As part of our coverage of Financial Planning Week 2017, Professional Adviser talks to triple-qualified financial planner Sam Whybrow on why he thinks 'life planning' matters.
Cervello Financial Planning's new recruit, 39-year-old Sam Whybrow, is one of only a few UK IFAs to be qualified as a Chartered Financial Planner, Certified Financial Planner & Registered Life Planner.
Both Chartered and Certified are well-known qualifications held by a number of UK advisers. But the Registered Life Planner qualification is less commonly found in the profession.
It is based on a course developed by George Kinder - a well-known American financial planning personality.
The five-day residential course hones in more deeply on listening and questioning skills. It involves acting as the client to experience the 'other side of the coin'. "It's about understanding people at a deeper level," Whybrow explains.
"The Registered Life Planner course is aimed at questioning techniques and listening skills to actually understand whether it is retiring at 65 that is their actual goal, or whether the client is wanting to achieve something different but doesn't yet know it - it might be a career change," he says.
"As advisers we often think it's the finances that drive everything, but it isn't - it's the lifestyles."
The training has enabled Whybrow to have a "deeper connection" with clients, he says.
But, having spoken to many other advisers over the years, Whybrow has not found all of his peers are wholly impressed by the route he has taken.
"Some see it as too American, 'airy-fairy' and not completely peripheral to what we do as advisers," he says, adding that some even saw it to be more like "therapy" than advice.
Nevertheless, Whybrow says he is proud of how his advice affects his clients' lives.
"It's not getting them to retirement age for them to realise they wasted 20 years of their life in a job they hated and find out they're worn out, tired and don't have the drive anymore.
"It shouldn't be scary, because ultimately it's a methodology for understanding the client and working to achieve goals they thought were impossible or a pipedream. For me that's what our job is," he says.
But the benefits of this approach do not stop there, according to Whybrow. He thinks improved communication is central to regulation as well as the client experience.
"If anything, from a risk and compliance perspective, it's what the FCA is looking for," he says.
'Robo averse? No way'
Although Whybrow makes the most of his honed face-to-face listening and questioning skills, that does not mean he is averse to ‘robo' solutions.
He recognises there are plenty of clients, particularly millennials, who cannot afford traditional face-to-face advice and would prefer an automated solution.
Whybrow himself has been involved with Advice Front - a robo solution to help advisers with financial planning - for the past five years.
Alongside other advisers, he helped on a consultancy basis to test and develop the product, offering expertise where he can.
"Just having a robot do a lot of the grunt work for you adds a lot to the end goal for a client," he says.
Because he has only been working with director Chris Daems at Cervello for a month, Advice Front is not a solution the firm offers yet, but they are looking into it, he says.
"We [he and Daems] talked about digital solutions for private clients and we were on the same wave-length."
Cervello Financial Planning specialises in auto-enrolment and workplace solutions advice, areas which were not exactly Whybrow's forte before he joined.
"We spoke many times and first knew each other through auto-enrolment and I was impressed with his [Daems'] approach," says Whybrow.
"My skills dovetail his and we thought it was a good time to introduce my skillset into the workplace."
The Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments (CISI) financial planning week is a consumer awareness campaign taking place from 8 to 12 May 2017 across the UK.
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