My business: Connecting with clients emotionally

Ian Painter CFPTM Chartered FCSI, managing director of Affinity Integrated Wealth Management, talks about balancing emotions and budgets

Ian Painter CFP Chartered FCSI
Ian has been a financial planner for nearly 30 years, and is independently ranked in the top 250 independent financial advisers in the country (VouchedFor spring 2016). He specialises in comprehensive financial planning for the at or near retirement market.

He is also a director of another advisory business and is on the National IFP Forum Committee and the management committee of the CISI’s South East branch.

Ian has helped develop many unique strategies and processes to enhance the efficient running of the business. He helped the company achieve CISI Accredited FirmTM status, and has also helped it grow, completing three separate practice buyouts to date.

He is always looking for further opportunities to add value and experience, and has attended numerous financial planning, investment and coaching courses both in the UK and abroad, which enables him to bring an international perspective to financial planning in the UK. He holds a number of specialist professional coaching qualifications.
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When did you become an accredited firm? December 2014. We were already chartered and we felt being accredited added kudos and differentiated us from other financial planning firms.

What has accredited firm status brought to your firm and why should others seek to become accredited firms?

It is a positive differentiator in the marketplace. But tangible benefits are hard to quantify from a client’s perspective.

What sort of business is Affinity Integrated Wealth Management and what services does it offer? What’s your USP?

We offer at or near retirement planning services to our clients. We believe we are one of the few offering true, comprehensive financial planning in Kent. By that, I mean not just cashflow planning but also in-depth emotional discussions – I am a qualified life coach and master neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner. This helps me to communicate with clients in different ways and to understand how best we should communicate with them – different people have different communication and learning styles; for example, some are visual and some are kinetic. If I find that our communications are not quite hitting the mark, I will change tack and try using a different methodology, perhaps a chart or diagram instead of a table of figures. We will also mix up our language rather than sticking to one style. For example, we may ask a client how they feel about something, how something sounds to them, what something looks like – we make sure our communication methods, whenever possible, match their preferred style or are provided in multiple ways. I am a very visual person; I love big images, coloured charts and the like, but many of our clients are engineers and they much prefer lots of tables of figures backed up with lots of facts. Having clear communications also means that we can encourage our clients to take the recommended actions quicker and with greater understanding on their part than perhaps may otherwise be the case.

Above all else, for me, the NLP helps me understand people better, to connect with them on a deeper level and to understand that any frustrations or concerns they may have are very genuine to them, no matter how irrelevant they may seem. It encourages more listening than talking. My NLP and life coaching training also help me with techniques for challenging and questioning clients without appearing confrontational. The same applies for members of our team, too. It is never perfect, of course, but I am proud of the way in which we have integrated all my learnings into the business.

How did you get into financial planning?

Back in the 1980s personal pensions were launched, and I was effectively sold one along with some life cover and a savings plan. I had already held my own very small stock trading account and had taken part in the public offerings of the time and held some unit trusts. I think it was my interest in money and my desire to make some more of it that encouraged my adviser at the time to recruit me into a direct sales role. I went from a good salary working in London to being commission-only overnight. After around two years of having hugely variable earnings I decided it was time to take on a more stable role, so I joined the independent financial advice arm of Nationwide Building Society, which was a different kettle of fish altogether. The requirement for more exams and greater professionalism really started to take off then, and Nationwide gave the support and platform to do this, as well as a more stable salary and benefits package. I took the case study assessment and became a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional. I found going through this process to be hugely beneficial and I realised just what financial planning should look like for my clients. I’ve done it that way ever since.

What’s the best thing about being at a financial planning firm?

I love having a deep connection with clients. In my early financial planning days a couple came to see me saying they wanted better investment performance. One had had a heart attack and a stroke and the other had multiple sclerosis. Understandably, they were worried that if something happened to one of them, the other could struggle financially, hence the need for better performance. I told them that we did financial planning and it was not about chasing better returns. When we went through the full financial planning process I told them that they would be financially secure for the rest of their lives, no matter what happened, and in fact they didn’t need any more growth to achieve their lifetime goals. Quite the opposite, they just needed to protect what they already had. I felt that I had made a real difference to their lives that day. They are both still doing well and enjoying life as best they can.

What do you think about the IFP/CISI merger?

I think the jury is still out. However, there is lots going on behind the scenes and notably the continuing professional development events are vastly improved on IFP days. This is the biggest change. But members need to attend these events to see tangible improvements. If they don’t go, they won’t see the positive change for themselves.

How have you been affected by the FSCS levy?

It’s almost criminal looking at how it’s funded. The basis of the good paying large sums for the rotten apples is just not fair.

What does a typical day look like?

I participate in the Strategic Coach Program – a coaching programme for entrepreneurs that  covers efficient time management; having a clear business vision; knowing your market; packaging your services; expanding your thinking as well as your business; all sorts of issues that may arise. Following this method,   I group certain tasks together on certain days to make my work more productive. I have focus days where I have client meetings and concentrate on client work. We have weekly team meetings to keep everyone up to date with what’s coming up. We also have a separate pensions business, so some of my time is spent attending to that. Notably, we do not really market ourselves externally; all our referrals are via word of mouth. Marketing is something that we need to be better at.

What do you think about Financial Planning Week?

I have not previously taken part because I thought that I had to offer full financial plans for free. I do not offer this amount of time or work for nothing but I am happy to get involved in other ways, like providing case studies.

What are your key tips for other planners?

  • Take the financial planning case study and become a CFP professional – it will change your life.
  • Never stop learning – go on as many courses as possible.
  • Attend the annual conference – learn lots and meet great people.
  • Take time to consider what you offer as a business and think through how you will deliver that to clients.
This article was originally published in the Q2 2017 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'.
Published: 10 May 2017
  • Financial Planning
  • 25th anniversary edition

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