to take a lot of people to encourage the change we want to see, to create a culture within the profession. A client rather than money focus that is joyous, inclusive, optimistic, trustworthy and impactful. To empower people to live the lifestyle they want, to be free from financial concern and to focus on what matters most.

Effecting a culture change

For culture to truly change we must continue to challenge ourselves and each other. We must embrace technology and not be complacent with ‘but we’ve always done it this way’.

However, it goes beyond just technology, the way we give advice and ‘flexible working’. Other professions have been providing that to individuals for a long period of time. We must look to other industries / professions who are driving the change we want to see, we must constantly be taking on feedback for all areas of our business:

  • What is our mission, our vision
  • Are our values inclusive/diverse
  • How do we nurture new talent, promote radical transparency, embrace our failures and have open discussions about how to improve
  • Are we making a difference to the wider community
  • What do we offer employees – do they value this?

Fixing financial problems or enhancing lives – where would you rather be?


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