Adviser conferences overrun by product providers have always irritated financial planning coach Paul Armson. So he decided to organise his own - without a life company in sight. Laura Miller was there...
"Turning up to conferences and finding them dominated by product providers has always annoyed me," Inspiring Adviser founder Paul Armson told delegates at his BACK2Y event.
He made the statement as he took to the stage at what he believes to be the UK's first financial planning conference with no life company sponsors.
About 200 financial life planners – or those considering embarking on that particular path of financial advice – agreed with him enough to put their hand in their pockets and pay for a day-long event without any of the usual provider-paid-for freebies of pens, mugs, bags and umbrellas.
Advisers from as far afield as the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden turned up – and a contingent from Northern Ireland battled on through flight delays due to fog to get there for the second half of the day.
So what did they get for their money – and what did this brave new world of sponsor-free conferences look like?
"The quality of the day will depend on how much you share," Armson said at the start of the event.
To hammer home this collaborative bent, the conference kicked off with three financial life planners delivering their stories on how they started in what they, and Armson, call 'proper financial planning'.
The catalysts ranged from 1st Chartered Financial Planning founder Sylvia Bentham's desire for a pony, Clearwater Wealth Management founder Graham Ponting's hollow feeling that he just wasn't helping clients, and Lonsdale Financial Consulting owner Nicholas Taylor's brush with disaster.
The strong message from them was one of two-fold passion – they were passionate about what lifestyle financial planning can do for their clients, and similarly passionate about the impact it has had on the way they run their businesses, and their lives.
As Bentham said: "Ask clients if they are doing what they really want. Ask yourself if you are doing what you really want."
Where's the value?
Smart Financial managing director Steve Martin moved the event onto how you can convince clients of life planning's merits – and get paid for it.
"Financial planning has to be sold," he told delegates. "People will buy it from use if we can show them with an emotional connection that it works."
Building on this, certification body Standards International founder Michelle Hoskin explained how advisers can – and should – aim to "wow clients on purpose".
"Wow becomes the norm, not the exception, when we start thinking about ourselves as businesses by design," Hoskin said.
To this end, advisers need to reconnect with what excited them about their profession in the first place, infuse this into their daily work processes, focus on just doing what they are good at and delegate the rest, she said, adding: "No one wows by doing admin."
The referral circle
The third part of the conference was dedicated to how to get referrals. Inspire marketing consultant Carrie Bendall suggested advisers create a ‘referral card' to give to clients to pass on to family and friends, a method she said clients she had spoken to had asked for.
"It makes you memorable," Bendall said.
Steve Billingham Consulting director Steve Billingham looked at ways advisers can become similarly memorable to accountants and solicitors.
Understanding that they expect advisers to have evidence of an excellent local profile, a clear proposition and area of expertise, and an advice not sales culture are key, Billingham said.
"Don't refer to products or commission ever in a meeting with accountants and solicitors," he cautioned.
Brave new dawn
So how did the provider-free conference go down? Some of the more experienced financial life planners felt it was pitched a bit too low for them, though they were still happy to be there and support the cause. Those considering life planning as a route forward probably got most out of the day.
However everyone seemed to agree with Armson when he said: "Isn't it great not to have any product providers peddling their rubbish?"
The days of boozy provider-sponsored conferences could just be numbered.
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