Thursday, 30 March 2017 16:27

Editor's Comment: Simon's Chamberlain's plan was lesson to all

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Financial Planning Today Editor Kevin O'Donnell Financial Planning Today Editor Kevin O'Donnell

We're a tough breed in journalism but the death of Succession founder Simon Chamberlain shocked and saddened me deeply recently - as it did many readers who contacted us. Despite this I believe Simon's death teaches us all many lessons but perhaps not the obvious ones.

This is not an obituary or tribute to Simon. We've reported already on the many kind words expressed for Simon who was a dynamic, driven, outspoken entrepreneur. I knew Simon for probably 20 years and followed his career, or rather the businesses he launched. Most of them very succesful. There is no doubt he was an exceptional man.

In person he could be witty, dry and good company. He enjoyed a gossip. He knew the power of the press and PR too and used it to good effect. Journalists were a good way to get his message across and a lot cheaper than advertising.

He wrote for Financial Planning Today and other publications a number of times and I'll always be grateful to him for that. He rarely needed much persuading.

Simon could also be a tough cookie too and had, if not enemies in the industry, people who weren't too fond of him. He could be controlling and rub some people up the wrong way. He knew this but dealt with it in his stride. Some of this driven, hard-nosed entrepreneurial approach was just down to his character and personality but much of it was down to the fact that he had a Financial Plan. He knew where he wanted to get and was in a hurry.

When I first met Simon, a founding partner of St James Place, he was what I would call someone who believed in the old school IFA approach. Expansionist, commission-driven, sales-oriented firms. I hadn't seen him for a few years when I bumped into him at an annual conference of the Institute of Financial Planning (now merged with the CISI) and was surprised to see him. His new firm was one of the event sponsors and I expressed my surprise to him. I told him I didn't equate his approach with the IFP Financial Planning approach of cashflow modelling, six steps to produce a Financial Plan, emphasis on recurring fee income from clients and so on. I was sceptical.

Naturaly I quizzed him on whether he had really made the conversion to the IFP model of Financial Planning or it was just business. He assured me he had embraced Financial Planning.

I made a mental note to keep an eye on Succession Advisory Services (SAS - very amusing) to see how it fared. My view is that actions always speak louder than words. 

Contrary to my expectations he turned out to be a devoted and enthusiastic supporter of Financial Planning and a long term supported of the IFP to its great benefit. He also put his money where his mouth was by snapping up many Financial Planning firms to add to his growing Succession empire. This conversion to the IFP model proved to me that for all his rough diamond approach, Simon was a smart man. He could see the future of the financial advice market.

So the first lesson I've learnt from Simon was that committment to a cause requires time and investment and he was willing to give that. His belief in Financial Planning and its future was second to none and all Financial Planners should be grateful for that if only for adding to the value of all Financial Planning businesses.

The second, and perhaps more personal lesson, is Simon's own Financial Plan and this is a poignant and heart-breaking story which has been commented on many times in emails and phone calls to our newsroom.

As many now know, while he travelled regularly around the country promoting his business and doing deals, he settled in the south west some years ago and his Succession business was based in Plymouth, on a Science Park - deliberately so I suspect.

He enjoyed taking part in local busines networks and charity work and was something of a local figure, perhaps one of the better known businessmen in Devon.

In May last year, he told his local paper The Plymouth Herald that he had worked out his own Financial Plan and was planning to retire at 55, five years after the interview and just four years after he died suddenly and unxpectedly, sadly cut short before reaching his dream.

He told the newspaper: "I've got a train to catch. My wife and I said that when we reached our 55th birthday we'd go to Paris and catch the first 12 o'clock train out to where ever.

"It might be 2018 or 2020 but it will happen. After that, we'll just see where that train takes us."

Simon's frantic business building was not just because he loved business, it was for a reason and the reason was his familly.

Whether he would ever have done what he said and retired completely we will never know. He may have got bored after a couple of years but at least he had a clear plan and one that involved people and not money.

I believe the lesson from this is that wealth accumulation and business building is not just about money, it's about the Financial Plan and what you plan to do with the money. Accumulating money without a purpose is as useful as boiling a kettle without planning to do anything with the hot water.

I like to think that Simon's enthusiastic conversion to the Financial Planning world may have opened his eyes to the need to have a Financial Plan and consider where he was going in life and to focus on what's really important.

I know many planners (and paraplanners) will agree with that.

Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and a financial journalist with over 20 years of experience

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Read 950 times Last modified on Friday, 31 March 2017 08:57
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