As a long-standing member of the Institute of Financial Planning I have always enjoyed attending the Annual Conference, held for the last few years in the luxurious surroundings of the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport. Today is the first day of the Conference and it’s already provided plenty of meaty food for thought.
I first got involved with the IFP in the early 1990’s, and much of what Chesterton House now practices has been learned from that long association. Members have always been generous in sharing ideas, and I’ve been highly impressed by their dedication to delivering great results for clients as well as wanting to know how to run highly effective businesses – two things that go hand-in-hand.
Twenty years ago the Annual Conference was held at Cambridge University, a mark of the aspirations of the leading players in the Institute at that time, during an era when salesmanship was much more highly prized by financial institutions than academic rigour. Since then, the regulators have imposed the need for learning on to advisers in the form of the RDR, which brought in the requirement for financial qualifications for anyone giving advice to the public. Many of the old school decided that was a time to leave the business, but for the IFP it felt like its time had come. With a burgeoning need for high quality advice from a wealthier, older and more time-pressured population facing an ever more complicated world, the IFP’s blend of holistic financial planning skills, high integrity and focus on long-term relationship based business models is proving successful for those practitioners who choose to follow it.
The Conference is the annual coming together of advisers and financial professionals seeking the latest ideas and techniques, as well as to enjoy the camaraderie of ‘front-line’ practitioners. It’s always an inspiring event and this year is proving no different.
We began this morning with a session specifically designed for members of firms holding the Accredited Financial Planning Firm designation, of which Chesterton House is proud to be one. An overview of a member survey that gave us some useful benchmarks on which we could measure our respective firms performance was followed by an excellent talk by Nicky Simonds-Gooding of Gazing Performance Systems about how to raise your performance in an increasingly pressurised world. Nicky taught us to use the Samurai principle of the ‘Double Gaze’ – being able to focus intensively on specific details whilst still having an eye on the Bigger Picture, something that resonated strongly with our approach at Chesterton House. She went on to remind us that the High Performance mind set says that however good we are, we can always improve, and suggested some techniques for generating that improvement. Inspiring stuff.
The Institute’s AGM was followed by a session discussing the future of the IFP, which has just agreed to merge with the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments, a much larger body with an academic base. This has been a big deal for IFP members and, amongst general approval of the potential benefits of the deal, there was concern that the unique qualities of the IFP might be subsumed into the CISI over time. We were assured that wasn’t going to happen, and members were reassured by the obvious enthusiasm for the idea of an expanded organisation being able to spread the word about what real financial planning is and its potential to change people’s lives.
The next session asked, ‘Does Size Matter,’ with leaders of small, medium and large financial planning firms discussing how to continue to deliver a consistent client experience and the highest quality advice as firms grow. This is something that’s particularly relevant to me in my role as Chairman of Chesterton House as our own growth continues, and there were some useful observations from the panel that I noted down.
The next session from Alison Broadberry of Charles Russell Speechlys Solicitors explored the area of Estate Planning for Business Owners. This was another topic of great relevance to me as our Legal Team develops its role in working with families and successful business people to ensure that their assets end up where they intended. Alison explained how a ‘Company Will’ can be used to create certainty for business owners faced with the death of a partner or owner, as well as ways to use trusts to protect business assets on death and massively reduce tax bills. The session was a helpful reminder of these ideas that will be useful when advising clients who are in this situation.
The final session from Michael Langerup of ETF Securities asked, ‘What’s So Smart About Smart Beta’. This was a talk aimed at the investment geeks among us, investigating as it did the market for passive investments based on Exchange traded Funds (ETFs) and the differences between them. If you’re really interested in Systematic Factor Strategies based on key macro risks as a way to diversify your portfolio I’ll be happy to speak to you separately. Or send you to see Michael.
With a lively exhibition area used as a meeting and eating venue for the evening it was great to catch up with some old acquaintances as well as make some new ones. After such an interesting day in a great Conference venue its no wonder some of us keep returning each year.
Tomorrow is an early start as sessions start at 8.15am, and it’s just turned midnight as I write this so I think that’s enough for now. Over and out!