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Guest blog: Are you doing what you claim?

Phil is still away on holiday, so this week’s guest blog comes from Chris Budd who has recently published his latest book, The Four Cornerstones of Financial Wellbeing. In this guest blog, Chris looks at how firms present themselves, and how this compares with what they actually deliver.

Finding a catchy and pithy strapline for your business is not easy in a crowded sector.

As a result, many straplines tend to be rather similar. As firms have embraced financial planning, and have seen the life-changing effect that this can have, so this has been reflected in their marketing, for example on their websites.

This enables them to distinguish themselves from those firms who are still only talking about the money, and not about the client.

A typical strapline for such a planning firm may be a variant of the following:

We help you to live your best life

Whether this is a great strapline will be the subject of a future guest blog. For the purposes of this piece, let’s assume it is, as there are two other issues that I would like to highlight.

Mind The Gap

It is important that there is no distinction between what you say, and what you do. A firm that claims to help me to live my best life must then actually help me to live my best life.

If this claim is made in the marketing, but the planner has not been given the training and the space they need to deliver that service, this will not reflect well on the business.

I see examples of this all the time. One planner I spoke to recently was under instruction from the owners of the practice that a successful annual review process was a quick annual review process. The planner wanted meetings to last as long as two hours, if necessary, in order to really understand the clients, but was told that annual review meetings should last no longer than one hour, preferably even less.

This firm has a slogan similar to “We help you to live your best life”. How can they achieve that aim, if time is so limited?

Another example could be where a firm’s strapline focuses on the client’s life, but the “What We Do” section lists “Protection, Pensions, Investments”.

Roll this picture forward a few years. Where will the clients go? Where will the talented planners go? Eventually, I would suggest, to firms that do not have a gap between their marketing messaging and the service they deliver.

Define “Best”

If financial advice (advising the money) was V1, then adding cashflow forecasting and coaching skills created V2: financial planning.

Adding financial wellbeing into the mix now gives us V3. We are a young profession, only a matter of decades old, and it is no surprise that we are still developing our proposition.

Financial wellbeing is a term that covers all aspects of the relationship between money and happiness. It enables us to ask clients this question: What actually is your best life?

Money is a great enabler of wellbeing, but it can also be a barrier. Research shows that a person who sees money and status as an objective is likely to be less happy, not more.

Personally, I would expect a firm that claims to “help me live my best life” to spend some time helping me understand what that is. That means not simply asking for my objectives, but challenging me, and educating me about the research on happiness.

The Financial Wellbeing Certificate, run by the Institute for Financial Wellbeing, aims to do exactly this. Crucially, it spends time looking at how the firm as a whole can prepare the client for a wellbeing conversation. This is not just the website, but newsletters (how about turning that quarterly investment bulletin into a quarterly wellbeing newsletter?).

It is about creating an environment in the meeting room which makes clients feel that they are there to talk about themselves, not listen to the planner talk about their money. Maybe it means going back to seeing them in their home once every few years, not just on a Zoom call. It is about the clients feeling that there are matching values between them and the firm – as a whole, not just the planner.

This is about consistency between the individual planners, but also between the financial planning process of the firm and how it is marketed.

Get this right, and you might even consider changing your strapline to:

We help you to find your best life

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