My business: True success

Andrew Brook-Dobson CFP™ Chartered MCSI, managing director at Brook-Dobson Brear, helps clients lead successful lives through a combination of life planning, financial planning and wealth management
by Jane Playdon

Andrew Brook-Dobson CFPTM Chartered MCSI

Andrew holds multiple qualifications in financial planning, including the internationally recognised CFP certification.

He served two terms as board director to the Institute of Financial Planning and chaired its Ethics, Practice Standards and Disciplinary Committee. He sits on the CISI Integrity & Ethics Committee.

He is a firm believer in leveraging the power of financial planning over product-related financial advice and founded bdb on this ethos.

Andrew has since grown the business to become one of the UK’s leading financial planning organisations that considers money as an enabler for its clients to live life to the fullest while also enjoying financial security.
Why did you decide to become accredited and why should others seek to do so?

We wanted to network and be associated with our peers. To learn from them, to help them learn from us, to tackle together shared challenges.

What accolades and awards has the firm picked up in recent times?

We prefer to maintain an outward focus on clients and their outcomes; helping them make positive improvements to their lives, adding real value and delivering a remarkable client experience rather than an inward sector focus.

This seems to have been hugely effective: we have a Net Promoter Score of 100 (the highest score in an index measuring willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services), massive client engagement, high referral rates and lots of goodwill. We’ve decided this external measure is the way we wish to be judged.

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

Our mission is to “help couples lead truly successful lives, not just materially successful ones”. True success is different for every person and couple and we have the ability, skills and tools to help clients identify what that great life looks like and what obstacles are in the way of making it a reality. We coach them through overcoming those obstacles and understanding how their money sits in supporting that life. We help them become financially organised, and build and implement a tactical financial plan to ensure that their money is working efficiently with the appropriate level of risk. We specialise in doing this for executives of large companies and entrepreneurs three to five years pre-exit.

We offer one service that encompasses the three elements: life planning, strategic financial planning, and tactical financial/wealth management.

How did you get into financial planning?

In 1992, I finished my time at Cambridge doing a PhD in materials science. I needed a job, and I got one as a financial planner with an American Express subsidiary called Acuma. It was way ahead of its time, offering a fee-based financial planning service. We were doing a sophisticated lifetime cashflow even then. It’s funny now looking back because we often struggled with getting people to ‘buy’ a comprehensive financial plan at £295!

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

We change people’s lives beyond measure. We add so much intangible value that it’s difficult communicating that to prospective clients. We also add loads of tangible value, but saving 100bp on your investments won’t change your life!

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

There are several:

  • When we consider the recent defined benefit pension misselling, it looks as though little has changed since the 80s and 90s; the lessons of that pension misselling scandal seem not to have been learnt. I’m uncertain whether this is down to a lack of integrity, a lack of competence or a combination of the two.
  • Even after the Retail Distribution Review (RDR), we see reports of ‘advisers’ who are more like salespeople, representing the interests of the firm, not the client. Only an independent financial adviser can be the client’s representative and identify what’s best for them. The sooner we start getting that message out the better.
  • The number of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals in the UK – I hope that the revised assessment process will be the start of significant growth.
  • I have a long-standing concern about how the general population gains access to quality financial advice and quality financial planning services. There are some fantastic advisory businesses out there, but they tend to focus on serving the more affluent in society.
  • From the work we do with our clients’ youngsters, it is evident that the formal education system is not equipping them with the financial knowledge or skills they need for the life ahead of them.

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

Not too much really:

  • RDR was largely a non-event at Brook-Dobson Brear (bdb): we already held level 7 qualifications, we have always been fee based and not taken commission, we were already and have remained an independent firm.
  • Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II: we have invoiced our clients for many years, so cost disclosure from our perspective and discussions about our ‘value’ have not been an issue. One of our clients gave us some fantastic input regarding how we could communicate the investment costs and this has gone down really well.
  • General Data Protection Regulation has required a little bit more work: about six years ago we identified that the reputational damage resulting from a data breach would be significant and we went about reducing and managing that risk. We introduced procedures and made changes to others to ensure that data was being handled appropriately, and did some streamlining so that we know where information is being held. Without this knowledge you can’t be sure that you’ve deleted it all if someone exercises their right to be forgotten (or ensure that it’s stored securely).
What do you like about the CISI?

The continuing professional development resources are outstanding. I enjoy my continued involvement in the Integrity & Ethics Committee and the capability and professionalism of the team running that area are exceptional. What are your key tips for other planners?

  • Always put clients’ interests first (even when it’s inconvenient or has negative implications for you).
  • Build empathy: that ability to ‘walk in another person’s shoes’.
  • Build your technical knowledge with exams: the CFP certification is the most important and transformational qualification you are likely to do.
  • Build your people knowledge: how we make decisions, how we struggle (and overcome obstacles), how to influence, how to help people, how to coach people, how to communicate.
  • Build your self-knowledge: meditate, do the Belbin Team Inventory behavioural test (team role traits), the Kolbe personality test, the Gallup StrengthsFinder. Understand yourself.
  • Learn to prioritise and say no.
  • Read: there is so much great work out there, but very little of it appears on any qualification’s curriculum.
The full article was originally published in the February 2020 print edition of The Review

The full print edition PDF is now available online for all members. 

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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: 31 Mar 2020
  • Wealth Management
  • Financial Planning
  • General Data Protection Regulation
  • GDPR
  • Mifid II
  • Retail Distribution Review
  • CFP
  • Accredited Financial Planning Firm

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