My business: Looking after a small number of clients well

David Gibson CFPTM Chartered MCSI, director at Gibson Financial Planning in Northern Ireland, has achieved a good work-life balance that benefits both himself and his clients, who are at or near retirement
by Jane Playdon

David Gibson CFPTM Chartered MCSI
David graduated from Queen's University with a law degree and shortly after joined the family firm, W.J. Gibson & Co in 2001. He set up Gibson Financial Planning in 2010.

As a CFP professional, he is committed to the highest standards of financial planning and has a strong desire to constantly improve, adapt and embrace change. 

He chairs the steering group of a local charity, which was set up to provide support for adults who have experienced trauma and need support to work through their situation. 

When did you become an accredited firm? What has happened since?

In 2013. It was the obvious next step after achieving CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM certification. The fact that it was a relatively small number of firms overall who had achieved the accreditation really appealed as it sets us apart and truly demonstrates a commitment to the financial planning process.

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

I often wondered how our firm’s processes stacked up against much larger and notable firms of financial planners. The decision to go for it was based mainly on a desire to see how we compared and where we could improve, and the process was successful in highlighting those areas. Putting myself out there for potential criticism and assessment isn’t something I relish, but I am never comfortable standing still and always try to improve by making small, incremental steps where possible. For me, becoming accredited was as much about getting confirmation we were up there with the best as it was about gaining a market differentiator.

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

We are clear that our target market is for clients at or near retirement. Our clients will generally be 55+. My dad, who started the firm, naturally had clients his own age, and when I began to take financial planning seriously, I realised our client bank was of a certain age, so I tailored our services for them. I find that retired people are a perfect match for us – they are looking for a safe pair of hands, don’t want the hassle of looking after their own affairs and value what we do for them. I was determined from the outset to strike a good work-life balance and retired people can come in to the office during working hours, which helps!
Delegate and outsource where possible. This frees up loads of time and keeps stress to a minimum

How did you get into financial planning?Like many, I fell into it. When I graduated from university with a law degree, the plan was to work in a clothes shop for six months and travel for the next six – I had decided not to pursue law because the thought of spending the rest of my days conveyancing or dealing with company law didn’t appeal. After six months at the clothes shop, my dad offered me a job. I sat in on meetings with my dad and the other advisers, receiving on-the-job training while also completing a certificate in financial planning. I qualified within a year and started off advising on mortgages but never enjoyed it. In 2010 my wife and I took a trip to Nepal with the expectation that we’d both change direction/jobs/location. The opposite happened and we realised what we had back home. At that point I began to take the lead at the firm and my dad began to ease out of the business. I took a hard look at how we did things, what we did and what I wanted to do. We were always looking for new clients, and I realised that capacity might be an issue, and that my preference would be to look after a smaller number of clients well. Simply telling them how their investments had performed over the past year wasn’t going to cut it, so the holistic financial planning approach using cashflow modelling seemed like the best way forward. We rebranded the firm, I achieved my CFP certification and gradually introduced financial planning to our clients. Now that’s the core of what I do.

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

This might sound clichéd but I genuinely get a sense of fulfilment at work and a lot of that comes from seeing the positive impact we can have on a client’s life. For sure there are times I want to bang my head on the desk and there are not so good days, but I’m lucky that I do enjoy my work.

What do you like about the CISI?

It’s still early days, but I do get the sense that the importance of true financial planning has sunk in and that this is a professional and large organisation with the power to make a really positive difference to our profession.

What does a typical day look like?

I have a four and a six-year-old at home and almost without fail my clients tell me to make the most of them at this age as you’ll never get that time back if work is your main focus. I try to take this on board. I’m usually in the office for 8am – I’m fortunate to live three miles away so I waste very little time commuting. I find that it’s a very productive hour when the phone doesn’t ring and no one else is there! I try to incorporate a mindfulness session in my daily routine and usually slot it in this hour too. I’m addicted to cycling and compete in time trials, and, as such, I train six days a week. I am being coached and I have a training plan to follow each week. I fit this training into my schedule – usually late morning or over lunch or late afternoon. The majority – 90% – of our revenue comes from existing clients so most meetings are about ensuring that they are on track and keeping up to date with their circumstances and plans.
What are your key tips for other planners? I’ve adopted as much technology as I can in the business, and delegate and outsource where possible. This frees up loads of time and keeps stress to a minimum. Figure out what part of your job you love and what you don’t like. Offload what you hate doing or change how you operate.

This article was originally published in the Q2 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'.
Published: 02 Aug 2018
  • Financial Planning
  • Accredited Financial Planning Firm
  • CFP
  • work-life balance

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