Were you ever at some event or other which didn’t involve people who worked in your industry and you get asked by people who never met you before:
“Well, what do you do?”
I have to admit that, as someone who is not as outgoing as most people, I used to find this question somewhat awkward, even though I am self employed and my business depends on growth through new client relationships. Despite being involved in the financial services industry for 40 years my apprehension was based on coming up with something succinct that was meaningful to anybody listening. Sometimes I used to say “well it’s really boring but …”. Alternatively, I might just tell them that I am a “financial adviser” or “investment adviser” assuming that most people would think that I am just involved in selling life assurance or something similar and dread the subsequent look of “Oh” as if I was about to launch into a line like “do you need life assurance” or some other awful business pick up line.
As with most things in life, confidence in one’s own abilities can wane from time or time or through an apparent lack of appreciation of what we do. The truth is that we are a well established business and well respected by our peers – the latter point is justified by the number of calls I get from competitors from time to time who look to pick my brain so that they can run their own businesses better.
After much head scratching I came up with:
“I am a Financial Planner who helps people make Smart decisions about money.”
This is a deliberate reference to the mnemonic SMART which is used to help people set goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-constrained. All of these attributes are encapsulated in the way we work.
In my discussions with new clients (and even some discussions with existing clients that I remind from time to time) I emphasise that 95% of our client interaction is spent on getting to Know the Client in a deep and meaningful way and 5% is spent on arranging product to meet what is really important to them. Our advisory view is that the more an adviser knows about their client the more likely their advice can be tailored specifically to their needs.
And in tailoring to these needs a key element is managing Trade-Offs and getting clients to think about the possible future alternatives. This means creating a strategic plan that helps our clients achieve their financial and lifestyle goals in an effective and efficient manner. Key to this is developing a personalised Lifetime Cashflow Model. What, I hear you say … “a Lifetime Cashflow Model?”
Put simply, this is akin to producing a business cashflow statement but instead for an individual family’s circumstances and over a far longer period.
Of course no business budget is sacrosanct as indeed is no lifetime cashflow projection. Even from the day after such forecasts are produced, they are already possibly out of kilter. What they are, however, is a starting point to make decisions which provides our financial clients with a framework for smart decision-making, allowing them to explore alternative courses of action and pre-empt potential obstacles. Sometimes the advice that we give is to diversify investments (always a good strategy!), reduce personal expenditure, plan for lifetime income or indeed all of these.
Having come up with a strategy, the key element is to implement the Financial Plan and involves the more traditional financial advice about tax planning, protection, retirement planning, financing and investments coming into play.
Having implemented the necessary financial arrangements we provide ongoing service and support, including meeting with our clients regularly in order to review their objectives and ensure that they remain on track.
So the essence of what we do is simple. Our clients come first before product sales and we ensure this by providing a fee based service. Our remuneration is not driven by how much we stand to make from our advice but how much value we can deliver to our clients irrespective of a product purchase.
Our ability to offer very experienced financial advice means more to us than bank balances and spreadsheet projections. By providing a purpose-driven financial solution that aligns our clients financial position to their personal goals, objectives, dreams and aspirations we enable them to enjoy a truly rich and fulfilling life.
That’s what we do!