What’s in a name?

Category: Uncategorized

When I look back to May 1996 when I started working as a tied financial adviser for a life insurance company, I know what I did then and what I do now are completely different jobs.

Chalk and cheese!

They are different in every sense of the word, from the daily work to my client relationships. But what is massively different is how I felt about my work then versus now. Then, I felt like I was scavenging to make a living. Now I feel like I have the best job in the world where I am privileged to be able to really make a difference to my clients. I am pretty sure my clients then felt different from my current clients about their relationship with me.

Despite these striking differences, as far as most consumers are concerned, I was a Financial adviser then and I am a financial adviser now.

I understand that the huge array of titles we have is very confusing to people. There is even confusion amongst ourselves. So how on earth do we expect consumers to make heads or tails of it?

To add to all the confusion, I call myself a Financial Life Planner. Rightly or wrongly, the term Financial Adviser has been associated with product flogging and I want to distance myself from it. Okay, okay – except when I’m at a dinner party and it’s so much easier just to say I’m a financial adviser!

Financial Life Planning is a term that is new to most people that are not in our world and even to many within it. What I do is not easily articulated, even by me! The best I have come up with is: I help people create a positive relationship with money and help them figure out what is truly important and meaningful to them. I then marry this with their financial data to create a financial plan that inspires them to take action and live their best lives.

Even as I write that it still feels insufficient.

Where do I put the bit about how I use life planning to encourage clients to dream big? How do I fit in the part where I coach clients to overcome their blockers and take positive action? What about the fact that I stick with them on an ongoing basis, through thick and thin, whatever life may throw at them?

Looking at what a client gets out of my work doesn’t make defining it easier. You see, my work is personal to the client, experienced differently by each of them. Some clients tell me that the part that most resonates with them is having someone give them such focused attention, others say it’s addressing money issues that have held them. Some say it was finally getting organised while others insist it was having a plan that made them excited about their future. The list goes on…

As I look around to my peers, I see that many of us are using titles that are not clearly defined and for many encompass a wide array of offerings.

I believe we have come to a point now where we all need more clarity. What exactly is the difference between a Wealth Manager and a financial planner? I know some Wealth Managers that are actually financial planners and some Wealth Managers that just manage money and don’t do any financial planning at all. How would a consumer know the difference?

Can we clearly define the difference between a financial adviser and a financial planner? I am sure there are financial advisers out there I have assumed only do product sales when they actually deliver financial planning. On the flip side, there are definitely product salespeople out there that call themselves financial planners.

While there are definitions out there, as far as I know they are not enforceable in the UK and everyone can choose what they want to be called.

So I wonder, is it time for one of our professional bodies, or the FCA, or the government, to clearly define these titles and set guidelines around who can call themselves what and what consumers can expect from each?

– Tina Weeks

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