How to find an exceptional Financial Planner
It’s Financial Planning Week 2013, and all this week the team at Informed Choice will be blogging about the various aspects of Financial Planning.
In my blog today, I take a look at the factors you need to consider in order to find an exceptional Financial Planner.
Investors have a lot of choice when it comes to finding their ideal Financial Planner. There are almost 1,000 Certified Financial PlannerCM professionals in the UK and over 3,500 individuals holds the Chartered Financial Planner designation.
With so many advisers to choose from, just how do you find an exceptional Financial Planner?
Qualifications count, but so does relevant experience
The minimum professional qualification standard in the UK is currently Diploma level, at QCF Level 4, or the equivalent to a first year undergraduate degree course.
For dealing with potentially complex Financial Planning and investment issues, you will want to find an individual who has demonstrated their technical competence by achieving a higher than minimum professional qualification.
Look for an individual who is a Certified Financial PlannerCM professional or Chartered Financial Planner.
In addition to demonstrating they have the relevant knowledge to pass tough exams, this means they have signed up to a robust code of ethics and conduct, and they undertake a large amount of continuing professional development each year.
Of course qualifications alone do not make an exceptional Financial Planner. Relevant experience is important as well.
Check out the background of your shortlisted Financial Planner and make sure they have experience working with clients who have a similar profile and objectives to your own.
Check they are authorised and regulated to give financial advice
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is responsible for regulating financial advice in the UK. Check their Financial Services Register to make sure your chosen Financial Planner is an approved person, holding the CF30 Customer controlled function.
You can also use the Financial Services Register to review their company history; watch out for advisers who move around between firms too frequently, as they are unlikely to be able to deliver to you a consistent service in the future.
The Register will also provide details of any regulatory disciplinary action for the Financial Planner. Very few Financial Planners have been subject to regulatory action, so avoid those that have been (and companies which have been fined or censured) like the plague.
Find out what they have to offer
All Financial Planners should be offering broadly the same six-step Financial Planning process, although they might describe it differently.
Always find out what your chosen Financial Planner has to offer, in terms of a proposition both initially and ongoing.
As a minimum they should be writing to you with a detailed engagement letter describing their services and fees. This should be provided once they get to know what you are trying to achieve and before any advice is actually delivered.
Look for a Financial Planner who follows a robust and consistent process, rather than approaching each client with an entirely new way of working.
Make sure they have the right support
An exceptional Financial Planner is likely to work with an exceptional support team.
John Donne famously wrote “no man is an island,”and in some ways no Financial Planner is an island either.
In addition to assessing the qualities of the individual Financial Planner, you should look at their company as well.
Are they profitable and debt-free? You want to be working with a firm of Financial Planners who will be around for the long-term.
You might want to select a firm of Financial Planners who are directly authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, rather than an Appointed Representative of a larger firm or network. This gives the Financial Planners more control to deliver a suitable outcome for their clients.
Do they win national awards for their service? Does the national press seek their opinions on a regular basis? These are all important factors to consider.
Work with likeable people!
This is a very personal point, but also very important. You should choose a Financial Planner who you like as a human being.
Skills, qualification and experience are important factors, but as you are going to be spending a lot of time with the Financial Planner and talking to them about a lot of very personal things, likeability is also important.
Look at what they do away from work. Do you share similar interests and values? Do you want a Financial Planner who is a similar age to your own, or perhaps a younger adviser who will be available to continue working with you and your family in the long-term?
Hopefully considering all of these factors will help you to choose an exceptional Financial Planner.
Do get in touch to find out how we shape up to each of these points here at Informed Choice.