Profile: Bringing dreams to life with financial planning

Martin Ruskin CFPTM Chartered MCSI, head of business development at Paradigm Norton Financial Planning and chair of the CISI’s Financial Planning Forum Committee, talks us through his career and the challenges the financial planning sector is facing
by Bethan Rees 

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Martin Ruskin CFPTM Chartered MCSI, chair of our Financial Planning Forum Committee, will be speaking at the CISI Paraplanner Conference in June 2018, and he warns that it might get a bit heated. “I think I’m likely to get it in the neck with my session, as it is aimed to be a no-holds barred ‘discussion’ about the good, the bad and the ugly of how to face and overcome differences of opinion in the working relationship between financial planners and paraplanners. I’ll be taking my flak jacket,” he jokes.  

Encouraging dialogue is an important part of his role as chair of the committee – he aims to ensure that all committee members’ voices are heard and that the CISI is supported in growing the profession of financial planning for the benefit of its members and the wider community. 

Martin took on the role in January 2018, when Ian Howe CFPTM Chartered MCSI stepped down from the position. One key objective of the forum is to grow the financial planning profession and number of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professionals in the UK. “We have started to see a far greater percentage of candidates passing the CFP examination. This is a result of a combination of factors, including the introduction of five-day training courses and improving the assessment process,” he says. “We also are excited about the commitment of HSBC to develop an international initiative for their most senior planners to undertake CFP examinations. They are looking to put through 200 in the UK alone later this year.” 

Martin has played an active role in the CISI since 2015, when he joined the newly formed Financial Planning Forum Committee as deputy chairman. The committee meets to discuss issues under Chatham House rules. “One of the principle advantages is that it makes for clear, honest and open dialogue. Everyone can feel free to say what they think and express their views irrespective of the position they hold or the company they work for,” says Martin.  
Challenges in the professionWith 28 years’ experience across three firms in financial planning, Martin is a good gauge of how the sector has changed and the trials it faces. He says one of the biggest issues is getting younger people to choose financial planning as a career. “With the average age of an adviser still hovering around 55, it is imperative that we create a rewarding career path that is recognised as being a viable alternative to other professions,” says Martin. 

Another issue it faces is promoting the good work that financial planners do. “Clients often tell us the huge benefit that a financial planning professional has had on their lives. It is so important that this message gets out there. The CISI is doing some excellent work via social media and promoting the sector through Financial Planning Week,” he says, “although, there could also be a more joined up approach with other professional bodies to help both restore trust and confidence and provide examples of the value the financial planning profession provides.”
"A good financial planner can be the difference between someone living the life they’ve always wanted, and missing out on this"For example, financial planning can impress upon a client the significance of balancing the needs of today with those of the future, he says. “The key is to help [clients] define what kind of life they want now and in the future, and the costs of both. Part of our role as financial planners is to then help define how much that is going to cost and put in place a structure to help them achieve their desired life. It is a far deeper conversation than asking them ‘how much can you afford?’”

The necessity for this is highlighted by a recent survey by YouGov, on behalf of the CISI, that shows an ignorance surrounding pensions. Although 57% of respondents know what a pension is, 40% don’t know how one works. 

Martin says he was surprised by these figures, despite all the attention given to workplace pensions over the years. “It highlights the need for greater financial learning within our education system and targeted marketing via social media of the benefits of saving for later life. We need to make planning and saving as simple as possible and highlight the benefits of financial planners being a good steward of our money,” he explains.

“A good financial planner can be the difference between someone living the life they’ve always wanted, and missing out on this. It literally can be life enhancing. Someone once described my job as a ‘dream maker’.  I really like that.”
The road to financial planningMartin’s career path to being a ‘dream maker’ has been relatively structured and stable, although financial planning isn’t what he originally set out to do. He wanted to join the police force after leaving school, but says his eyesight didn’t meet the standards required. 

He ‘fell’ into the financial sector after applying for a customer services job at RJ Temple, a financial adviser firm. The role he was actually offered was overseeing the unit trust dealing desk. This was an administrative role, processing unit trust transactions on behalf of clients. It was at this point that he became interested in a career in financial planning and, because it wasn’t compulsory then for firms to fund staff study for qualifications, Martin committed his own time and funds to study for a certificate in financial planning. From his role on the unit trust dealing desk, RJ Temple trained him on the job to work with the fund manager of the firm’s broker funds. After two years, he was promoted to assistant fund manager. In this role he headed up the sales support function, giving advice and guidance to the firm’s financial planning managers, and dealing with clients directly, offering them financial advice on their capital investments.

“The firm looked after approximately £50m in broker funds,” Martin says. “I learnt about the science of investing, but also witnessed how random it is and how luck often seemed to have quite a large part to play in the returns being generated.” For Martin, this later developed into an investment philosophy. “It’s centred on capturing, as efficiently as possible, market returns and not trying to second guess what might happen in the future,” he says. 

In 1999, he joined Medical Money Management as a financial planner, and eventually became a partner. Here, he started to see the benefit of helping clients make good decisions about their money and not get financially swept away by the “changing fortune of their lives”. As a measure of this, Martin still has clients from 20 years ago who have been through situations such as divorce, bereavement and retirement, and have been kept afloat financially through the use of financial planning. “If we can take the worry out of money, then we are doing a really good thing,” he says. 
Martin Ruskin CFPTM Chartered MCSI CV

2018 – present: CISI’s IFP Professional Forum, chair

2010 – present: Paradigm Norton, head of business development 

2000 – 2010: David Jones, director

1993 – 2000: Medical Money Management, partner 

1988 – 1993: RJ Temple, assistant fund manager 

In 2000, he joined David Jones Financial Planning as a financial planner, and later became a director. Martin was friends with David, who was a member of the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP – now merged with the CISI) and a CFP professional. David encouraged Martin to do the same. “This started off a series of light bulb moments,” he says. “Within the IFP, I found a community that was willing to share best practice and had a similar mindset to us in terms of the centrality of the client and value of the profession to the wider community. In undertaking the CFP certification, I saw the power of a clear process for defining, illustrating and keeping in check the financial future of a client.”

In 2012, Paradigm Norton acquired David Jones, and Martin’s role transformed into the head of business development, which is specifically in relation to its joint venture with a regional firm of solicitors, Wollen Michelmore, and sits alongside his role at Paradigm Norton as planner for a number of private clients.

“I genuinely believe that financial planning can be an incredibly rewarding career, where you have the privilege, and responsibility, to become intricately involved in the lives of a very diverse range of people, from every walk of life, often with incredible stories to tell. Because of you and your skills and knowledge, they are able to entrust their financial future, and the financial future of their children, into your hands.” 

Look out for our case study by Martin Ruskin in the Q2 2018 edition of The Review. He describes how he helps his elderly client receive the care she needs without having to sacrifice her family home to pay for it.
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Published: 23 Apr 2018
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