There was only one standing ovation during the three days of this year’s IFP Conference, and it came from the hearts of those present. It was at the moment when special acknowledgement was given to Nick Cann.
Nick is one of those guys you have to love. His enthusiasm for the Institute and it’s role in changing people’s lives through the delivery of great financial planning has been inspiring to everyone who has met him. And during his decade long reign as Chief Executive of the IFP, that’s a lot of people as he toured the country regularly meeting members at Branch Meetings, appearing in the press and wider media as one of the primary representatives of the financial planning profession, and steering the Institute as it has gathered mass, influence and skill.
That was until nearly two years ago, when Nick suffered a massive stroke that robbed him of the use of his right arm and left him struggling to communicate. To say that this was a body blow to the organisation he led is a ridiculous understatement, and it was clear what a dramatic effect his sudden illness played on not only the small team of permanent staff that surrounded him, but on the Board members and the wider IFP community who held him in such regard.
The recently announced merger with the CISI has meant the breakup of that team as the operation moves to its new London home from Bristol, a commuting problem too big to swallow for most of them. It was partly for that reason that, when long=standing IFP stalwart Julie Lord gave her tribute to Nick’s huge influence, the whole hall rose to its feet in support of her words. It was a poignant moment.
It had been a long day, with an early breakfast required to be able to catch the first concurrent sessions of the day starting at 8.15 am. I chose to learn about ‘Why Online Advice is the Next Evolution for Financial Professionals’, a thought provoking analysis of trends in the way people receive and process information. There is much talk in the profession about the dawn of ‘robo-advice,’ where people can get the answers they need without human intervention. The speaker assured us that all of their research and practical experience shows that, whilst computers can handle the delivery of key information and illustrate strategies, the vast majority of people of all ages still wish to speak to an experienced person to validate their buying choices before they push the button. However people are increasingly taking their first steps towards building their financial plans, arranging investments and insurance, and sorting out their tax online, and it’s definitely an area that Chesterton House needs to be involved in to deliver the results for our clients that they desire. We’re already looking at some exciting ideas in this area and this session helped point towards some resources that I’m sure we’ll find useful.
The first plenary session speaker was new IFP President Alan Dick, who spoke with great passion about the work of the Institute and it’s people, the possibilities as well as the concerns for the future as part of the CISI, and reminded us that ‘financial planning is the glue – the context – that holds everything else (in people’s lives) together.’ His tenure promises to be inspired.
Steve Groves of Partnership Assurance was up next, talking about ‘Retirement’, a subject at the heart of most people’s financial plans.
Steve talked about the current consultation into pension tax relief and the possible reforms that might ensue. He compared the current EET model – Exempt contributions, Exempt fund, Taxed benefits – with a TEE approach whereby contributions are taxed (i.e., no tax relief), your pension fund continues to be exempt from tax, but future benefits (your pension drawings) are exempt. We already have this structure in place, it’s called an ISA and there has been talk about pulling pensions and ISAs together into one ‘product.’ There are some obvious disadvantages from this approach that were highlighted by Steve, and it was thought provoking to hear his analysis.
Steve also spoke about the new pension freedoms, and the need for people to manage their retirement planning successfully. There had been a lot of talk, he said, about rising life expectancy but pointed out that if all men budgeted on living to age 87 (the average expected age at death for a male in the UK), then half of them would run out of money. He also suggested that many people with small, medium and large pension funds would live in poverty, scared to spend for this fear. As always, good money management is less about logic and more about managing your emotions.
The next speaker, Andy Bounds, had us all out of our chairs and pointing objects out to each other. His creative and often hilarious presentation showed how to make a good impression, and how to focus on what’s important to the other person – a major theme of our work at Chesterton House. Nobody is impressed if you’re great, he told us, but people are highly impressed if you make them great. The exercises he suggested to achieve this were simple yet memorable and effective, and his talk went down well with this audience.
Next up was the inspiring Dr James Rouse. We had met James when he spoke to last year’s Conference, and he told us how pleased he was to return. James’ theme was Mastery over Mind and Body, and in his very full talk he explained the importance of gratitude in living a great and long life. Be aware of silent gifts; a tasty breakfast, a warm shower, walking in the rain; and ask what gives you ‘irrevocable joy?’
James went on to describe techniques for self-discipline, exercise and diet that have been shown to help people live to age 100 and beyond, and told inspiring stories of centenarians running marathons to demonstrate that such mastery can yield dramatic results. He’s a very interesting man with an important and relevant message, I recommend you experience his ideas at www.drjamesrouse.com. If James’s energy and enthusiasm were indicators then his stuff definitely works.
After lunch I attended a session with Rob Stevenson of Kingmakers who talked about ‘The Financial Planner as a Business Consultant.’ Rob works with firms to identify, manage and overcome problems and get things done. There’s an obvious crossover with financial advice, where I’ve many times got involved in helping clients to talk through business issues in order to break through to higher levels of wealth. Rob explained the difference between consultancy and coaching, and the times when such help can be needed in the lifecycle of a business. He made some interesting points. For example, he suggested that it takes approximately 10 years to build a succession plan, something which I realise is correct on reflection.
With the traditional Gala Dinner in the evening this was a very full day, and a productive one. The value in these events is often in the conversations one has with fellow professionals in between sessions, and this was no different. If you’re a practising financial planner, or aspiring to be one, I strongly recommend that you get along to next year’s IFP Conference. You won’t regret it.