As chairman of the Hampshire and Dorset Region of the Personal Finance Society, Kevin Forbes juggles his busy schedule running an IFA firm with projects that try and help his local community. From financial education in schools to raising money for charity projects and uniting as a profession, Forbes discusses how advisers can prove they do have a social value.
- How can advisers draw the line between making sure they run a profitable business and giving something back to wider society?
Making money as an IFA shouldn’t ever be an issue; the silver lining to the big black cloud of society having too few advisers to see is that everyone is as busy as they want to be. For most firms I know that means too busy. We need to be as efficient as possible; outsource, outsource, outsource. Any part of the role we do that someone else can do for us with at least as much skill should be outsourced to let us do the bits only we can do – giving quality advice. That means letting go of managing investments, putting great paraplanners in place, picking top back-office systems, using providers who give quality service to you and your clients, and embracing technology when it is appropriate.
For those of us who started being planners before the internet evolved and smartphones were invented have come a long way already, so I get confused by some of the commentaries around some of those items I’ve listed.
- What can advisers learn from other professions about hitting home the value they bring to society?
I don’t think we can learn much about anything from other professions – other than not airing dirty laundry in public. It annoys me when we get compared to other professions. In most aspects they cannot touch us for trusted adviser status, looking after clients, building relationships, running businesses, or caring about people. Those members of the general public who have a good adviser or planner love them. The rest believe what they read or hear.
The term ‘financial adviser’ is applied to too many groups and we get tarred by that. We should stick together more, spend less time being rude to each other about the ‘small stuff’ like passive v active, contingent v non-contingent charging, defined benefit or not DB advice, and focus on how good we are (or at least can be). We have had hundreds or thousands of cases of other professionals failing, but they don’t drag each other over the coals in public all the time over what they charge per hour, what drugs they prescribe, or anything. We seem to attract those who seem to enjoy fiddling whilst Rome burns, and who could be out giving much-needed advice instead of wasting time with blogging campaigns.
- How do you choose what social projects to back, given everyone only has a limited amount of time and resources to give?
We have a Community Foundation committee that receives applications in, and they meet and decide. As our initiative involves all of our advisers giving money up – which we then match as a firm – we want them all involved. Jeff Steininger (one of our advisers) chairs the committee. We have produced a document that outlines what we definitely won’t support and some guidelines on what we would rather support. It’s mostly focusing on our local community, and financial education also ranks highly, as does support smaller charities, those types of things. We expect to spend around £35,000 per year on those projects we agree on.
- How can you tell if people are getting the message?
Some clients have recently told us they looked at a few firms and picked us because they had seen what we had done for the local community. That was nice – but not why we do it. It’s up to individuals to decide what they do and do not want to give back to their communities. Our firm has taken the stance that we are right in the thick of our community and need to support it back. It’s fine if others don’t feel as strongly as we do here; I am sure there are plenty of advisers who earn good money, do a decent job and just do it for a living and that is fine. For others, though the role is far more important than that, and they want to get involved in society, be that as part of their local or professional community.
- What do you think is holding advisers back who maybe aren’t engaging in wider social projects?
I’m guessing most will quote time as the major reason, hence the need to outsource as I previously ‘harped on’ about. But many things don’t have to take huge amounts of time. The PFS has a range of initiatives (Forces Moneyplan, Educational Champions, Discover Fortunes sessions in schools for example) that you could commit to doing for as little as an hour or two a month for it you wanted.
- Are there things every adviser can do to help demonstrate the value of proper financial planning to the wider public?
It’s for more clever people than me to put pounds and pence or basis points on the value of advice. We all know the value of advice, we just need to help more and more people. That will demonstrate the value to more and more people directly. So we all need to invest in more young advisers entering the profession and teaching them good habits from day one.
We need to get involved with younger people in schools, colleges, and universities to demonstrate the value of getting advice. If we could all replace ourselves when we retire with two or three (or more) quality advisers that we trained up ourselves to be the new best of the best, society would be much better off as a whole in the long run, and our retirements would be far more enjoyable and likely safer.
(with inputs from mortgagestrategy)