A fond farewell
Winding down Planning for Life, my authorised financial planning practice,
will be complete by the end of this month, finally enabling me to give my full attention to
Project Sophia, my fledgling life and financial coaching practice
In 1990 I became authorised through Norwich Union and took on as my first client the Finance Director of a FTSE100 company. Ostensibly he wanted help with his Free Standing AVC (how strange to be bringing up all these old names and products). It quickly emerged that he did not want to be sold products – he wanted help in planning his personal and family finances.
I took the lesson to heart. Planning, rather than products was the service I provided. Transformation rather than transactions was the value I promised. I joined the Institute of Financial Planning, becoming a Certified Financial Planner and a fellow of the IFP. I trained as a financial life planner with the Kinder Institute in America and built Planning for Life, the UK’s first truly holistic personal financial advice firm addressing life, money and my clients’ psychological and emotional relationship to money.
With Planning for Life I helped people change their lives, often in the most dramatic way, by combining conventional financial planning with techniques from the coaching and therapeutic professions. Listening to my clients in an empathic, compassionate way that showed them I was prepared to sit with them in their space of struggle became my most powerful skill.
Clients loved it. Among other things, they told me that they:
- were able to make great changes to their lives
- had found a new confidence in their finances
- were more at ease around money
- had lost their fear of money
A powerful team
It was not all plain sailing, however. Building a team, developing processes and systems, ensuring compliance were all powerful challenges. It is a testament to my team and my own coaches and advisers that I only had one complaint in all those years.
This was from someone who was dissatisfied with an annualised 8.25% return in her pension over the four years either side of the 2007/8 financial crisis. The complaint was rejected by the Financial Ombudsman Service whilst serving as a reminder of the risks involved in providing financial advice.
It was really coaching
At the same time as the regulatory burden on boutique financial planning firms was increasing it became very apparent that the real value I was providing to my clients was in the life and financial planning process I took them through. It was also the part that I really enjoyed. Arranging products was a bureaucratic nightmare with high costs and little value.
It occurred to me that, with a good plan and a sound family financial structure, purchasing their own financial products should not be too difficult for clients with a little bit of financial education, especially as the product ‘solution’ was usually quite similar in most cases and did not need complex products. This should be easily achievable with ongoing developments in platform technology and information flows.
This prompted me (as did Andrew and Daniel Priestley, Mindy Kibbins-Klein and others) to set down my thoughts in a book to make what I felt were quite radical ideas available to a far wider audience than I could command through my own client base.
The result was Right Money, Right Place, Right Time (see box right).
The winding down of Planning for Life is certainly not goodbye from me. If anything, I see myself being excellently placed to serve families and individuals in times of uncertainty, where values and views are changing, and where financial advice is less easily and cheaply available.
I have many people to thank for Planning for Life: my clients, who often taught me as much as I helped them; my team including Annette, Mary (sadly no longer with us), Rowena, Cathi and Alyson; and those who have guided me and helped me in my own personal and professional development including George Kinder and the Kinder Institute, Phil Dyer and Lisa Kirchenbauer, Daniel Priestley and the KPI team and, most recently, Brené Brown.
I have now handed nearly all my advised clients on to my friend and fellow financial planner Tina Weeks at Serenity Financial Planning and thank her for agreeing to help me in this transformation.
I first set up my own business nearly 20 years ago, around the time my son Alexander was born. As I move into my 60’s and Alex moves into the big wide world, its another revolution in his, Clang’s and my life.
Bring it on!