As financial planners we know how important it is to get to know you. It’s an ongoing mission to make sure we understand what you need from us now, as well as how your life may change in the future, so we can meet your requirements today and anticipate your needs tomorrow.
But how do you see it? It’s great to have our own ideas about what we think matters to you, but it’s important to make sure we’re on the same page. There are two major ways of finding things out – asking and guessing, and since we don’t set any store by guesswork, asking seemed the sensible option, so ask we did.
Back in July we carried out a survey to help us understand the things you value most. Happily, there was such harmony between what you want and value and what we thought you wanted and valued. We can now present those results to you, literally on the same page.
The key values
Our survey looked at a wide range of values – you can see them all in the chart below. There were some that clearly stood out more than others (and the top five spots contained a few tie situations)
so let’s look at each of them in turn and why they matter.
1. Empathy – we hear you
The stand-out quality you told us matters most to you was empathy. Former US President Barack Obama said “Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world”, and while we’re not trying to change the world, we’re trying to help you change YOUR world for the better. Financial planning is about translating what you want from life into a tangible way to achieve it. A key part of that is for you to open up about what you want, what makes you happy and what worries you – and for your financial planner to understand all of that before they plan anything.
Interestingly, empathy was number two on our list. That’s honestly not as bad as it sounds – the only thing we put above empathy was peace of mind, which was your second most popular choice. It makes sense – if being heard is what matters to you, then giving you the peace of mind that you’re heard and understood should sit at the top of our list.
2. Peace of mind – knowing it’s taken care of
Peace of mind is something that underpins what we do here at Jane Smith Financial Planning. We’re often asked about the difference between financial advice and financial planning, and peace of mind is a good way to demonstrate that difference. There’s nothing wrong with financial advice, it’s just that it’s a different take on managing your finances. It’s a transactional process that responds to immediate needs – where to invest your windfall, how to deal with your tax bill, which type of pension is right for you.
Financial planning, on the other hand, is about structuring your whole financial life to secure the best possible future with what you have available. It’s not peace of mind on one or two questions that have been keeping you awake, it’s complete peace of mind, knowing everything is in place, now and for the future.
3. Consistency and continuity – a great experience every time
Tied with peace of mind for second place was ‘Consistency and continuity’, which follows on nicely because just like ‘peace of mind’, a service that gives you consistency and continuity in your experience is all about the long term. If we worked in marketing, we’d tell you that consistency builds familiarity and familiarity builds trust.
That’s all true, but the type of consistency we’re talking about is the kind that means you can call us whenever you need to and expect the same professional and personalised level of service from our team. Continuity is something that, by definition, can only develop in a long-term relationship. Unlike ad hoc financial advice, financial planning is about the long haul. Achieving your goals isn’t easy, and we won’t pretend it is. Getting there demands hard work, discipline and focus – we’re here to keep you on track, adjust to any changes in your circumstances and celebrate your successes with you.
4. A personalised financial plan – for you and you only
In fourth place, you told us that your personalised financial plan really matters. That’s great to hear, because it’s a huge part of the service we provide. Off the peg financial advice will give you useful answers to general questions, but they’ll be catch-all solutions – things that may give you roughly the right results, but would work just as well for anybody else.
Financial planning is a big step up from that – we’ll give you a long-term financial plan that’s just for you. It’s built around your goals, structured to fit with your sources of income and designed for you only. It’s not set in stone either, it’s a living, breathing approach to your whole financial future that’s flexible enough to adapt with you, but always stays focused on your goals.
5. All the other important bits
Fifth place saw a four-way tussle between cash-flow modelling, independence, ‘simplify’ and life goals, so let’s look at those in turn.
If you’re already a client you’ll know what we mean by cashflow modelling, if not, we’re talking about drawing up a picture of your incomings and outgoings, not just now, but looking ahead to the future. When we plan your future with you one of the first steps is to be sure about what you’re working with and what you’re likely to have in the years ahead. Planning for the future without cash-flow modelling is like setting out on a car journey without knowing what’s in the tank. You might get there, you might not. Knowing what you’re working with means we can help you to focus on what you need to do more of (and less of) to keep you on course for the future you want.
Understanding what you’ll need to live the life you really want is part of independence, the ability to plan a future in which you’re able to spend your time as you want without a shortfall, and retire when you want without running out of money. To do that, you need to have your life goals in place and we need to understand them. You’ll notice it’s not the first time we’ve mentioned your goals and that’s because everything we do is built around them. That’s what real financial planning is – it takes stock of the life you really want and sets you on the best course to achieve it.
Finally, a few words about ‘simplify’, because there are two sides to this. First, the simplification (or rationalisation) of your financial picture as it stands today. Some clients come to us with a well-ordered set of finances to work with, others might show up with two bags full of paper. Either way, we’re here to bring order to what you present us with. Once we’ve worked together on bringing all your finances into one clear picture, we’ll work hard to keep it that way.
The other aspect of simplification is the way we explain things. When you talk to us about your finances, we’ll always say exactly what we mean and you’ll always leave with a clear understanding of where you are and what you need to do.
Adding real value
In closing, we’d like to thank you once again for completing the survey and for telling us what really matters to you. When we sent it out we felt confident we’d see similarities in what’s important to us and to you – after all, if you came back with a completely different set of requirements we’d have some serious thinking to do. But it’s great to know we’re on the same page, it means we’re connecting and that’s something we’ll continue to do.
Working with a true financial planner is a lifelong relationship. It’s not like choosing your electricity supplier, where a handful of providers can give you essentially the same basic service, relying on price alone to turn your head. Of course, there’ll be advisers who’ll offer sensible answers to sensible financial questions, but a true financial planner will stay by your side – they’ll be there whenever you need them, for as long as you need them.
It’s an honour and a privilege to provide that service to you and it’s good to know we’re getting it right. But if you ever feel there’s something we could do better, something you’d like to see more of (or less of) then tell us. Equally, if you feel any friends, family or colleagues might benefit from working with us, please let us know. We’d love to help out, but even if we’re not right for them, we’ll point them in the right direction. We’ll only ever enter into a relationship where both parties agree we can add real value.