Let me ask you a question. What is the best professional work that you or your firm has ever done for a client, for a family? Tell me about the most profound experience you had working with clients and the impact your advice had.
I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m going to guess that it wasn’t a portfolio rebalance or a pension switch. It was probably a situation where you showed up in the life of your clients and provided some insight and wise counsel at the intersection of money and life – where you helped them navigate a challenging situation with humanity and grace.
I’m not necessarily talking about some heroic act or life-changing intervention. Often the biggest impact comes from the smallest insight. The joining of dots to offer a creative solution from what seemed like a difficult challenge.
If you’ve worked in financial services for any amount of time, chances are you or a colleague have a great story, one that you’d be proud to share and that reveals the hidden truth about financial planning done well. The problem is that very few people outside of the tight circle of financial planners and their support network know much about these experiences. And the regulator, media and much of the public retain the view that the ‘financial services industry’ does little more than flog expensive products and pocket fat commissions for the privilege!
This thought prompted me to post some comments on social media last year. Inspired by a wonderful real life client story* that I read on the Initiative for Financial Wellbeing website. Using the hashtag #StoriesNotSpreadsheets, I issued a rallying cry to the planning community. I explained that if we want to spread the word about the positive influence that financial planning can bring to clients, then we’re all going to need to do better. We need to share our best stories.
I explained that for too long we have focused on the wrong things – we have talked about ‘The Plan’, and ‘The Portfolio’, we’ve promoted the value in building a ‘lifetime cashflow model’ or ‘evidence-based investing’, when we should be talking about the outcomes and what happens after we use these tools of the trade.
Plans and formulas do not win hearts and minds. Your client doesn’t care about a plan, they care about their life, their family, their future. Martin Luther King didn’t say “I Have a 60-page Plan” - he talked about a Dream of how life could be for everyone and, in doing so, mobilised a nation and created impact and change. Simply put, he told a story and painted a picture of a bright and positive future.
I had an idea that we could gather the best 25 or 30 real life client stories from advisers across the country and bring them together in a published book. Not just any old paperback, but a high quality, beautifully designed hardback ‘coffee table’ style book. One that any financial planner would be proud to have in their office to hand out to clients, prospective clients, and professional partners. It would be your calling card, and the best marketing tool you could have – all promoting, through real life stories, the positive impact of the great work this community does.
Then things got interesting. Well known author, blogger, and financial planner, Carl Richards of The Behavior Gap series got in touch to offer his services. Incredibly generously, Carl offered to create an individual sketch alongside every story - if we could find a publisher to run with the idea.
Other offers of support began to come in as the idea gathered momentum and seemed to engage more and more people, inspired by the opportunity to be part of the project.
My friend and fellow contributor to Illuminate, Lee Robertson, kindly offered the services of his media platform, Octomembers. The team of writers and journalists at Octo would provide support and advice and work with financial planners who had submitted a client story – few of us are experienced authors and so guidance and editing from professional writers would be invaluable.
Next, I spoke to a leading publisher, and after only a tiny amount of arm twisting, they agreed to publish the book, on one condition. To make it commercially viable, we had to obtain pledges from the advice community to buy 2,000 books. The high-quality books I had envisaged would, the publisher advised me, sell on Amazon for £25 each, but we could purchase them for £15. At this stage we don’t need any money, or formal commitments, just an indication that you would buy some books.
They even threw in a wonderful bonus; for every two books we purchased, the publisher would gift us an extra book for free. So, if we reached our goal of 2,000 books, we would have 1,000 extra and could distribute them to colleges and libraries to help spread the word and share the important message far and wide.
Imagine, your chance to be in a first edition book, beautifully designed and illustrated by a New York Times bestselling author. Your chance to showcase your best work and that of the very best of this noble profession.
The original idea was created in the depths of the lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic and can come to life as we emerge through the other side this year. I see the project as a souvenir of a very difficult time for many people - and a symbol of hope for a bright future.
Right now, we’re about halfway towards our book purchase target and need two things to make this happen; more pledges to buy books when they are printed, and more great stories of impactful work done by the financial planning community.
So, now it’s up to us, to you. This was never my project; this was designed from the beginning to be from the planning community, and it needs people like you to put your hand up and say, ‘I’m in!’
If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?
Please send your ideas, offers, suggestions and pledges to email@example.com
Capital Asset Management
*The butterfly effect https://initiativeforfinancialwellbeing.org.uk/the-butterfly-effect-by-kim-bendall/