My business: Designing your future in advance® with lifestyle financial planning

Craig Chapman CFP™ Chartered MCSI, founder and managing director at The Fundamental Group, explains how the firm enables clients to align their wealth with purpose
By Jane Playdon. Photo by Maria Assia Photography

My business June 2020
Craig Chapman CFPTM Chartered MCSI
craig headshotCraig is an experienced financial planner and a Chartered Wealth Manager. He is known for his ability to see past the obvious, translating the contents of a complex conversation into a plan that will achieve the desired outcome.

On behalf of the CISI, Craig assesses and marks financial plans submitted by CFP certification candidates.

Craig recently joined the Family Firm Institute, an association for professionals who serve family enterprises. He is also an associate member of The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).

By has recently completed an advanced certificate in Family Business Advising awarded by STEP.

He lives with his partner Kasia and their Cocker Spaniel, Coco.

When not working, Craig spends his time mountaineering, mountain biking and playing guitar. His lifelong passion is motorsport, in which he has previously competed at international level.
Why did you decide to become accredited and why should others seek to do so?

There is no better way of confirming our ethics, processes and quality to the outside world than to become an Accredited Financial Planning Firm. It demonstrates that despite our size –  we are a smaller boutique firm – the quality of our work is at the highest possible standard in the UK. Other firms should seek to do so as the criteria and requirements to become accredited ensure absolute best practice and demonstrate that true financial planning is being offered to clients.  

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

We are a lifestyle financial planning business. We passionately believe in the power of financial planning and the good that it can do for many families.

We remain small on purpose. This is reflected in the clients we work with; it is very much about quality over quantity. Our trademarked slogan is 'Designing your future in advance®' which captures beautifully what we are about. We don’t rush in with solutions to immediate client problems but instead spend time discovering exactly what future our clients are aiming for and how best their wealth can support them.

Our service is focused on providing personal financial planning to business owners and their families. We have developed this specialism over the years and it is an area that I particularly enjoy. Business families have unique requirements and it’s impossible to separate ‘the business’ from ‘the family’.

We are unique in that my partner Kasia is also a life coach, and her skills and expertise are a great asset to the firm and lead to really meaningful client conversations.

How did you get into financial planning?

I had a varied career prior to financial planning, with a background in engineering and motorsport. I’ve had a varied career since graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2002. I joined the family business in 2009 with zero experience, learning on the job while working my way through exams. In the first few years, the business was very much a transactional service with a lesser focus on financial planning. In 2013, I was introduced to Paul Armson, founder of an online training programme for financial advisers, who changed my perception of what financial planning was about and the immense good that it could create in clients’ lives. Discovering that my newfound passion for real financial planning wasn’t going to fit in with the family firm, I started out on my own from scratch in late 2014. I gained my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification in 2017 and have kept the momentum going ever since. 

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

Giving the gift of listening. Our profession allows individuals and families the space and time to share their deepest concerns and ambitions. Quality financial planners show a level of personal attention and empathy for clients rarely seen in providers of other products and services. It gives me great joy to know that our clients trust me and my team with their family’s future and it is a privilege to be part of their lives.

What are your biggest concerns for your clients or for the financial services sector in general?

For my clients, my concerns are always about their level of preparedness for the future. Do they really appreciate that they will have to fund a minimum three-decade retirement, and that the cost of their lifestyle beyond work is most likely to be a lot more than they anticipate? 

We discuss these concerns at our regular forward-planning meetings, where we aim to get clients back on track with a plan that ensures their future lifestyle requirements are met where possible.

For the financial services sector in general I have many concerns. I believe that the sector as it stands is a ticking time bomb. Many firms have built businesses based on outdated practices, which were tidied up somewhat for the Retail Distribution Review, but are still not providing a service valuable enough to justify the percentage of asset under management fees that are being charged. I don’t think this is going unnoticed and anyone still in this world is very much on borrowed time.

Overall there is still far too much focus on the tools used, the products, the investments, and the funds. It is difficult still for advisers and firms who have a  desire to break free from this world and deliver genuine financial planning with no conflicts of interest. Financial planners are being pulled in many directions by the financial services sector, product providers and the regulator. 

What impact has regulatory change had on your business over the past few years?

Many changes have had a positive impact. We introduced call recording in preparation for the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, and I am also supportive of the recent changes to annual suitability reporting – this is another opportunity for good firms to reconfirm what they are doing and remind clients of this.

What do you like about the CISI?

It is a professional and progressive organisation that is always looking for ways to evolve and add value to its members. It is supportive of financial planning and it balances the interests of the financial planning community and the sector well.
Were you involved in CISI Financial Planning Week 2019? If so, what did you do?Yes, we offered complimentary ‘surgery’ type calls for anyone new to financial planning, which resulted in follow-up calls and relationships being built. I still think we can do more as a profession to raise awareness of what we do, and it shouldn’t just be limited to one week per year.
What does a typical day look like?
Overall, I’m not one for routine, but of course there needs to be structure. I schedule meetings for the morning when possible, as I believe both myself and my clients are fresher. I also try to limit financial planning meetings to two per day as it isn’t possible to listen intently for any longer.

We group client meetings together, in particular our review and forward-planning meetings, which we conduct twice a year. This allows me to work on other key projects and develop the business further. 

I split my time between Aberdeen and London and have clients in both locations. I try to practise what I preach to clients, so I leave plenty of time each day to walk my dog, be outdoors and keep fit. This is especially important during the working week; it shouldn’t just be confined to evenings and weekends.

What are your key tips for other planners?

  • Take inspiration from others but don’t copy. Be authentic and be yourself. Clients will appreciate it. 
  • Find out what type of work you enjoy and who you enjoy serving – then have a laser focus on this.
  • Don’t underestimate the benefit of continuing education and self-development – don’t try to run before you can walk.
  • Try not to take life too seriously. It’s easy to deliver financial planning and make it ‘heavy’ for both planner and client. Be confident in what you do and have fun with it.
  • Keep the focus on your client and constantly think of ways in which you can serve them and add value.
The article was originally published in the June 2020 flipbook edition of The Review

The full flipbook edition is now available online

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Once you have read the print edition, keep coming back to the digital edition of The Review, which is updated regularly with news, features and comment about the Institute and the financial services sector.


Published: 08 Sep 2020
  • Wealth Management
  • Financial Planning
  • Financial Planning Week
  • lifestyle financial planning
  • CFP
  • Accredited Financial Planning Firm

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