How I digitised a life planning proposition

As coronavirus causes swathes of the population to go into long-term isolation, how can a business based on conversation, questioning and listening stay active? One life planner has made the jump already.

By Steve Conley 20 Mar, 2020

‘Imagine if you or your loved ones were diagnosed with a deadly flu strain?’

This is actually a quote from a book I wrote, Your Money or Your Life! The question that followed, was not: ‘What would you do?’ The question was: ‘What did you not get to do?’

A financial planner like me might ask such a hypothetical question to set life goals for clients, when planning the client before planning the money.

Hopefully for the vast majority of us it will never come to that. But the coronavirus should certainly remind us that no one will be around forever, and you cannot predict what is around the corner.

But what a challenging time this is. Not only regarding daily living, but also the downstream impact to money: people watching the value of their life savings plummet as well as their earnings from social distancing, not to mention work-from-home policies and community shutdowns.

Never mind wealth. For now, it seems to me that everyone should just focus on survival, in every area of their lives: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

As advisers, we must continue to focus on providing our clients with uninterrupted, timely and relevant information to allay their fears and do what we can to help them navigate these difficult times.

Yesterday the government announced a dramatic escalation in its coronavirus strategy. Anyone who can work from home should, and anyone who is in a vulnerable category (over 70, ill or pregnant and anyone living with such people) must now stay at home for 12 weeks. 

So as our clients are sat at home with Netflix, stocks of loo rolls, hand sanitiser and pasta, and nothing to do, what should we be doing?

Planning without walls

Luckily for me, my business operations are uninterrupted by Covid-19 because I can provide planning anytime, anywhere, online.

I don’t run a robo-adviser, but nor am I an FCA-regulated financial intermediary. I’m a non-intermediating financial planner. A chartered financial planner. And a registered life planner. I sell plans.

Placing a wall between advice and product has very much simplified things for me and my clients. For example, there is no verification of identity. No forms to be signed. No client money involved. One major plus is the streamlined operations enabled me to service my clients on-line, around-the-clock, globally.

I work from home. In Spilsby, near Skegness. Social distancing for me is an hour from the nearest motorway.

I talk to clients in their home, or work or when they travel. I conduct my meetings and content share on the Zoom video telephony system. I chat via the real-time messaging system, WhatsApp. I file share on WeTransfer. I place lifetime cash flow forecasts at clients’ fingertips with Voyant Go. 

Technology doesn’t dehumanise interpersonal interactions. I have long been impressed by the Online Adviser, since I was Head of Investments at HSBC a decade ago. The ‘First Direct’ team of IFAs had the highest customer satisfaction scores in the bank, the best suitability metrics and the highest productivity rates in the group, and were dealing with customers by video telephony systems. I was impressed by the client-adviser connection. The relationship was deepened and strengthened by empathic engagement and the focused attention of a call, coupled with tapping into imagination, intuition, and impulse. These were truly trusted advisers, where clients associated better with the content when compared to face-to-face.

I’ve moved around the country as a financial planner ever since. First Lancashire, then Yorkshire now rural Lincolnshire. Being an on-line adviser has given me flexibility and mobility, whilst helping me to maintain stronger client relationships. It even increased my client’s ability to access me. Last month I facetimed clients in Singapore, Cape Verde and California.

Gen Z and Millennials are ‘up’ for virtual advice.

Gen X and Baby Boomers less so. That is, until Covid-19 quarantines came along. Now the iPad adviser seems mainstream. Business processes can be more highly integrated and streamlined. Tasks can be run more smoothly. Operations and communications can be simplified. Security improved. Cloud collaboration enhanced. Efficiency expanded – as time and cost of ‘the-car-as-my-office’ is cut out.

The downside? No pressing the flesh or bumping elbows, breakfast networking, or playing for the 20th hole. It’s more stressful and lonelier. But, given the dramatic shift in our landscape, perhaps now’s the time to reskill and go geek.

Steve Conley is a chartered financial planner, and runs The Academy of Life Planning.

See article: Citywire/ New Model Adviser 20th March 2020

The Perfect Storm: Thoughts on Interpersonal Leadership

What helped me to become one of the financial services industry’s top proposition architects for over a decade (2000 to 2012) was Stephen R. Covey’s HABIT 4: WIN-WIN published in 1989.

Win-win is a leadership theory about human interaction, there are six interaction paradigms; namely, win-lose, lose-win, lose-lose, win, win-win, and no deal.

Win-win is the ultimate goal for the interpersonal leader, the best of all of the paradigms. By focusing on achieving win-win rather than just hoping for a win for yourself, you are seeking benefits for everyone, not just yourself. It is the balance point of self-focus and others-focus. Ego and non-ego. Yin and yan.

The theory goes that, when looking for a solution to a problem, looking for the win-win solution is always your best option, that way, every party will be satisfied and happy with the outcome. In business, every stakeholder will be satisfied.

The philosophy is, life isn’t a competition, it’s a collaboration.

Interpersonal leadership requires the fundamental habit of thinking win-win. By focusing on mutual benefits, you need to be self-aware and well-practiced at considering others.

Some might say, you also need to be courageous and speak up, because a lot of the time you will find yourself dealing with someone who is more aligned with the win-loss habit (self-enhancing).

You also find yourself dealing with someone who is more aligned to loss-win (overly altruistic/ self-transcending).

In both of these situations, you have to push your win-win attitude and it may not be easy.

Financial Services

The problem in financial services is that it is the least trusted of all industries. And ‘trust’, what matters least to bankers, matters most to their customers.

Bankers are more aligned with the win-loss habit. More often than not, all stakeholders other than the bankers, lose. Bank customers lose.

I pushed my win-win attitude in the banks. The bankers pushed me out in 2012.

Since then, I have continued to campaign as a volunteer for win-win in financial services. For example, as the founding leader of the market integrity team of the transparency taskforce. The change will take several decades, I am told on good authority.

I have also run my small and independent win-win business. The trouble is, it wasn’t easy, the customers firmly believe the lies of the banks. They fear change. And, my business as a result has largely been a no-deal one! But then two years ago … when writing my book … I discovered 7 more habits!

Natural Cycle from Creation to Manifestation

Then I discovered the Seven Hermetic Principles: The Principle of Mentalism, The Principle of Correspondence, The Principle of Vibration, The Principle of Polarity, The Principle of Rhythm, The Principle of Cause and Effect, The Principle of Gender.

Win. Loss. Are mental.

To Win we must think Win. To lose we must think loss.

The truth is Win. Loss. Never rests.

Where there is a Win. There is a Loss.

We Win. We lose. In a rhythm. Like a pendulum.

Win causes loss. Loss causes win.

In every win there’s a loss and in every loss there’s a win.

From this I created the Natural Cycle from Creation to Manifestation: Think win. Believe win. Feel win. Act win. (repeat) Think win. …

Believe win, is the idea you have or problem you seek to solve. Start here.

Feel win is considering the lose-win scenario. Consider others.

Act win is bringing the idea into being.

Think win is considering the win-lose scenario. Consider self.

Repeat in this order, the productive cycle. This takes us to a win-win scenario. Thinking of others first before we think of self.

In reverse order the cycle is exhaustive and takes us to a lose-lose scenario. Thinking of ourselves first before we think of others.

If we miss a step, the cycle is destructive and takes us to the no deal scenario.

Applying it to Financial Services

The idea is to manifest Trust.

Think of the customer. What do they want? For example, charge fairly.

Do that.

Make it work for you. Pay yourself a fair wage.


The Perfect Storm

The problem is a confluence of weather conditions combined to form a killer storm. Global wealth turmoil in stock market volatility. Global health turmoil in covid-19 pandemic.

Think of the customer. Health, wealth fears – coping strategies and reassurance.

Provide it.

Make it work for you.

The fundamental truth is, we must first be self-transcending and then we must be self-enhancing.

Repeat. Evolve.

Regulation and the non-regulated adviser: How they operate and how to become one

The Financial Conduct Authority refer to advice-sellers and non-advice sellers, as they focus on financial intermediation and product providers. There’s a new breed of adviser emerging, as financial capability levels rise through information sharing, the dangers of absence of walls between advice and product become more apparent and greater regulation applies cost pressures on the advice industry. This new breed of adviser is the non-sales adviser. Here I share details on the non-sales adviser, how they operate and how to be one in an overly regulated environment.

I have spent the last decade studying the trusted adviser model. I have learnt that the greatest value the adviser can add is in the advice they give and not the product they sell. As a result, I no longer sell products to my clients. We at the Academy of Life Planning have chosen to be non-regulated advisers, that is we are “non-sales advisers”.

What I mean by non-sales is, we sell financial plans – not particular products or providers.

Here at the Academy, we place a wall between advice and product.

There has been a continuous drip, drip, drip of untrustworthy behaviour in the financial services industry over a very long period of time.

The Transparency Taskforce say:

“… for many reasons and in many ways the Sector’s reputation and therefore trustworthiness has been damaged, terribly. Numerous scandals and incidents of malpractice – perpetrated by rogue individuals (think Maxwell, Madoff et al); or dodgy behaviour in particular organisations (think Equitable Life, Wells Fargo etc.); or entire parts of the market (think endowment mortgages, transfers out of Defined Benefit pension schemes, PPI and so on); and even complete market collapses that have led to a decade of austerity for innocent people (think the last Global Financial Crisis); have all contributed to the erosion of confidence in Financial Services.”

The common theme in this erosion of confidence is sales. Remove sales, problem solved.

If all a firm does is advise, they are not required to be regulated. Here we explain the difference.

If you would like to know more about regulation and non-sales advice either for personal exploration or as an introduction to becoming a Non-intermediating Financial Planning practitioner, please contact us for details.

Tell me more about non-sales advice …

We do non-sales advice at the Academy mainly because, this way, your best interests are always served, without muddying our relationship with conflicting interests such as commissions (or their synonym – percentage-based or contingent adviser charges deducted from products).

Have you ever thought to question why an adviser should be paid according to the amount of product they sell, rather than the amount of work they do?

Some might argue, that the wealthier the client the more work needs to be done and the greater the risk to the firm. And, that many firm expenses are variable according to assets under management rather than clients. I would argue that it takes 10 hours to deliver a financial plan under the advised sale route, regardless of how wealthy the client. And, simply because firm suppliers charge by assets, doesn’t make it right.

We are fees-based, non-sales advisers. That is, we charge a fixed fee based on the work we do. This way we offer our clients an assured fiduciary relationship. The relationship wherein we have an obligation to act for your benefit.

We do this by delivering generic advice and financial education without our interests conflicting with those of our clients.  I call this advice, ‘non-sales advice’.

Our ‘non-sales advice’ service offering is like an advised sale process in many respects. Only the financial intermediation is missing. Our method is packaged into a four-step process called the G.A.M.E. plan and includes:

  • Goal setting.
  • Action & project planning.
  • Means analysis & lifetime cashflow forecasting.
  • Execution through personal & business coaching.

The GAME plan is therefore simply a goals-based financial planning system.

What’s the difference? Firms can offer either sales or non-sales advice.

The term ‘sales advice’ relates to the adviser giving you advice about a service or product you hold or they’re selling. I call this style of service, financial intermediation. The sales adviser is an agent of the provider(s) of the products they sell. The client conversation is product-oriented, and transaction centred.

In sales advice, incentives are often in place relating to if, or how much of, a product is sold. Interests between adviser and client are therefore conflicted. A transaction in the adviser’s interest can be made and dressed up as suitable, in the absence of any obligation to act in the client’s interest.

For example, sales advisers may be recommending products with an ongoing advice requirement, potentially instead of more suitable options that do not have ongoing fees.

Characteristics of sales advice include the adviser:

  • explaining why the particular product or provider you hold, or they are selling, would meet your demands and needs; and
  • giving a recommendation of a course of action relating to that particular product or provider you hold, or they are selling, tailored to your needs.

In short, as long as the sales adviser can evidence that the product they recommend would meet your demand or need, it matters little that more suitable options exist on which they wouldn’t be paid.

What do sales advisers avoid?

Fiduciary responsibilities. It is extremely rare for a sales adviser to undertake to act in the client’s interest.

In non-sales advice, the adviser does not make any personal recommendation relating to a particular product or provider and leaves you to decide how you wish to proceed.

For example, the non-sales adviser provides financial planning followed by generic information, which may include a recommendation that you should buy investments (without mentioning a specific product or provider). That recommendation is unrelated to the sale of a contract. There are no product agencies in place and the conversation is very people focused. Conflicts of interest are avoided. Fiduciary responsibilities are maintained. This is non-sales advice.

Characteristics of non-sales advice include the adviser:

  • setting personal goals – establishing your demands and needs.
  • giving you information and generic advice about the particular products or providers you hold or are available to you via sales advisers or directly.
  • giving a recommendation of a course of action relating to your finances (without mentioning a particular product or provider), tailored to your demands and needs.

What should non-sales advisers avoid?

The adviser requires specific permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) if they want to give sales advice to you, i.e., if they are the FCA registered and regulated sales adviser/ intermediary. If the firm is set up to only give non-sales advice, they need to be careful not to stray into sales advice territory.

If the firm can only provide non-sales advice, such as is the case at the Academy, they must have sufficient controls to prevent advice staff trying to persuade customers to take out contracts and giving sales advice.

In the absence of regulation, non-sales advisers also need other ways of evidencing expertise, experience and ethics to their clientele.

People giving non-sales advice need to avoid answering questions in a way that could inadvertently give sales advice. Answering questions such as ‘what do you think?’, or ‘which one is best?’ when relating to particular products or providers could involve making a personal recommendation and therefore become sales advice.

There is a slight glitch in the landscape. Not all sellers are regulated. Sales advisers are in general registered with and regulated by the FCA, unless the particular products and providers they sell are unregulated. Our recommendation for retail investors is to best avoid sales advisers of unregulated products and providers, as therein lies unacceptably high levels of risks and potential scams, as you can see from the work of the Transparency Taskforce.

When asking a non-sales adviser for their opinion on a particular product or provider they will give information and generic advice about it. Facts not opinions. They will also share public recommendations. The non-sales adviser can’t make personal recommendations about a particular product or provider. That is, they can’t present it as suitable for you. They can, however, share public recommendations.

At the Academy, we do not make any personal recommendation of a particular product or provider. We leave it to the customer to decide.

Our expectation is that our clients can make well-informed, self-directed investment decisions based on sound financial education, supported by our information, generic advice and the sharing of public recommendations. In this respect, you could say we are more teachers and coaches, than advisers.

For example, many of our clients choose to self-invest in a broadly composed portfolio of stocks, with the absence of futile stock-picking effort (i.e., choose passive funds), because of empirical evidence of public recommendations we share supporting this approach.

Such as …

“It is exceedingly difficult, even for a professional investor, to beat the market by trying to predict stock-price movements in the short term. Therefore, it is much better to invest in a broadly composed portfolio of stocks instead of engaging in a futile stock-picking effort.” – American economist Eugene Fama.

As Andy Hart said this week in Money Marketing:

“Quite frankly, managing the assets is easy. Investment management is largely a solved problem, only complicated by our ever-present desire to be seen as clever and sophisticated. When all’s said and done, investment management can be summed up in a sentence: own a globally diversified portfolio of equities and bonds, ideally more equities.”

In summary,

 Client ProsClient ConsAdviser ProsAdviser Cons
Sales AdviceThe advice is regulated, offering some form of protection.Interests conflict, and your best interests are not assured.Established marketplace, with which clients are familiar.Negative cost and market participation drivers.
Non-sales AdviceInterests are aligned, and your best interests are assured.The advice is un-regulated, meaning you must check for yourself.Positive cost and market participation drivers.Niche marketplace, with which clients are unfamiliar.

The Financial Conduct Authority (GCA) is bound by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) to regulate certain financial activities. A firm would probably need to be authorised by the FCA if it was a financial services firm carrying on regulated activities, or if it was a firm offering loans, car financing deals or other consumer credit. The Academy does not carry out such activities, nor do we offer such services.

Firms would require FCA permission to carry out activities specified by the Regulated Activities Order 2001. We at the Academy do not carry out regulated activities.

Further details of the FCA regulations can be found in:

PERG 8.23.1 G 01/07/2005 RP

Under section 19 of the Act (The general prohibition) no person may, by way of business, carry on a regulated activity in the United Kingdom unless he is authorised or exempt. The meaning of regulated activity is set out in Part II of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001 (the Regulated Activities Order) (as amended). Any person who breaches section 19 of the Act commits a criminal offence for which the maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

On a final note, my good friend George says:

“There should be a wall, between advice and products, between advice and large institutions, and between our regulators and large institutions. We need an integrity that is impeccable. Until we actually institute a way of bringing good heart, great integrity and a fiduciary relationship that is sustainable into the industry, we are going to fail. We have to make this change, and we have to make it now.” – George Kinder, father of the financial life planning movement, 2019.

My mission is to teach non-regulated financial advisers how to give meaningful non-regulated financial advice.

If you are interested in becoming a Non-intermediating Financial Planning practitioner see our ongoing Mentorship at £49 per month. This includes:

  •  Quarterley meetings via video call with Steve
  •  Unlimited availability to get in touch with Steve if problems arise
  •  Peer group structured mentorship programme.

For more information: Visit the Academy of Life Planning

Google: the “Wild West” of Independent Advice

When all you are looking for is the best advice or best outcome for your finances.

Investors face ‘wild west’ in hunt for independent advice, is the conclusion of Telegraph Money 22/02/20; As lead generators that advertise on Google against such terms as “find an independent financial adviser” pass the details on to restricted advisers, such as Tilney and St James Place.

The suggestion is that restricted is a sales focus, as restricted advisers are paid to sell certain products, whereas the independent financial advisers (IFAs) are “better” and “should give the best outcome” as they can choose technically from the whole funds market; Though in practice a dedicated analyst chooses the product for them.

Here’s the thing. The vast majority of Independents – whose fees are contingent on product sale or a percentage of product sold – are also “paid to sell product”.

And, the independents aren’t actually “independent” of product providers, at all, so long as they hold “agency agreements” with product providers, which all financial intermediaries do! That is, all regulated financial advisers are not strictly, i.e., contractually, “independent” of product providers in the true sense of the word, and unless they are the rare breed called fixed-fee financial advisers, their focus is on sales too.

The West just got wilder!

 So! here’s the real shock…

When a member of the public goes on to the website looking for “better advice”, or the “best outcome”, their details are passed on to agents of either a few or multiple product companies, where the focus is principally on sales.

And, conflicts were highlighted in an Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) paper published this week, the financial intermediary regulators, which said: ‘We have concerns that advisers (restricted and independent) may be recommending products with an ongoing advice requirement, potentially instead of more suitable options that do not have ongoing fees.

Here are some safer alternatives.

  1. The fixed-fee, fiduciary financial adviser.
  2. The non-intermediating financial planner.

The former charges a fixed fee for the job. The fee is not contingent on product sale or amount of product sold. Furthermore, the adviser takes an oath to place client best interest first. If you are using an intermediary, whether they be restricted or independent, check that they have a contractual obligation to place your best interest first and are rewarded without conflict of interest by way of biased incentives.

The latter is not an agent of product companies, they are not therefore regulated. They are therefore unable to give advice to you on whether to buy or sell a specific investment. They can give generic advice and financial education. This is often referred to as the ‘non-advised’ route.

With the non-intermediating financial planner, you must check on their experience, expertise and ethics, to satisfy yourself of the character of the adviser as a regulator would have done if they were regulated. This should be clear and obvious from their bio, social presence and reputation. And, check too their fiduciary responsibilities under their terms and conditions.

“But, I want someone to pick a good product for me.” You might say.

Here’s the thing …

American economist Eugene Fama under his efficient-market hypothesis concluded:

“It is exceedingly difficult, even for a professional investor, to beat the market by trying to predict stock-price movements in the short term. Therefore, it is much better to invest in a broadly composed portfolio of stocks instead of engaging in a futile stock-picking effort.”

In short, product-pickers don’t add value after fees are taken into consideration.

It is proper financial planning that adds real value.

According to the FCA’s Sector view for 2020, ongoing restricted and independent intermediary advice charges have increased by 19% to £3.4 billion in 2018.

I do hope these clients are receiving proper financial planning and aren’t simply paying for product-picking. Or worse, paying without receiving any ongoing service whatsoever.

Non-advised saves the cost of intermediation. 60% of non-advised consumers choose to use platforms to build their own portfolio from a wide range of funds and shares.

How? With generic advice and financial education:

Like the Good Money Guide,

Morningstar fund research and insights

The Evidenced Based Investor

Or Which? Guide to money and investing.

It’s not that difficult to set up a good, low-cost self-maintaining, broadly composed investment portfolio in less than an hour. And, simply not have to think about it.

And save 1% per annum on intermediary charges, by going non-advised route.

For example, Which? found in their report with £500,000 worth of investments in a ‘moderate’ risk portfolio, a reduction of 1% per year in total charges amounts to a saving of £75,000 over 10 years, rising to £240,000 over 20 years.

What you need though is a financial educator you can trust, so you can judge the good information from the financial pornography of Google’s Wild West.

The Wild West in hunt for advice.

The Peddler and the Planner

“What I want from you,” said the investor. “Is to do better than the market.”

The Planner turned to the investor and stated, “I can’t do that, but I can put in place a plan to make you happy.”

“I want you to make me rich, not happy.” Replied the investor.

The Peddler stepped in, “We specialise in financial planning supported by investment strategies that achieve market-beating results.”

“How much does it cost?” asked the investor.

“Well with my schooling, my boisterous marketing hype, my pseudo-scientific evidence, my social influencer (a shill) … up to 2% per annum more than the market.”

“Bargain.” Replied the investor.

“After 25 years, that’s 50% of your life savings gone up in smoke.” Cried the Planner.

The Peddler laughed and left town before his customer realised, he had been cheated.

American economist Eugene Fama under his efficient-market hypothesis concluded:

“It is exceedingly difficult, even for a professional investor, to beat the market by trying to predict stock-price movements in the short term. Therefore, it is much better to invest in a broadly composed portfolio of stocks instead of engaging in a futile stock-picking effort.”

Still there’s a big market for futile stock-picking effort, drastically overpriced and falsely advertised. Strangely allowed. Even preferred by enthralled investors, surprising this day and age.

I educate my clients. I help my clients understand how things work. They then avoid miracle elixirs.

A wall between advice and product is a wall between planning and intermediation. If you split a firm like this and allocated revenues to where value is really added, you’d see that a stock-picking business isn’t viable when there’s market integrity.

Be a Planner.

Join LinkedIn Group for details Non-intermediating financial planning network #NIFPN

The Peddler

The Times They Are A Changing: What’s the outlook for Financial Planning for the next 10 years.

Come gather ’round people wherever you roam and admit that … the old order is rapidly fadin’.

What financial planning is becoming in 2020’s is very different to what it has been. It is becoming more like … well … “planning”.

What it was – the 2010’s.

Maybe financial planning used to be very returns focused. Financial planners would talk to eager eyed punters about moving investment returns beyond market performance. The financial planner, out of necessity following a series of scams and scandals, was a financial intermediary registered and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, in order to protect the public from the products pushed. The financial planner was once a product pusher.

Perhaps financial planners were essentially salespeople.

Potentially their worth was all tied up in the product.

The principle value-add they placed in front of their bewildered clients was based on returns they had absolutely no control over. At any instant, they would be obsessed over whether the return line was up or down. They placed their entire worth in the products they sold and how well they did or did not do.

Possibly the goal the financial planner set for their client was making more money.

The client would ask the financial planner to “help me maximise my returns”.

The financial planner would try to beat the market. They would focus on returns. Of course, they had no control over them. So, they would take an inappropriate level of risk or handpick stocks in a fruitless effort to beat the market. They failed miserably. As half of the market always failed and those that won this year did so by luck and soon became next years failures (or cunningly hide their disappointing returns).

Their pitch was all about performance. There publications, financial pornography.

The financial planner would bore their clients talking about their products and the performance. They talked money. They talked just about returns.

When it came to the review, the conversation would be about what had happened. It would be about the performance relative to this or that. The client would talk about an aspect of their portfolio. For example, they might ask the financial planner to review their pension. The financial planner and the client, all they would care about is the stock market. The product. The investment.

The old financial planner would charge a fee contingent on a percentage of product sold plus an indecent ongoing percentage of assets under management, rarely justified by service delivered. The fee structure was vague, and the client didn’t know the full cost.

What it will be – the 2020’s.

Picture this. The new financial planner will care about their worth to the client. They will describe planning as holistic. They will care about how best to coach the client and support them with their financial plan, that’s as robust as possible.

Here, they define life goals and help the clients to make the most of their money.

Imagine this. Their worth is in the plan.

What if the new financial planner is a behavioural coach? They act as a coach and mentor to keep their clients on track with their plan. They aim to understand their client and their needs. They aim to treat their client as the customer, and not the money.

It’s all about client education.

It’s about the use of up-to-date technology.

The financial planner focuses on goals and what’s required to meet them. The focus is to make clients happier.

Using coaching skills. Building long-term relationships. Reviewing aspirations. Looking at where the client wants to get to and delivering that. Some may call it lifestyle financial planning; others call it simply “life planning”.

The new financial planner will present a financial plan, “This is your plan of where you want to get to, so how do we get there?”

The client appreciates having an actual person they can phone. In the event of divorce. Or bereavement.

Financial planners are dealing with people and their emotions.

The aim of the new financial planner is to help their clients find futures that they didn’t even know existed.

The client will ask, “Can you help me to stay in control of my emotions?”

The financial planner’s job is to understand their clients and their unique needs.

The new financial planner will charge a fixed fee based on time taken to complete the task. The fee structure is clear, so the client knows what they are paying for. There will be no conflict of interest.

Instead of looking at returns, stock-picking and timing markets, the financial planner looks at ideal life, aspirations, dreams, what if scenarios, preservation of wealth, segmenting pots by life need, managing risk-weighted returns over a life cycle through asset allocation, maintaining cash reserves, smoothing income payments and the right ownership of assets. The financial planner talks through various tax allowances and makes bespoke plans, which include lifetime cashflow forecasts.

The financial planner’s job is to help their clients understand the markets and what they mean to them. Implementing tax angles that add value along the way.

Clients are unique and no longer fit in model portfolios. Business owners and entrepreneurs have volatile incomes from their businesses. Drawdown is no longer something that just happens in retirement. Accumulation is no longer something that just happens during working life. Succession is no longer something that just happens on death.

Older clients are living longer, which bring new health and inheritance issues. Legacy is no longer just about money!

The new financial planner asks, “What’s your biggest financial fear?”

“What do you want to achieve with your money?”

The new financial planner acts as a coach. Mentor. Keeps the client on track.

The focus is on wellbeing. Rather than wealth.

The focus is to avoid the highway robbers and enjoy wealth in every area of your life.

The new financial planner communicates and explains financial concepts well. They present themselves in a professional manner. They help their clients to reach their financial goals. The plan is delivered, and the adviser helps the client to stay on track and weather the shocks.

The financial planner is a life planner, considering a wider impact that emotion may have on money and that a legacy remains of the client’s life work.

The world is to be a better place for the client having lived.

The new financial planner has a good reputation and has positive reviews. They are knowledgeable on tax and the full consequences of investing. They are approachable and easy to talk to. They are easy to get hold of. They are trusted.

The new financial planner is a fiduciary. They keep their client’s best interest in focus, without conflict of interest with unbiased advice.

The new financial planner communicates and explains financial concepts well. They have all the relevant skills and knowledge.

The new financial planner has an efficient delivery of service at the right price and with a choice of service levels.

The new financial planner says to their client, “There are good decisions you can make. They may not look good, but they are the right ones. I am here to communicate what’s going on and what it means to you.”

The new financial planner is a communicator.

As Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a changing.”

I’m sure you would agree, if the adviser of 2010s is where we were and the adviser of 2020s is where we want to be, then we need a system, vehicle or solution to get you there.

That’s what the Academy of Life Planning delivers.

We are going through a changing role of a financial planner. What it was, was a financial intermediary. What it has become is a non-intermediating life planner.

We no longer need to intermediate. The key these days is low cost investment, low tax impact and wise asset allocation. With product management outsourced to do-it-yourself passive retail multi-asset funds on platforms, that outperform most intermediated offerings after charges.

Client’s save 1% to 2% per year on fees, which over 25 years adds 33% to 100% on their life savings.

At the Academy we deliver non-intermediating financial planning services to hundreds of clients worldwide. We also train, coach and mentor the UK’s most trusted financial planners. For details, check us out at:

AoLP Founder and CEO Steve Conley, social-media moniker WharfWizard

Why it can pay to plan

Why it pays to use a non-intermediating financial planner.

Whether you’re looking to increase your life savings, or protect your assets from tricksters, fraudsters and scam artists, there can be clear benefits of talking to independent financial experts.

Paying someone a fixed fee of £1,500 to help with your money can feel counter-intuitive but expert impartial advice can add real value many times over to your financial future, particularly when information about products and fees is so well hidden and complex. Here are some of the reasons why non-intermediating financial planning can be worth your while.

  1. A wall between planning and product:

Is your planner paid depending on how much product they sell you? If your financial planner isn’t remunerated by product sales, all of a sudden, you’re guaranteed that the advice they give is independent, impartial and unbiased. Although this non-intermediating model is rare, its fiduciary nature avoids conflicts of interest and ensures that your adviser acts in your best interest all of the time. They’re on your side, as opposed to being an agent for some product provider. Plus, you avoid those highway robbers – offering to ‘take care of’ your money for you. When it comes to financial planning, it always pays to have ‘blue-water’ between us and them, with an expert on your side.

  • Potentially adding an extra third to your life savings:

According to ONS, average current investments in London are £106,096 (and in the regions £48,847). According to the FCA, average ‘intermediating’ financial planner fees are 3% initial and 0.5% pa ongoing charges. In London, typical intermediating financial planner charges might be £3,182 plus £530 pa.

What happens with a ‘non-intermediating’ financial planner? When the fee is fixed, at say £1,500, and not dependent on your current investments, you can save instantly. Further savings are available from self-implementing planned solutions, investing for market returns, avoiding platform charges and even tax wrapper charges. These cost savings can mount up over a lifetime. Your impartial adviser can show you how.

To illustrate the impact this can have on your savings, should your funds grow at 6% pa, deduction of annual charges from the intermediary route could total 1.5% pa, when a non-intermediating route can be available from as little as 0.5% pa (for example, a self-implemented passive retail multi-asset fund on a platform). The savings from the difference between a 4.5% pa and 5.5% pa net return on your investments can add up over a lifetime through the miracle of compound interest.

Value of £100 invested:

Net Return pa 10 years 25 years 40 years 65 years
£100 @ 5.5% £171 £381 £851 £3,246
£100 @ 4.5% £155 £301 £582 £1,748
% lost in charges 9% 21% 32% 46%

For example, a 60-year-old expecting to live for 30 years until age 90 with a £100,000 current investment may see the value of the final estate at age 90 to be £375,000 @ 4.5% pa growth, or £498,000 @5.5% pa growth. A difference of £123,000!

That is, the 5.5% route adds an extra third to your life savings!

Ask yourself, what am I getting for the extra 1% charge? It’s not additional investment return. If your intermediating financial planner claims to be able to beat market returns on your investment … run a mile! According to the Pensions Institute 99% do not. And, the 1% that did, did so by luck, and can’t be chosen in advance.

  • Avoid the ‘do nothing’ scenario wiping 75% off your savings:

95% of the population are disintermediated due to their limited wealth, as many financial advisers have a threshold of £100,000 or more in investable assets before they will take on a client. If this is you, the option for these underserved individuals is to either self-invest, or do nothing.

60% of the population have little or no savings. Without an adviser to encourage them, many never begin to save. Thrift is a very much outdated concept. Even if you do save, leaving the money in a bank account or savings account can deplete your potential life savings.

Cost of leaving money in a deposit account:

Net Return pa 10 years 25 years 40 years 65 years
£100 @ 0.5% £105 £113 £122 £138

Self-investing can be scary when you don’t have an expert on your side. It’s easy to fall victim of highway robbers when self-investing when you don’t know what you’re doing, I’m sure you would agree. But, staying in cash can be equally as costly.

For example, if the 60-year-old above had left their life savings on deposit paying 0.5% pa the value of the estate at age 90 is £116,000. A difference of £382,000, when compared to the 5.5% scenario.

That is, the 5.5% route gives you more than a four-fold increase in your life savings when compared to a deposit account.

The value of investments can fall as well as rise. You may get back less than what you paid in. Future values are not guaranteed. The figures used above assume income is reinvested, are before tax, are for illustrative purposes only and actual interest rates and investment returns may vary. In real terms, that is allowing for inflation, the final figures can be far lower.

Which one will you choose: Intermediary; Non-intermediating financial planner; or do nothing?