As was clear during yesterday’s conference experience, there’s still plenty of chat and networking going on amongst the UK’s financial planning profession even if the COVID pandemic means a shift to an online format for this annual gathering. The general chat messaging during today’s sessions demonstrated that clearly as did the break out and roundtable sessions where delegates could discuss views and share best practice. Outgoing Chair of the CISI Financial Planning Forum, Martin Ruskin of Paradigm Norton Financial Planning, kicked off the formal proceedings with a personal reflection on the profession and on how financial planners are managing during the pandemic. Martin made an interesting point that technology really is to be embraced by financial planners and questioned how the profession would have coped had this awful pandemic struck ten years ago, when access to technology was not of the calibre and scope we have today. To my mind, that outcome would not have been a good one at all. Despite the speed of change it really does seem that UK financial planning firms have adjusted to the need to move things online in a very positive way and that much of the new working practices will continue well into the future. One planner was telling me of his surprise at how easily his firm has managed to integrate even new clients through the onboarding process conducted completely online. It’s the shape of things to come I’m sure, as clients are bound to appreciate the convenience and flexibility as well as the benefits to planners and their firms.
From a land down under
If some of yesterday’s content on the conference programme came from across the pond in the US, today it was the turn of Australia to get in on the UK financial planning scene. The session from Tegan Altshwager, Senior Research Fellow, Melbourne Business School, was focused on understanding financial decision making in retirement. Another Australian, Peter Mancell, of the Mancell Financial Group, delivered a thought provoking session on the theme of “developing good client service standards that are good for your clients and your business”. Mancell delivered some useful reflections and learning from the Aussie model which, he explained, has clearly changed so much in a few short years with sharp falls in the number of advisers and with the country’s four major banks having pulled out of the advice business.
There were further sessions from the CISI’s Piers Connolly – on an ethics and professional standards theme using case studies – and Gugu Sidaki from South Africa, talking on the specific requirements around financial planning for women. Throughout this event CISI have certainly made the most of the international nature of the CFP certification through their membership of the international Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB) and used the online format as a means of involving experts from around the world in an effective way.
Culture and values
A very insightful session followed from Barry Horner, Director at Paradigm Norton, as he delved into the difficult subject of culture and values and how this can drive the growth of a business. With a useful combination of theory and practical examples, Barry gave delegates a powerful framework to work from, one which they can use in order to assess how their own firms can approach and develop their strategy. Perhaps a couple of his points will capture the spirit of his message: that culture is a matter of doing not saying and that if your culture is great that your compliance tends to be great too. If that’s not food for thought, I don’t know what is!