This exchange in the movie Skyfall, which takes place between James Bond and Q in front of the the Turner painting ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ in the National Portrait Gallery, seemed a fitting opening for this subject.
Within the Financial Planning profession, we have a slightly older average age, hiding (as averages tend to do) a decent range of ages and experience. More recently, despite the average age seeming to hold steady, anecdotally at least, a lot more youth is coming on the scene.
Movements including NextGen Planners have brought to the fore a cohort of younger advisers who bring with them different attributes; less experience, sure, but other attractive factors.
But when it comes to Financial Planning, where insights into life events and deep technical knowledge of money matters is essential, can a young adviser ever hope to match the experience of an older adviser?
I’m turning 40 next year. As I look towards that milestone, I’ve genuinely no idea how it happened. It only seems like yesterday I was a fresh-faced adviser in his early 20s, battling each day to demonstrate competence and build sufficient confidence with a range of clients, in order to secure their trust and win their business.
I take a little solace in still being younger than the average Financial Planner, although of course that can’t last forever.
What I have enjoyed seeing in the past few years is watching those in their 20s and early 30s progress into Financial Planning roles, including three within my own firm. In doing so, they are becoming Financial Planners with far better structure and support than was available 20 years ago, and with a much clearer sense of purpose too.
Experience matters, without a doubt. Only last week I was meeting with a client, graciously receiving a referral to meet his wealthy parents, and being told they would not take kindly to me handing the enquiry to one of my younger colleagues, as I had planned to do.
This is though a problem of perception not reality. In practice, I would have every confidence in any of my younger colleagues working with any of our clients, even this new couple with several million pounds in their portfolio. This confidence comes from knowing just how rigorous their training has been and that they continue to operate within a highly supportive team structure.
For a 20-something Financial Planner going it alone, I would have more questions about their lack of professional and life experience, and what this meant for their ability to provide service to a client. For a highly supported, enthusiastic and teachable team member, age is nothing but a number.
Bringing these thoughts to a close, and finishing where I started, it’s worth remembering that Turner was in his sixties when he painted 'The Fighting Temeraire'. Despite his advanced age (life expectancy in 1839 was 40-something for a man), the painting shows his mastery of techniques to suggest sea and sky, with the detail of the ship’s rigging meticulously painted.
When it comes to fine art and Financial Planning, I would argue you need a Turner not a Banksy, or at least someone mentored by a master with experience.
Martin Bamford FPFS
Managing Director, Informed Choice