Like the time my wife took me to a rock climbing centre when I ultimately failed to demonstrate I could safely tie on to the harness, despite having told her on the drive over I knew what I was doing.
Or last week, during my first stand-up paddleboarding lesson with the family, when my lack of balance turned it into more of a kneel-down paddleboarding session. At one stage, the instructor looked at my legs and asked if I had been in an accident; a rather harsh assessment, I thought, of the leg length inequality I was born with, and part of the reason why falling off was so much easier than standing up!
So I can’t do everything. I’m comforted by two things; that I can do many things well, and that I’m always prepared to give things a try, even if I attempt them with a little too much confidence.
This recognition is essential within a Financial Planning practice too. Gone are the days when one person should attempt to do everything.
When I first joined Informed Choice back in 2002, Nick and I would both do our Paraplanning, in addition to working with clients. It was quite common for one of us to be leaving the office to see a client, as the other returned from a client meeting. As one of us went after a morning of report writing, the other would sit down to write up their meeting notes, carry out research and construct a financial plan.
It’s not particularly useful to be a jack of all trades. This generalist approach to Financial Planning has some merits, as a broad understanding of all areas of the business is essential to have. But specialising in one particular area allows work to get done more quickly, and to a higher standard than would otherwise be the case.
Within our firm today, which looks dramatically different from the business of 2002, we have specialists when it comes to administration, systems, financial planning, client relationship management, and research and report writing.
My strengths, it turns out, lie in marketing and communications; as much as I love spending time with our clients, there are others in the business better placed to nurture client relationships and coach our clients through critical financial decisions.
I’m perfectly capable of carrying out investment research, writing a report, or entering data into our back-office system, but I don’t have a passion for any of these activities, in the same way I do for writing a blog post, interviewing a guest for our podcast series, or speaking with a journalist to share opinions on a breaking news story.
Within a firm of 14 individuals, it is relatively straightforward to allocate different roles and responsibilities, creating specialists instead of generalists. There are enough of us now so we can choose the right people to do the right things at the right time.
For Financial Planners in smaller firms, or operating as a one-person business, either directly authorised or as part of a larger network, the answer to this specialisation challenge must be outsourcing. Rather than being the chief cook and bottle-washer within your business, instead choose a role and then work with specialists to do everything else.
An inevitability of business ownership is the need to take responsibility for everything that happens because, ultimately, you are responsible when things go off the tracks. But that doesn’t mean you need to learn the intricacies of fee reconciliation, regulatory reporting or content marketing.
Martin Bamford FPFS
Chartered Financial Planner
Managing Director, Informed Choice Ltd