Our business: Making clients feel special and cared for
Stafford Wealth Management was the first UK firm to receive accredited status in 2011. Directors Mike Stafford CFP™ Chartered MCSI and Phil Stafford CFP™ Chartered MCSI relate how IFP founder member Paul Etheridge CFP™ Chartered FCSI(Hon) coached them to set their firm on the path to accreditation
by Jane Playdon
Clockwise from top left: Mike Stafford CFP™ Chartered MCSI, director; Phil Stafford CFP™ Chartered MCSI, director; Magda Furman, paraplanner; Victoria Peck, client services administrator; Sam Warner, trainee client services administrator; Pamela Moyo, trainee paraplanner
When did you become an accredited firm? What has happened since?
Mike Stafford CFP™Chartered MCSI
Mike serves on the CISI Financial Planning Forum
Committee and the Accredited Financial
Planning Firms Steering Group. Previously,
he served as a board member of the Institute
of Financial Planning (IFP), which merged with
the CISI in November 2015.
Mike spent the early part of his financial services
career primarily in broker development and management.
His spare time nowadays is generally spent with his daughter
Phil Stafford CFP™Chartered MCSI
Phil’s early career was in banking, including the trustee department of a major bank.
Phil has served on the board of the Financial Services National Training Organisation and the Financial Services Skills Council. She was a member of the Qualification and Curriculum Authority’s Financial Services Training and Advisory Group, and the Small Business Practitioner Panel of the Personal Investment Authority (PIA), which became the FSA and is currently the FCA.
Phil enjoys spending time with her daughter and grandchildren.
On 6 October 2011, ours was the first firm in the UK to receive the new accreditation, under our previous trading name of Stafford & Co. We have since incorporated and split the financial planning function from the regulated investment services. Although they are complementary services, the split brings several operational benefits, such as lower costs and a wider client base.
What has accredited firm status brought to your firm and why should others seek to become accredited?It demonstrates you take your role seriously, which is reassuring for clients. It indicates that how we run our practice is in line with the expectations CISI has for a quality financial planning firm. It also influences staff and gives them standards to uphold and motivation with their studies.
What accolades and awards has the firm picked up in recent times?In the early years of building our practice we entered and won several categories in the [former IFP] Financial Planner of the Year award. We have not entered in recent years as we are concentrating on nurturing our staff to reach their potential. One of our treasured awards was received in 2013 following nomination from our peers for the Lloyds Bank/Scottish Widows Lifetime Achievement Award for services to the financial planning profession. The bronze ‘widow’ has held pride of place on our office mantelpiece ever since.
What sort of business is Stafford Wealth Management and what services does it offer? What’s your USP?We are first and foremost a financial planning practice. We seek to build a strong relationship with our clients and provide a bespoke service while working to a process. We have been working with clients for over 25 years and have helped them to accumulate while building their careers. We are now seeing them reach their goals and move to the next stage of their lives. We have seen them raise their children and now many enjoy being grandparents. It is extremely rewarding to know we have helped our clients to achieve financial independence and we can continue to help them assist their children and grandchildren and plan their estates effectively.
On the regulated side, we oversee our clients’ investments and pensions, and assist in setting up and arranging the investments within many family trusts. We also work closely with local firms of solicitors, helping their clients for whom they hold powers of attorney to arrange immediate care planning.
Our strength is our attention to client service, where all the team strive to make clients feel special and cared for.
How did you get into financial planning?We set up a traditional independent financial advice practice as a partnership in 1986, Mike having had a previous career in life assurance and Phil in banking. Two years later, while attending a conference, we visited an exhibition stand that was manned by a certain Paul Etheridge CFP™ Chartered FCSI [founder member of the former IFP] and became enthralled by his demonstration of how to provide financial planning for clients using dedicated software. We were hooked, but at the time the cost of the software Paul was promoting was beyond our budget. A further two years later we signed up, and in due course joined Paul’s Advanced Planners Group. We were coached by Paul on a monthly basis for the following three years and then we became CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals. The practice has been built on those foundations. In recent years, Phil has coached other financial planners under the Prestwood umbrella.
What’s the best thing about being at a financial planning firm?Seeing many clients achieve their lifestyle goals and ambitions provides huge satisfaction and reiterates every day the value of financial planning. Also, meeting people from so many different professions and careers and learning about them. It’s very rewarding to have helped so many clients achieve their goals.
What impact has MiFID II had on your business?Little or none in terms of client services and relationships, although a small number of clients have been unable to keep pace with the ever-increasing cost of regulation. In practical terms, the regulated side avails of external compliance guidance and this means updating manuals, guides, notices and other documents. We tend to mirror appropriate general guidance on the financial planning side.
What do you like about the CISI?The institute is big enough to make a difference in the financial services marketplace, in raising the profile of financial planning, for the benefit of clients and firms.
Were you involved in Financial Planning Week 2018? If so, what did you do?We get involved every year, usually in providing face-to-face surgeries.
What does a typical day look like?As the practice is built around client service, and client review/planning meetings are diarised well in advance, we invariably deal with a myriad of client issues that can arise on a daily basis. That is probably the typical element. We also have to factor in other activities like CPD, CISI meetings, professional connections and staff training, so no two days are necessarily the same. When we have the opportunity, we will often detour on the way home to visit our grandchildren, who live a five-minute walk from our office.
What are your key tips for other financial planners?Consider how a financial planning practice will look in the future and try to build around your vision. This includes technology, staff, services and locations. We can expect changes in every area of practice, so be mindful and alert to opportunities to advance as they arise. Trying to keep one step ahead is always worth the effort.
This article was originally published in the Q1 2019 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'.