A plan for life

Helping a client to identify and meet their life goals can win financial planners much more than a loyal client, it can win them a true ambassador
by Jill Insley

Wealth managers, financial advisers and financial planners have good relationships with their clients and know quite a lot about what they want to achieve. Naturally, the focus is on their clients’ financial well-being – helping them to manage some or all of their pensions, investments and insurance needs so that they can achieve the lifestyle they desire and protect those they care about. On the face of it, this looks fine. But does this really make clients happy and get them what they want out of life? We all have dreams and aspirations. How can financial planners make their clients’ dreams come true, particularly when those dreams are less about finances and more about changes in behaviour or lifestyle? In those instances, planners may feel less well equipped to help.

In many cases, clients will not have thought in depth about what they really want from life: what they would like to change; what they hope to achieve; and where they would like to be in ten, 20, 30 or 40 years’ time.

With life planning, the adviser uses life coaching to enable their client to explore their non-financial lifetime goals. This could include many things: setting up their own business; achieving a good work-life balance; or gaining financial independence at an early age to enable them to enjoy more time travelling. It’s only once a client’s lifetime goals are identified that an adviser will approach financial planning or advice. 
Identifying goalsAccredited Financial Planning FirmTM Wealthflow refers to life coaching as life transition coaching. The firm’s founder, Duncan Glassey CFPTM Chartered MCSI, learnt how difficult it can be for clients to deal with the sudden acquisition of huge wealth while advising lottery winners. He has put this understanding to good use with his clients, who have assets worth a minimum of £3m and have generally come into money through sudden wealth events such as inheritance, divorce, maturing share options or selling a business. Duncan points out, however, that ‘sudden wealth’ can be a much smaller amount than £3m; it simply reflects a sum of money large enough to eliminate the age old excuse of ‘not enough money, not enough time’.

New clients are encouraged to meet Wealthflow’s life transition coach, Moa Diseborn, who is internationally certified by the International Coach Federation. They can meet individually and with their partners or spouses, to discuss their lives and what they want to achieve. 

Wealthflow offers this type of coaching alongside investment management and financial planning services. These latter services can often involve a client making significant changes in their life, such as taking on new investments or introducing new savings habits. Through life transition coaching, Moa helps clients to identify their values and life intentions and use these as a compass by which to make decisions and follow new directions. Typical questions that Moa might ask include: “What would be important for me to know about you?” and “What’s the worst thing about your current situation?” The responses help Moa to establish what is truly important to a client as, psychologically, our fears and worries are a reflection of this, Moa explains.

Howard and Diane's story

Howard, a civil servant, and his wife Diane, a primary school teacher (not their real names), led active lives raising their three children. Things changed suddenly and dramatically when Howard was involved in a road traffic accident. He had been cycling, was hit by a car and suffered catastrophic injuries. When Duncan Glassey CFPTM Chartered MCSI, of Wealthflow, and life coach Moa Diseborn first met Howard, his legal case for compensation had completed and he had received a settlement sum of £7.5m.

The impact of the accident on their lives, physically and emotionally, led Howard and Diane to participate in Wealthflow’s Life Transitions Coaching service. Until then, Diane, in her role as wife and parent, was taking on the responsibility of ensuring their lives ran smoothly. The pressures on her were, and still are, substantial. She lacked the confidence to make time for herself – something that Howard was aware of and wanted to support her to do. 

Receiving one-to-one support from Moa helped Diane to relax and create more space for her own life. This led to Howard relaxing, less fearful of the impact the daily stresses were having on his wife. Since working with Moa, Howard and Diane have gained renewed strength and confidence from which the whole family has benefitted.

From the outset it was clear Howard and Diane’s financial planning goals were linked to their family life. Their priority was to regain as much as possible of the lifestyle they had prior to the accident. They knew they would need to make changes to their physical surroundings immediately with the purchase of an adapted car, indoor and outdoor wheelchairs and extensive home adaptations. What they didn’t know is whether they could afford to do so while maintaining a substantial portion of the settlement to provide for Howard’s long-term care.

Establishing a flexible lifetime spending plan is one of the most important parts of the financial planning process. It gave Howard and Diane the opportunity to determine whether their initial spending plans were realistic and, long term, helped them to establish a level of care costs that were achievable while providing the help Howard needs.

As a C6/7 tetraplegic, Howard needs extensive personal care and, as a couple, they agreed Diane would not take on the role of primary caregiver. Howard established and runs a care management plan, employing professional care workers and specialist therapists, the funding of which is facilitated by drawing a regular monthly sum from the settlement funds to cover all associated costs.

“The relationship we have with Duncan and Moa is very important to us,” says Diane. “We know our finances are being taken care of but more than that, we feel supported. The life coaching isn’t something we would have considered before but it has helped us enormously and has given us reassurance about our family’s future.”
During the conversation, Moa will adjust her demeanour to one that suits the client and the nature of the conversation. Coaching the parents of a disabled child receiving a substantial medical negligence settlement might require her to take a more gentle and sensitive approach than she would when coaching an entrepreneur selling their business for tens of millions of pounds.

This process allows clients to identify areas that they may choose to further develop, says Duncan. Ambitions range from writing a book to singing in a choir to being politically active. Most people excuse themselves from significant life change through lack of time or money, but following receipt of a significant capital sum, they have the funds to allow them more control over their time. 

Moa does not give financial advice. Instead, she encourages clients to talk about themselves. “Most people are uncomfortable about doing this to start with,” she says. “I assure them that they have the answers and that I am there just to support them in that process. The sessions are confidential – I do not pass on the results to Duncan unless the client asks me to do so.”

Once life transition coaching has helped the client identify their goals, Duncan creates a financial plan for them, carrying out detailed cashflow analysis stretching over several decades to ensure the client’s capital will support their planned expenditure.
Targeting new clientsDuncan and Moa also use life planning techniques to help families and individuals who have special care needs as a result of medical negligence or catastrophic injury. Cashflow modelling is particularly helpful for family members who are scared that a compensation award may run out. “We can show them that it is OK to buy an electric wheelchair or take that much-needed holiday as a family,” Duncan says.

One child – Kieran (not his real name) – received a £6m settlement after medical negligence left him with severe cerebral palsy. He is wheelchair bound with no upper body control and requires extensive support.

Duncan says: “Although Kieran’s parents had anticipated the financial settlement, the receipt of the funds shocked them. They felt unprepared and didn’t know where to begin. Our initial advice was to take some time, recover from the legal proceedings and not make any rushed decisions.”

Life and financial planning spilled over into the parents’ lives because of a very fine line between family life and Kieran’s life needs. Duncan says: “It can be difficult to separate, although necessary from a financial management perspective, as the money received is to support Kieran and not other family members.”

Moa supported the parents with career changes, early retirement and the establishment of a new business selling support aid for families with specialist care needs. She also helped address the emotional impact of having professional carers within the family home, and the potentially negative impact on family life and privacy.

The real value that Moa was able to bring was to help Kieran’s parents isolate what they really wanted emotionally. Often, when faced with a problem, clients will try to solve it too quickly, but fears and doubts will blind them to the best solution. Moa helped Kieran’s parents to identify that, as their son faced the prospect of full-time care, they feared the loss of privacy in their own home. Importantly, as Moa is not able to offer financial advice, she could divorce money considerations from the conversation and this enabled Kieran’s parents to identify their true fears and goals.

Kieran’s money was invested in a globally diversified portfolio, with 30% in growth assets and 70% in defensive assets, the investment objective being to outperform inflation, net of charges. The combination of life and financial planning enabled the family to construct a new purpose-built home with a hydrotherapy pool and sensory room, confident they were doing the right thing for Kieran now while ensuring sufficient capital remained to provide continued support throughout his lifetime. The original court reports suggest Kieran might survive until the age of 45, but his parents hope that these facilities will make him happier and potentially extend his life.

Through life transition coaching, Moa provided Kieran’s parents with the space and support to think through what their son really needed from this new building and reach their own conclusions, free of financial considerations. While a financial planner could help them to enact their plans, they couldn’t help to formulate the right plans to meet their emotional and life needs.
The importance of listeningChris Budd ACSI, founder of Bristol-based independent financial adviser Ovation Finance, qualified as a business coach with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council. He says the skills he has learnt in that role are equally useful for life planning. He uses them to engage in regular, structured conversations with his clients to help them identify their objectives. It also helps to enhance their awareness, skills and behaviour.

He took three sessions of business coaching himself, which changed his life. “It gave me time to think and talk about myself for the first time,” he says. “I realised I was depressed and that the thing I wasn’t doing, and that was important to me, was writing novels.”

Chris started taking Wednesdays off to write, and his depression lifted within six months. He has now completed three books. Coaching skills are now embedded into Ovation’s advice model, with all of its advisers trained in business coaching to some degree.

One of Chris’s techniques in an initial meeting with a client is to keep quiet. “Even when the client is not talking, I will not say anything. I sit there and smile encouragingly. Initially people say what they think you want to hear. But if you keep quiet, their real thoughts and desires start to emerge.”

The difference between life planning and life coaching

Life planning: The Kinder Institute of Life planning defines life planning as a process that “connects the dots between our financial realities and lives we long to live”.

Life coaching: According to the Life Coach Directory, life coaching helps an individual to make, meet and exceed his or her personal and professional goals. This could include excelling in the workplace or being happy and fulfilled at home. Life coaches help their clients to confidently face difficult situations and push past emotional barriers. They will never tell a client what to do. Instead, they will give clients the tools to help themselves.
Chris then asks: “If that happens, what will happen then?” This makes the client challenge their assumptions about what they want to achieve. He cites the example of one couple who thought that because they liked going to London to see art, they should buy a flat in the capital and invest in art of their own. When Chris asked what would happen then, they realised their ambition would result in them having to look at the same paintings every day. Instead they decided to spend money on city breaks to visit galleries around the world.
Learning life planningTony McMenamin, a financial life planner with Serenity Financial Planning in Burley in Wharfedale, West Yorkshire, has worked in the finance sector since 1995, previously for a fund management company, a life and pensions provider and an investment platform. He is now at the beginning of his life planning career, having completed a life planning course at the Kinder Institute. The Institute provides workshops, intensive training and consulting services to financial advisers worldwide.

While many clients who are attracted to life planning are in their mid to late middle age and beginning to wonder if there should be more to life, some of Tony’s clients are younger. “A professional couple in their 30s came to see me because they had just moved in together and had a spare property that they were renting out. The initial reason for the meeting was to sort out their finances, but as we talked it came out that they wanted to start a family and they were on the second course of IVF.”

The couple felt uncomfortable discussing these difficulties with friends and family, but found it easy to bring them up as part of a life planning meeting. Tony enabled them to talk about what they would do if the IVF treatment was unsuccessful, and this gave them insight into what each thought about this. 

“Neither of them had discussed this in detail before, but we discovered that if the IVF didn’t work this time, they would prefer to adopt two children or become foster parents. They both found out things about their partner’s views that wouldn’t have been discussed in the detail that we covered, or at all, in their busy day-to-day lives,” says Tony. Life planning has given them a clear path to follow and they are confident that the decisions they may have to make in the future are right for both of them.

Life coaching as part of the financial planning process is clearly groundbreaking for clients, but it is also transformational for their advisers too. Neither Duncan nor Chris have lost a life-planning client yet. 

Chris says: “If you sell someone a product, you have a client for a short period. If you give them planning around their objectives, you have a loyal client. But if you provide life coaching so they can plan a future they didn’t think possible, you have an ambassador.”

The original version of this article was published in the Q1 2018 print edition of The Review. The print edition is available to all members who opt in to receive it, except student members. All eligible members who would like to receive future editions in the post should log in to MyCISI, click on My Account/Communications and set their preference to 'Yes'.
Seen a blog, news story or discussion online that you think might interest CISI members? Email bethan.rees@wardour.co.uk
Published: 26 Mar 2018
  • Financial Planning
  • The Review
  • life planning
  • financial planning

No Comments

Sign in to leave a comment

Leave a comment