The Power to Change Lives

By: Anthony Villis
Managing Partner
First Wealth

We adopted a Lifestyle Financial Planning approach in 2014, and we haven’t looked back. It’s brought energy to our business and developed a sense of doing something incredibly worthwhile; helping change people’s lives in a positive way. It really has changed everything.

We had set up our business five years earlier, and grown quickly, had great clients, a beautiful office in Marylebone and were very profitable.

But, something was missing. We weren’t enjoying work much, and we had done the same thing for twenty years. It was the financial advice equivalent of Groundhog Day. Every meeting seeming to focus on the latest thoughts on the stock market and what was going to happen to the Euro.

We were struggling to articulate why we were different

In hindsight, that difficulty in articulation stemmed from the fact that we were doing the same as everyone else. Focusing too heavily on investments and tax planning.

We felt frustrated. We felt bored of ourselves and we couldn’t see how we could take the business forward. We had a choice; to stop what we were doing and do something else, or to redefine what we were doing.

We had the desire to change, but where and how to start?

Our first light bulb moment happened when we received a well-timed email from Paul Armson, founder of Inspiring Advisers Online. This helped us identify that there was a different and better way of doing things. Paul’s messages about Lifestyle Financial Planning and the truth about money really resonated with us.

Paul also referenced a couple of great books: Simon Sinek Start with Why, and the E-Myth by Michael Gerber.

Start with Why?

Most business can tell you what they do and how they do it, but not WHY they do it. Businesses that are successful can articulate their why!

This delivered our second light bulb moment; let’s define our why and build our whole business and brand around our why and Lifestyle Financial Planning.

The E-Myth talks about why small businesses fail

These businesses are set up by technicians who have no management or vision! The technicians end up working harder than ever, running around like headless chickens. Sound familiar?

Our third light bulb moment; we need to build this business to have structure. I can perform a visionary role and bring in a management layer.

Immediately I got it, clarity of what had to be done. Get really good at Lifestyle Financial Planning, build a brand and business around it with structure! Suddenly everything was clear!

After watching all of the Inspiring Adviser videos, with a little trepidation, we approached our first proper Lifestyle Financial Planning Meeting!

I had my first client review meeting and my clients loved it

It all made absolute sense. They were interested and delighted with what we were saying. The bucket analogy we used is incredibly powerful in helping clients understand what we can do for them.

Probably most important, great Lifestyle Financial Planning is really great fun. We’ve found our clients to be so engaged, and they love talking about the bigger picture stuff, rather than the outlook for Japanese equities (yawn).

We had found something that we could become really passionate about; something we believed in, something really worthwhile.

Every First Wealth client now receives full Lifestyle Financial Planning. The confidence it has given us is amazing, and I have never known so much positive energy in the business. We are really excited about the future.

As a business, we make time to share the success stories we have with clients, to share the occasions where clients have had their own light bulb moments. This makes sure that all of the team can see the value in what we are doing; increasing energy and making everyone understand just how important their role is within the business.

The number of referrals we receive has increased, and the quality of the referrals has changed completely

If you think about it, if your USP is solely investing clients’ money, then if its does well, performance will be good, and you may get a referral from a client in two or three years, if and when things have been good. There’s a long lead in time and there is a lot left to chance.

With Lifestyle Financial Planning it’s easier for clients to assess the impact of your advice. We have been getting quick referrals from our bigger clients who love the clarity the process brings to their decision making progress.

After a long period doing things a certain way, it’s not easy to change everything. You need extreme, unwavering clarity on what you are doing and why you are doing it. This is not a quick win, especially working around current client advice and other commitments. There is going to be some pain along the way!

We used Gino Wickman’s brilliant book Traction to help us transition to a full Financial Planning business

The book helped us organise our thoughts, and define our vision, our core values and our why.

It is vitally important to communicate our Why, Vision and Core Values to our staff. They need to know why you are making changes and the benefits to them and our clients.

Don’t expect everyone to get it! Be prepared for some objections and issues. For example, “I’m finding the softer questions and skill sets harder to learn”, or “My clients don’t want or need Lifestyle Financial Planning”.

We applied Wickman’s People Analyser to our existing team and their roles in the business. Did they get it? Did they want it? Do they have the capability to do it?

It was like a natural shake out! It was amazing that the people who we didn’t think would commit had all pretty much gone within six months. This was brilliant as it allowed us to recruit people who share our why, vision and our core values; individuals who want to be part of something special and have the desire to excel in their career.

Systems and processes are critical

One thing we realised early was that we had to clearly define our way of doing things. What does the whole Financial Planning process look and feel like from start to finish? You can’t just say, “right we’re lifestyle financial planners now, go”!

We believe systems and processes are critical to building a scalable Financial Planning business. I am proud to say that we are obsessed about process at First Wealth!

Every aspect of client service is documented

In 2016 we also made a significant hire in our first dedicated Practice Manager who oversees the consistent delivery of our Client Journey.

Every aspect of client service is documented, and activities have been created in our Client Relationship Management System for the each stage of the Client Journey.

Having everything documented helps with standard emails outlining our services, meeting confirmation letters and we have a standard Your Financial Planning template to ensure all aspects of Financial Planning are covered by our advisers. It means nothing is missed. We also schedule all ongoing service activities and timings of valuations.

We mapped out a rough script for how we should talk to clients

We practiced with each other. We looked at different questions, and worked on ones that we liked and thought about others that would lead to good discussions. It was really important for us to be authentic (to be yourself); we would only use questions we were comfortable asking.

It’s really important to practice. The advisers role-played, made mistakes, learnt what worked and what didn’t and built confidence in our new approach.

Not every prospective client is going to get it, or in fact want Financial Planning. Carefully select the clients who you will know will benefit form the process, and will be willing to pay for your advice.

In his classic book, The New Financial Advisor, Nick Murray talks about having a limited number of prospective clients who you will allow onto your Financial Planning Ark. Choose those people wisely. It’s well worth a read.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We listen, learn, soak up great ideas and put them into practice.

I feel that we’re in the midst of a quiet revolution of Financial Planning excellence in the UK. We talk to other financial planners, we attend conferences, read books, listen to podcasts, look at what’s going on in the US, and if its feels authentic and will add value to our proposition, we go for it!

Anyone in doubt, I urge you, give Lifestyle Financial Planning a go. It will change everything!


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