The financial advice profession has seen some sweeping changes over the last decade, from the RDR and the end of commission, to robo-advice and the rise of automation. 

    Professional standards are evolving quicker than ever before, remuneration models are changing, and propositions are adapting to cater for a world where people are living far longer in retirement and need ongoing advice to help plan for this. 

    Financial planning has been at the heart of this, with more and more advisers focusing on the end goals rather than the means and tools of achieving mere returns for clients. 

    In the last year, the profession has also faced the unprecedented task of remote working; a new challenge for both clients and firms’ own staff members. 

    What comes next? Over the next five years a host of new challenges will emerge that will further alter the day-to-day in the world of financial planning. Below, three experts give their views about what we can expect to see. 

    Stefan Fura, group MD, The Superbia Group 

    The total integration of ESG into the financial planning cycle  

    Thinking around ESG is going to move forward – it won’t just focus on how client money is invested and with whom, but also on the organisations giving advice and providing long-term service. 

    As we have seen in other sectors, the customer increasingly requires that not only are their personal values and beliefs considered alongside their aims and objectives, but also that they’re reflected by the people they do business with. 

    Crucially, I believe that this is where well-aligned businesses, acting locally, can really connect with their customers and steal an advantage over larger market players. 

    Vulnerable clients 

    As a sector, we really need to offer greater support to vulnerable clients. We must recognise that there is an ever-increasing demand from customers who desperately need our help. 

    We have to look at how we can make advice easier to access, simpler to understand and easier to embrace and act upon at a time when, unfortunately, these advice requirements may correspond with increased vulnerability and potentially diminished capacity. We owe it to our customers to be able to look after them when they need it most. 

    Lee Robertson, founder, Octo Members 

    Collaboration  

    Practices will become much more collaborative. The older model of a hunter filling the diary for others and being very well remunerated for this is waning.  

    This is because as financial planning firms mature, and understand that a multi-disciplinary approach across marketing, brand, financial planning, paraplanning and good administration - plus some form of investment management - is more efficient and much more multi-dimensional. 

    Service levels and response times will become better than have traditionally been the case and this is to be welcomed. Younger, much more technically proficient entrants to the profession will also make their mark, and already are in many cases, in terms of raising standards across all the disciplines in the modern financial planning practice. 

    As financial and paraplanners mature as professionals in their own right, it is also very likely that they will feel much more confident in the wider professional services space and collaborate much more readily with accountants, solicitors and other professional services practices. 

    Technology  

    The other big change is the increasing use of technology as an enabler, rather than as something to focus on. From client portals, to platforms, to risk profiling and behavioural insights tools, through to communications and video meetings, there will be deft use of the available and growing tool set which will enable clients to select how they are dealt with and drive efficiencies throughout practices. 

    This should also facilitate the ability to deal with younger and less wealthy clients earlier on in their financial journeys.    

    Adrian Lowcock, independent analyst  

    Inflation/ low interest   

    Inflation has been largely absent from markets for most of the last decade, but a number of factors mean it could well return. 

    However, with high levels of government debt we could easily see a period of higher inflation and low interest rates, presenting a challenge for low-risk asset classes and cash which have always played a useful role in financial planning. 

    The return of inflation has a significant impact on people’s finances and would also lead to financial planners having to adjust their models and assumptions to help their clients be prepared for the impact it has on their wealth. 

    Technology to further fill the advice gap 

    As the need for financial planning grows the rising costs are likely to restrict access to all but the wealthy. The advice gap has been around for a while now but the solutions that address some of the issues are likely to grow as technology makes it possible to reduce the costs whilst addressing the regulatory issues around advice. 

    The solutions that fill the gap are already here, and include guided models, model portfolios and full robo-advice. Demand for – and use of – these solutions is only likely to grow. 

    I would also expect that they will get more sophisticated and incorporate a wider number of products, not just pensions and Isas. 

    Our latest white paper ‘The future of financial planning’, prepared in partnership with Phil Billingham, is out now. Join the conversation as we explore some of the key themes and questions facing the profession. Check it out now
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