I noticed the accompanying article in the financial press recently
and was struck by the similarities with our own business. Maybe the writer’s age and length of marriage
differ slightly but…
Alan writes. Welcome to the 2020s! As we start the new decade, I
reach a personal landmark because I can now reflect back over 30 years of
helping clients as their financial adviser.
different things were in January 1990 when I took on my first clients when I
was an agent for General Portfolio; the stories I could tell…Their
products gave dreadful value but, to their credit, they gave me the grounding
in financial planning that has remained the core of what I do. The 1986
Financial Services Act had only been in operation for a little over 18 months
and Financial Planning Services had tied up with General Portfolio.
It was the
financial planning that I immediately took to heart and, at a time when fact
finds for many were literally on the back of a fag packet, mine were held up as
an example of how to complete a comprehensive fact find. On the other hand, my
managers were often reprimanding me for not selling high commission products,
but putting clients first has always worked and I am proud the clients from
January 1990 are still my clients today.
I am often
asked why I started as a financial adviser and there are many reasons why we
reach a turning point in our lives. I had been a teacher for 16 years and I saw
the opportunity to ‘teach’ people how to manage their finances. From the start,
I was attracted to the idea of making a difference in clients’ lives by
applying my financial and consultancy skills.
my CII Financial Planning Exams in 1991 and became an independent financial
adviser in February 1992. I understood that the more knowledge that I gained
the more that I could help clients, so I completed my advanced financial
planning exams soon afterwards, gained my CFP certification in 1995 and was
awarded my Fellowship of the Institute of Financial Planning.
fee-based in 1996, a foresight that meant that in January 2013 the only effect
of the Retail Distribution Review was to increase my fees.
Regulation over the decades
Over the years I have seen a succession of regulators starting
with LAUTRO, then FIMBRA, the PIA, the FSA, and the FCA. Each change of
regulator was an attempt to improve value for clients, but have they got it
right? Absolutely not!
Do not get
me wrong, I would never want to go back to the ‘anything goes’ days of the
1990s, but successive mountains of administration have made it more difficult
and more expensive to provide good, honest advice to ordinary people.
To be fair
to the regulators it is much easier to objectify everything and turn things
into a tick-box exercise than it is to measure values such as honesty,
compassion, empathy, and contribution. Values are intangible and difficult to
objectify but if the FCA could find a way to assess the values of the adviser a
lot of the box-ticking could disappear.
there is absolutely no way in which I would ever do anything that was contrary
to a client’s best interest and I have often done things for no charge as long
as it was right for the client.
always done everything perfectly? Of course not, and I will never apologise for
being human. However, did I always set out to make my clients lives better?
Absolutely. And have I succeeded? I am a perfectionist, so I will have to
accept that 99% of the time is probably good enough.
reflection, I find it amusing that the regulators have had their work cut out
keeping up with me: I was qualified before advisers needed to be, I was
fee-based years before the FCA demanded it, discussing vulnerable clients,
disability, or diversification.
probably, justifiably, won’t forgive me if I forget to mention another landmark
this month: we were married on the first of January 1970, so we have just
celebrated fifty years of marriage. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife,
three amazing children, and a grandson who makes me feel great every time I see
golden wedding with a golden career where I have helped clients and made a
difference almost every day and I could not ask for anything better.
younger advisers out there: if you wear your heart on your sleeve and put your
clients’ interests first you will have a wonderfully satisfying career where
you will make a difference to people’s lives. Then, when you are 71 like me,
you can look back with great pride and say that you made a difference (as long
as you tick enough boxes to satisfy the FCA or whatever regulator replaces them
I wish you all
the best for the next decade.
Alan Moran is an IFA of some 30