It was one of the biggest news stories of the year in terms of drawing ire from advisers.
A Sunday Times financial journalist, already well known for his caustic comments about the financial planning community, did it again with his view that it would be “unwise to take advice from any adviser who drives a Tesla”.
You’ll remember that the broadsheet asked an eclectic array of personalities, from TV presenter Gabby Logan to SCM Direct founder Gina Miller, what they would look for when choosing an adviser. “When the adviser drives a new sports car or wears flashy clothes, run,” Miller said. “It will be your fees that are paying for them.”
A rather clumsy revisit, if you will, of the sentiments contained within Fred Schwed’s renowned book Where are the Customers’ Yachts?, which takes aim at the earnings of investment advisers and how the author felt that they fell well short of adding the value they promised their clients.
We suspect there’s an element of clickbaiting to this, as any newspaper wants to attract attention and get people to read beyond the headline. And for those readers who don’t understand or poorly perceive the financial services industry, an element of controversy probably hits the mark.
But in reality, does the thrust of this argument stand up? Of course not.
If someone in the profession has invested in a high-ticket item like a Tesla, we’d strongly argue that they’re in fact practising what they preach and adhering to the best principles of financial planning, from carrying out detailed research to living in line with their personal values.
Financial planners who care enough about the environment to follow their strong beliefs by buying a Tesla are very likely to be considered in all of their activities: from their service levels to their financial planning, to whichever investment proposition they offer.
FinTwit could be to blame
After reading the piece, we were intrigued as to why financial advisers who’ve bought a Tesla were singled out, but we suspect social media may have played a part.
Many financial advisers are very active on Twitter, routinely sharing ideas, swapping anecdotes and arranging social events. They’re also genuinely engaging with each other on subject matters way beyond personal finance, from planning charitable endeavours to talking about purchases as diverse as pizza ovens and cars.
But in between the good-natured chats, plenty of financial advisers will also discuss many of the challenges currently facing the profession - the continual fee hikes, levies, PI issues and how they financially impact those who run modern practices.
We think this is the rather weak premise on which the journalist is seeking to stir the pot with the public. If practices are under such financial pressure, how can they find the funds for purchases such as an £80,000 Tesla? He has wrongly assumed these pressures cannot be that severe if advisers can also drive that car.
The answer is, of course, that advisers are not only discerning consumers but also adherents of financial planning and all that entails: personal values, objectives, budgeting and committing to a course of action based on beliefs.
The fact that advisers are investing and spending their money wisely is surely therefore a good thing, as it would be for anybody in other lines of work.
After all, you’d want your dentist to have good teeth, so it’s always good to see that a financial adviser is managing their money well.
So, a supportive shout-out for those advisers who have found themselves under fire for merely following their beliefs: for showing progressive values and doing their part as we all make choices to counter climate issues.
You deserve better from a financial journalist.