1. Focus on growth
Financial planning is a significant growth area for the CISI, according to Institute chair Michael Cole-Fontayn MCSI. Financial Planning Forum membership has risen from 2,000 in November 2015 to 4,883 (as at 23 December 2019). “As a board, we believe it’s the future as an increasing number of wealth managers and investment managers adopt this client-driven approach and integrate it into their business,” Michael said at the conference, adding that “we are committed to continue the growth of the financial planning profession.”
He urged financial planning members to contribute to this growth by encouraging the next generation of financial planners to commit to the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional pathway, launched by the CISI in May 2019, and to mentor them through this process. Achieving CFP™ certification can help members “show the world what good financial planning looks like”, Michael said.
Jacqueline Lockie CFP™ Chartered FCSI, head of financial planning at the CISI, agreed, adding, “If you are not a CFP professional yet, commit to becoming one and play your part in growing this profession. Let’s really make a difference, not just on a UK scale, but on a global scale.”
For Martin Ruskin CFP™ Chartered MCSI, client director at Paradigm Norton Financial Planning and chair of the CISI’s Financial Planning Forum Committee, achieving CFP certification is the pinnacle of what it means to be professional within the financial planning sector. “To take all the technical mumbo jumbo and put it in a format that helps a client to improve their life considerably is a huge privilege,” he said. “What gets me out of bed every morning is doing the stuff I do for clients and seeing their lives change. I still love that even though I have been doing it for nearly 30 years.”
2. Adopt new technology, but proceed with caution
Extraordinary advances in technology, which enable innovations such as robo-advice, are helping to make financial advice more accessible and affordable. And, as a younger, digitally native generation prepares to inherit the wealth of its baby boomer parents, using technology to connect with these new wealth owners will be more important than ever.
“In a time of the highest standards of living in the developed world, there has never been more need for financial planning,” said Michael. “The challenge is to address the advice gap in the younger generations with the use of technology.”
However, tech watchers warn that we should proceed with caution. Jamie Susskind, author of Future politics: Living together in a world transformed by tech, said, “Increasingly, algorithms are used to make decisions that affect our lives, from job applications to our access to credit, mortgages and insurance. But we don’t know how these algorithms work or who writes them and what values they code into them.”
Jamie cited the example of online retailer Amazon, which used artificial intelligence (AI) to find patterns in the CVs of those most successful in the company. The idea was to use these patterns to filter job applications. However, Amazon had been a male-dominated workplace at the time of the exercise, leading AI to believe that being a man was a necessary prerequisite for success at the company.
“We need to stop looking at technology not just as customers or companies but as citizens,” said Jamie. “We need to scrutinise technology in the way we scrutinise political power. Is this a system that’s going to treat people fairly, or does it make us less free?”
3. Fix your firm’s culture
Philippa Hann, a partner at law firm Clarke Willmott, has spent the past three decades taking legal action against financial advisers and represented many of the workers at the Tata steel plant in Port Talbot, south Wales, who were found to have been misadvised to transfer out of their defined benefit pension scheme.
While breach of contract is often the basis for a legal claim against a financial adviser, it is frequently the culture of the advising firm that lies at the heart of the problem, Philippa said.
“At the 32 firms where there are claims or complaints ongoing in Port Talbot, their contracts will not have saved them,” she explained. “Do I think these are bad people? Do I think there happened to be 32 firms in south Wales where there were bad advisers? No, I don’t.
“Our own internal biases contribute far more to the risk that any firm carries in relation to professional negligence claims than any contract could put right. For me, those firms didn’t have any checks and balances in place, they didn’t have key performance indicators, they weren’t having the right conversations.”
Philippa urged financial planners and financial advisers to consider the behaviours they are tolerating in their firms. Are colleagues being let off compliance because they make a lot of money? Or are they being forgiven for not writing their attendance notes because they’re good with clients?
“It’s really important that you take a closer look at yourselves and say, are we going to tolerate this or are we going to make a change? And what are we going to change?”
4. Be a beacon for good practice and good behaviour
In 2019, Anna Sofat, founder of women’s wealth specialist Adidi, launched ‘Are you in?’ – a movement focused on transforming the financial services sector into one that is inclusive, transparent and improves the wellbeing of everyone. The movement encourages members who join to make one of five pledges, one of which is to commit to being the beacon for good practice and good behaviour in the financial services sector.
The pledge has resonated with many financial planners, including Martin, who said every financial planner has the potential to be a beacon, leading others on the path to good practice and behaviour. However, that potential can often be dimmed by the daily pressures of work.
Engaging with fellow financial planners and helping the public to understand the value of financial planning through initiatives such as Financial Planning Week can help to relight your beacon, said Jacqueline. “I would like the CISI’s financial planners to commit to being beacons and to playing their part in building a great profession,” she added. “Each of us has that power in the way that we behave, the way we think and the way we interact with each other.”
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