I’ve been attending Financial Planning Conferences for many years and it’s interesting to see how much has changed, but also how much is familiar (see CISI coverage on Financial Planning Today).
Many of the planners are ones I’ve known and enjoyed talking meeting up with for 15 years or more but the demographic is changing. More women, more younger planners and an increasing number of Paraplanners. That’s all good.
What’s the same is inevitably the sore heads after the Gala Dinner, the frenzy of dashing from one technical session to another and the providers pushing their wares. All part of the fun you could say but the air these days is definitely one of professionalism and improving the standard of client advice. The days of events being mainly sales conference are history.
In these days of video conferencing, social media and instant communication you could argue that people trekking across the country to meet at events is old hat. The opposite is true. Events have never been more popular and are mushrooming in number. Planners can take their pick of hundreds of events each year.
The human desire to meet and engage with other humans, particularly if they are working in the same profession, is as strong as ever. I have no doubt that many planners enjoy the catching up with old friends and the gossip as much as they do in hearing from US financial experts and fellow professionals.
I was particularly struck by a session by Sandy Robertson, founder of Acumen Financial Planning in Scotland. For me it summed up what is good about these events.
He was passing on his years of experience learned from acquiring four Financial Planning firms. It was a genuine sharing of information with no pushing of a ‘right or wrong’ approach.
Two things struck a chord. Firstly he said that it was critical to acquire firms with “75% of the same DNA” as a planner’s own firm. Common sense but often forgotten. Too easy to acquire just a book of clients without thinking whether those clients and the planners looking after them were the people you really wanted to work with.
The second point was a plea for firms to think twice about being acquired by another firm and perhaps spend more time on succession planning to pass on the torch to the next generation.
With the current M&A ’feeding frenzy’ consolidators are tripping over themselves to acquire firms. I doubt there are many planners who have not been approached. Takeover and mergers can be a strong sign of health in any sector but his words will resonate with many.
In essence he was appealing for planners to think about the profession long term rather than just themselves and making money. This kind of contrarian view is just what makes conferences worth going to. It wasn’t a view I had expected but it was a wise one.
Making money, being a successful Financial Planner and giving back to the profession are not incompatible ambitions.
Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and a financial journalist with 30 years experience. This topical comment on the Financial Planning news appears most weeks.