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Sam Sloma: Two must-reads for financial planners

If you had told me 10 years ago that not only would I be a chartered financial planner but that I would enjoy it so much I would be reading about the “science” of retirement and the “new retire-mentality” in my spare time, I reckon I would have asked you to kill me.

But it seems the lifestyle planning element has ignited a spark within me and, once the passion for what you do kicks in, you just want to learn as much as you can.

I have just finished The New Retire-mentality by Mitch Anthony, who spoke last month at Paul Armson’s BACK2Y conference. I saw Anthony speak last year and he was fantastic.

The crux of the book is that retirement should not have to mean stopping work and switching off one’s brain. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to support the idea that doing so has a negative impact on your life.

Advances in medicine and healthy lifestyles mean people are living longer and are far more able to work until they feel they cannot or do not want to.

The internet and progression in human connectivity have also meant that, instead of putting a finite date on one’s working life, it is now easier for people to phase the slowdown, to start new businesses or follow passions in their spare time.

Traditional ideas of retirement are changing and there is an element of responsibility on planners to make sure retirees understand they have options. It was an enjoyable, easy read and I would give it an eight out of 10.

The second book I want to recommend is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. While not specific to financial services, it is a brilliant book about understanding the “why” within your business.

Understanding why the business exists provides a fundamental foundation to build on, of which you only realise the importance once you have found it. Sinek gives numerous examples of business leaders, including high-profile chief executives such as Apple’s Steve Jobs, who have started with why, and how it leads to repeated success.

It is not difficult for a business to explain what it does and it is also fairly easy (though possibly more technical) to explain how it does it.

But very few businesses can clearly articulate their why. Why is it not about financial assets or profits? Why does your business exist? Why does it do the things it does? Why do customers really choose one company over another? Why are consumers loyal to some businesses, but not others?

Starting with why works across businesses of all sizes and across all industries. Those that start with why are more likely to achieve the consumer behaviour they desire through inspiration. And the people who follow them do not do so because they have to; they follow because they want to.

Now, the comparison between companies like Apple and a local financial planning business is not really a fair one. However, it does not mean we cannot learn lessons from these successful businesses. It is a huge asset to be able to look at your business from the ground up and have everything aligned to your why.

Start with Why is a bestseller and for anyone looking at starting their own business, I would say it is a must-read. I give it a solid nine out of 10.

Sam Sloma is Managing Director at Engage Financial Services

Paul Armson PHOTO

The lowdown on the BACK2Y conference

BACK2Y – literally, “Back to why [you do it]”, i.e advise clients – returns this year after its organiser Paul Armson’s alternative conference of the same name launched in 2014.

Last year, a room at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole just about held 198 for the one day event. This year, in response to demand, Armson (pictured) has booked more space at the city’s International Convention Centre, upped the number of speakers and is hopeful of 350-plus attendees.

The format of adviser conferences tends to be predictable: the latest practical information and opinions are imparted, mainly from providers, together with rehashed gripes and with a couple of motivational speakers thrown in.

The ‘industry’ wants advisers to give clients what it wants – product distribution. It’s time to wake up!

BACK2Y was an altogether much more emotive event.

The allure, according to those who went, was the promise of a space to share ideas at what the participants consider to be the vanguard of financial advice.

Speakers spoke evangelically of epiphanies turning them away from transactional advice, the practice of selling products to meet clients’ perceived needs so ostracised by today’s financial planning frontline.

‘Product’ is a dirty word at BACK2Y, and product providers, with their stands offering free stuffed animals and mugs in exchange for five minutes bending your ear about their latest ‘solution’, are banned.

The lack of corporate sponsorship is reflected in the price, with currently available tickets for this year’s one day event ranging from £297 to £347.

The conference does sell something though – professional elitism.

“Most advisers won’t get BACK2Y. But that’s OK. It only takes a few to start a revolution,” Armson said.

A Yacht & Two Pauls

Armson is a part-time financial adviser and CEO and founder of Inspiring Advisers, a coaching programme in which he teaches advisers “how to really succeed as a lifestyle financial planner”.

BACK2Y is an extension of the philosophy Armson preaches in his adviser training company.

“Inspiring Advisers can show you how to WOW! your clients in return for vastly increased fee income – and have a lot of fun in the process,” according to its website.

Mrs Miggins seeking advice on what to do with a pension pot of £50,000 – low, but sadly above the national average – probably isn’t going to be able to afford that vastly increased fee, so presumably only advisers with a large proportion of pretty wealthy clients need apply.

Not a criticism, but a reality.

Armson himself ‘semi-retired’ in 2005 at the age of 45 and split his time between advising clients and sailing “Spellbound”, his 60 foot Oyster yacht, around the world.

In between that he spent three years working alongside Prestwood Group’s Paul Etheridge, founder of the Institute of Financial Planning and darling of those who consider themselves to be the more progressive element of the advice world.

The two created the much lauded cash-flow modelling tool Truth Financial Planning Software.

No Real Value

Armson’s aim with BACK2Y is to marry up acting in the best interests of clients with acheiving professional nirvana for advisers.

“I wanted to create an event to bring together advisers who also believe that it’s all about the client and helping them get what they want,” Armson said of BACK2Y.

“It’s called BACK2Y because it helps take advisers back to what we should be doing for clients – providing peace of mind, financial security, helping clients live life to the full, helping them get and keep their desired lifestyle.

“That’s what proper financial planning is all about. And that is where the value is. It has nothing to do with this product is better than that product.”

Armson draws his battle lines on these terms; there is “no real value” in providing clients a product or investment based service.

“What clients really want to know is: ‘in return for your fees how are you going to make my life better?'” he said. That is probably a fair assessment of any exchange of hard-earned money for goods and services.

Armson’s point is that financial services has been lacking in this respect.

“The ‘industry’ wants advisers to give clients what it wants – product distribution. It’s time to wake up! Advisers are being paid by the client, so we have to give clients what they want – which isn’t products or investments.

“That’s why there are no product providers at BACK2Y. Just successful practitioners of proper financial planning, some of the best in the UK, if not the world, sharing their experiences, best tips and techniques and – just as important – sharing inspiration to help other advisers get their focus back on what really matters.”

The demise of commission brought on by the RDR shifted the power dynamic from advisers relying on providers for an income, to the other way around.

BACK2Y is a product (pun intended) of that change.

It’s “vibe” might not be to every advisers’ taste, but beneath all that, the fundamental premise of a conference delivered by advisers, for advisers, focused on financial planning, has to be applauded.

If you would like to find out more information about the BACK2Y conference, please visit: http://www.back2y.co.uk/