21st April, 2020 - Webinar replay
In conversation with Carl Richards
Phil Bray 0:01
Good morning everybody, and welcome to our latest webinar. So good to see so many people here today. Not least our three fantastic guests. Really looking forward to the next hour and a half. We’ve got 90 minutes in the company of Carl, Carl Richards, Matthew Aitchison and Helena Wardle. Carl, Dan, Matthew, do you want to unmute yourself so you can talk? And, Helena will be joining us in a minute. Helena, I can see you there. Fantastic. So as I say, welcome to everybody. This is the latest in our series of free webinars for financial planners and advisers in the UK. And today is very much a conversation. It’s conversation with Carl, with Matthew and with Helena. And, I thought we’d start with just a couple of introductions, if that’s okay? So Carl, Matt, Helena – can you just briefly introduce yourself to anybody who doesn’t know you? I can’t believe there’s nobody who doesn’t know you, Carl. But if you could just do a brief introduction, that will be fantastic.
Carl Richards 1:11
Yeah, thanks, Phil. Super excited to be here. Is the volume/audio all okay? Just a quick thumbs up from somebody. Good, okay, perfect. So, I am a financial planner. And I write about helping clients make good decisions with money. And I draw silly little things with a sharpie and cardstock. That’s led to two books, and some public speaking, and some work around the world with some of the best financial planners in the world. And it’s been super, super fun to continue that after four years, New Zealand and all the amazing planners I met in South Africa and Australia, to be here in the UK has been amazing, because some of the best planners in the world for sure. So it’s been super fun. So that’s my brief introduction.
Phil Bray 2:05
Thank you, Carl. Matt, yourself?
Matthew Aitchison 2:07
Hi Phil. Yeah, thank you. So, Matt Aitchison, I run a very small financial planning business in Bedfordshire. We do essentially, retirement planning, we only do full comprehensive financial planning. Just me and my wife running the company. And, yeah, so I’m just looking at my picture that you’ve put up there. And remembering when I used to be clean shaven before I went into lockdown. Apparently, I was separated from my razor during lockdown. But… yeah, that’s me. So, a very, very simple clean business that we run.
Phil Bray 2:49
Thank you, Matt. And if you find your razor, can you pass it on to me? Helena, yourself? A couple of introductions, introduce yourself to the group if you would.
Helena Wardle 2:59
Hi, I’m Helena Wardle, I’m a financial planner based in Hitchin, Hartfordshire. I’m also really, really excited to see how many South Africans are on the call, because I’m originally from there. I’ve lived in the UK now for 15 years, and I’ve been a financial planner for the last nine. I really enjoy that sort of… South Africa rocks – just saw that! I’m just really enjoyed the fun of the job, the sort of variety of what we do, and how much we help people. So I’m quite passionate about what we do.
Phil Bray 3:29
Fantastic. Thank you, Helena. And last, but certainly no mean is least, we’ve got our very own Dan Campbell, who’s going to keep us on the straight and narrow today. Dan, have we got any rules we need to abide by during the next 90 minutes?
Dan Campbell 3:41
No rules are such. Keep it clean, in the comments. Come on, we want a nice webinar here. So if anybody’s got any questions for any of the panellists here, either drop something in the chat, or put it in the Q&A box just below, and where relevant during this session, I’ll just field the questions and get the answers.
Phil Bray 4:00
Fantastic. Thanks, Dan. And just so everyone’s aware, we’ll be recording for 90 minutes today. And we’ll send out a copy of the recording later on this evening. And for what it’s worth, there’s three or four slides, we’ll send out copies of the slides. And Yardstick and Carl have put together and offer, a fantastic special offer to join Carls fellowship. So we’ll be sending that out later on today. And the fellowship is just one of the things we want to be talking about. We’re going to start by talking about how there’s financial planners and business owners as well. We can adapt our current thinking in the crisis in this pandemic. We’re gonna be talking about some of the key messages that financial planners need to communicate to their clients right now. So who better to have on this call, than a couple of financial planners? And we’re going to be talking about strategies for communicating the value of financial planning, to people who haven’t already experienced it. I know Andy Hart (on one of our webinars recently) described this current period as “the Olympics of financial planning”, which I thought was a great way of describing it. And it’s clear that financial planning now has more benefit than ever before. So I want to talk about that more as well. But for the first section, I want to talk about Coronavirus, lockdown and business planning. So, question for you Carl, if I may? What do you believe that financial planners could do, should do, and must do right now, to adapt to the current period that we find ourselves in?
Carl Richards 5:35
Yeah, it’s a super good question. I think one thing, and this isn’t… I mean, this is what I’ve been talking about for the last 10 years, but it’s just become sort of stark relief right now. Which is to really understand the value you provide. And I think, it’s easy to get confused right now. Because if you understand the value you provide, then we can get to the next step, which is like, get out on the front foot, and be talking to people. So let me just describe that real quickly. I think – and I’m gonna have to unpack this a bit – but I think understanding the value starts with this idea. Like you are not… you never have been, but this is providing a great reminder, like you – real financial planners are not defenders of a map. Right? Defenders of an outdated map now. Like, the financial plan is a map, you’re not a defender of that map, you’re a guide in the changing landscape. And if you understand the implications of that, it will change the way you are approaching client communication right now. If you go into a client meeting, phone call, whatever it is in (and obviously, I’m talking about zoom meetings), whatever. Like if you go into an interaction with a client, feeling like you are the defender of a map, and the client comes in a little bit upset, or hot, or uncertain, or scared, or nervous, you approach that interaction defensively. And what you would do if you presented it actually, defensively as you would spray them with facts and figures. How would I have known? You know, I’ve talked a lot – I mean, thousands, at this point over the last four weeks, and I’m hearing a lot of planners say, “I’m feeling a little defensive, I feel a little embarrassed, even sort of guilty”. You know, some that are more willing to talk about their emotions than we do in the UK, I know, tell me that they even feel like sad, that they were able to deliver on this thing they thought they were delivering. And all that’s pointing to the idea that you thought your job was to deliver a map of the next 30 years. So the next five years, the next… And I realised as an industry, we’ve taught clients that that’s our job. But it’s not. It’s never been. And now, we’re getting a stark reminder. So if you walk into a meeting, and a client, your job is to be the release valve for people’s uncertainty right now – that’s part of your job. And if they start unloading their uncertainty on you, and you’re feeling like a defender of a map, you approach that differently. Facts, figures, defensive, I’m going to like… if you’re a guide (I just want you to understand the difference in this feeling if you’re a guide), and they come in, wanting to unload on you, with feelings of fear, or uncertainty, or anxiety. You can say, “Gosh, Phil, I understand why that feels that way. Like, that’s really scary.” You can even be empathetic, to the point of saying, “Look, when I watch the news right now, I get super scared too.” But a guide… The only thing scarier right now, the only thing scarier than being on a plane during turbulent weather, is seeing your pilot scared. And I’m just suggesting, that a guide on the mountain or a pilot in a plane, your value does not come from defending the plan. Your value comes from the ability to look somebody in the eyes in turbulent weather and say, “Come with me, we’re going this way.” There’s nobody better. You can have confidence in your ability to be a guide, without being confident of delivering a certain outcome. You can engage in that process of solving problems. You’ve done it thousands of times before, and there is no one better than you right now, given your experience, your ability and the relationship you have with the client. Keep in mind, nobody else has that relationship. No one. Even if you only had it for a month, no one else. So you’re the only one that can look at them in the cock pit together and say, “Come on, brother. We’re gonna fly this plane.” That attitude is completely different. Now, if you have that attitude – the reason I didn’t start with that is – if you have that attitude, then I’m begging you, please, get on the front foot. Get on the phone, make some phone calls. Look, and here’s how this phone call should go. In the past, we were sort of worried about… everybody that’s been in this business more than five years, has had the experience where you call a client and say, “Hey, have you seen the news? Are you worried?” and they say, “What news?” and, like you were the one alerting them that they were worried? I think we can all agree right now, you do not have that concern. Like universally, everybody knows what’s going on. So the call can be pretty simple. “Hey, Helena, I was thinking about you today, just wanted to call and check in.” Right? And that gives them the option to say, “You know what, Carl, I’m actually doing really well. And it means a lot that you called. We’re good. How’s your family?” Or they could say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you called I…”, you know, but you didn’t plant the seed of which direction you’re going. You just said, “Helena, I was thinking about you today. Just wanted to call and check in.” So, that’s a long winded answer to what should a real financial planner be doing right now? Getting in contact with clients. Checking in. Making sure they know that we’ve got a plan, in terms of how to address these issues. Make sure you understand – in order to do that confidently, you’ve got to understand – you are a guide, not a defender of the map.
Phil Bray 11:30
That’s a great answer. And I must… when my financial planner got in touch with me a few weeks ago – and shout out to Tom Morris at Ovation – it was just the nicest thing. And, for him to be so concerned, it was just… it was fantastic. So I was on the receiving end of the message you’ve just given, Carl. Over the past few weeks, what are the cool things you’ve seen planning firms do, or individual planners do? What have you seen that you thought, wow, that’s fantastic? That’s really great.
Carl Richards 12:01
Is that to me, sorry?
Phil Bray 12:02
Yes, that’s fine, Carl.
Carl Richards 12:03
Yeah, sorry. Sorry. I… look, I think it’s pretty simple, as we’d say, in the States, blocking and tackling at this point, right? Like, the cool things I’ve seen financial planners doing is what most are not doing. I know, this group is going to be unique. And you guys are gonna think oh, of course, of course, of course. But that’s because you all live inside this bubble. You don’t realise what all your competitors are doing right now – and that is hiding. And they’re hiding for good reason – because they’re humans. And this is scary. And it’s really scary, to not only deal with your own stuff, but go help somebody else deal with their stuff. So, the best things I’m seeing right now are just people who are actively out, communicating one to one. And then also I’ve seen planners, like, there’s so many great authors or artists, like there’s so many great people who need a place to speak, or play or share, that you can set up that 20 people on a zoom call, “Hey, I’m gonna have my friend who just wrote a book…” well, actually, I was just thinking about this. And my friend Aaron (I’m just pointing at the book he just mailed me), like, I would be looking for… I’m seeing some planners do that where they’re having a weekly, a monthly a periodic – it doesn’t even have to have the pressure of a time schedule. And they’re saying, “Hey, I’ve got my friend Aaron, he just wrote this great book, he’s going to spend an hour with us. Invite your kids!” You know? So that’s ways of being on the offence, and out in front and helping clients deal with the situation. Those are the best things I’m seeing right now.
Phil Bray 13:32
Yeah, and it’s something we’ve talked about for the past – probably – two months now. Being on the offence, being on the front foot, as we put it in here in the UK. It’s so important, and there are so many financial advisers out there right now, not contacting their clients. Not providing that reassurance. Not being that guide. Helena, Matt, let’s start with… let’s bring you to in if we can? Helena, apart from the obvious restrictions. How have you and your firm adapted over the past few weeks? How have you got onto the front foot?
Helena Wardle 14:10
I think it’s different for everyone, isn’t it? Because this is such a big thing for all of us to deal with. And, I know that analogy about “we’re all in a boat”, but we’re not all in the same boat. I’m very fortunate that this has given me a lot of spare time. So I’m trying to use it by just thinking more creatively about our business, and the things that we’re wanting to do, and using it to take that time and make the most of it. But we also believe that what’s being said. We’re talking to our clients all the time. I think it’s really, really important. Even if it’s just picking up the phone to say, “Look, I know you’re there. I know you’re on your own. I’m dealing with a lot of stuff.” Because there’s a huge amount of sadness that’s come from there. And I think you’ve kinda… just really now more than ever, need to put yourself in the clients shoes and just really think about the things that they’re worrying about? And I find it’s not just money. And I think a lot of people agree. It’s about, you know, more than money for people, and it’s recognising that. So we’re just trying to really be there and help people as much as we can.
Phil Bray 15:13
And how have those conversations gone? When you’ve picked up the phone to those clients, or emailed them or communicated in whatever way that you have? How have those conversations gone?
Helena Wardle 15:22
People really appreciate it. It shows that you care, because we genuinely do. We’ve got really good relationships with our clients. And it’s about understanding, and talking to them in a personalised way to say, “Look, I know you have that holiday planned, and it’s now up in the air,” or “I know, you were really planning that massive thing, and it’s not happening,” or you know, “Your daughter’s weddings not going to happen.” It’s about putting that level of personalisation to it to really reach out and say, “Look, I get it. I do really get this, it’s not easy.” And also for people that have kids! I mean, I don’t know how people are coping with work, when you’re having to deal with being a teacher, trying to reassure them. So, it’s just trying to really put yourself into someone else’s shoes. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
Phil Bray 16:09
Matt, what about you? Are you getting a similar feel from your clients?
Matthew Aitchison 16:13
Yeah, so we jumped on communicating with our clients really early on. So we sent out kind of a weekly update. So, it was… It started off with a bit about scary markets. And we’ve, you know, we’re aware of it, not to worry, we’ve tested this, we’ve looked at this, we’ve got all this in our, kind of built into the back of our financial plan. We then looked at, we then started to talk about, it felt like, we were constantly saying, “Don’t worry, don’t do anything.” So, we carried on with that message, but interlaced it with, “Here are some things that you can do. You can review your expenses. You can start to look at your goals – what’s important to you. You can start to do a bucket list, for when you come out of lockdown.” And just trying to say, you know, it feels like you should be doing something. With your investment portfolio – you shouldn’t. With other things, you can. And then, we kind of, we sprinkled that with calls to our clients, and just making sure they were okay. And the funny thing was, every single client I spoke to was not concerned about finances at all, was more concerned about health and family. And so, in that in that way, it’s quite easy. I have one client who’s a brand new client, who wanted to bail out. But, you know, again, when we talk through and when, you know… actually do remember, so one of the things we’ve been doing for years is stress testing a market? Big market drop in cash flow, but with no recovery. And you remember when we talked about the 25% drop? Well, you’ve not dropped 25%. And do we do we think it’s not going to bounce? Because if it does bounce, then it’s better then. So, you’re still nowhere near that really bad scenario that we stress-tested, and we said you were going to be fine. So, actually, it I think it’s gone well? And actually, off the back of something that you suggested to me, Phil, we were about a month in, sent a survey to our clients just saying, “Hey, what do you think of how often we’re communicating with you? What do you think of the content? What do you think we should talk about going forwards? And if we haven’t called you yet, do you want a call?” And there was one person, who said that I hadn’t called him yet. And he’d appreciate a call. Everyone else said no, we’re absolutely fine. We’re happy with the contact, we’re happy with the frequency. We’re happy with how much you’ve spoken to us. The person who wanted a call, was wanting a call to discuss, “Should I be making my ISA contribution really early on in the tax year?” So it was it was not a scary call. It was a, you know, “What do you think? Should we be putting more money in?” So, I think everyone’s just scared. I think from a client’s point of view, I think, the financial planning part has really well prepared them, you know? They’ve all got cash buffers, they’ve all got well diversified portfolios, they’ve all had their financial plans stress-tested. The worrying part for me has been, people that aren’t clients who, who you know, don’t have that… haven’t, you know… their business incomes gone to zero overnight, things like that. So we’ve tried to talk to people in the community as well about that. But, it’s tricky. But yeah, our clients have been absolutely fine.
Phil Bray 20:06
Good. And I think just picking up on one of the comments that Alan made in the chat function – and keep those comments coming through and questions for Carl, Matt and Helena. But I think Alan, to paraphrase, talked about how often should you communicate? How do you know if you’re over communicating? I’m a big advocate of of asking clients. Matthew did exactly the right thing, by asking those clients a few brief questions. So you can get those communications, spot on. Otherwise, you’re just guessing. Nobody’s seen anything like this. And let’s hope we never see anything like this again. But if you ask those clients, you’ll understand whether you’re getting your communications spot on. Helena, you organised a webinar as well, didn’t you?
Helena Wardle 20:52
Yeah, when this first happened, I was very conscious that small businesses were really going to struggle? Especially because I saw some stuff in our local Facebook groups, of people just really panicking. So, I started with a friend of mine, a Facebook group, which we sort of set out to give guidance, and just help make sense of the stuff that was happening, to small business owners and freelancers. So the group grew really quickly, we’ve got about 530 members pretty quickly. And I just hosted a webinar and an Instagram live event for them, just to help answer the questions. And it just sort of gives them an opportunity to ask someone, to just check whether their understanding of what’s available, what they can do, is right? And it was really well received.
Phil Bray 21:39
Fantastic. And, they were all non-clients that came to the webinar?
Helena Wardle 21:45
Yes, so none of them are clients, just people that I thought needed help, and kind of just reached out. Because I felt that, you know, business owners – we put so much passion into what we do. It’s a really terrifying thing that’s happened, especially if all your income stopped or your ability to trade has stop overnight. It’s very scary.
Phil Bray 22:05
That’s really cool. Dan, anything that we need to be aware of in the chat, any questions coming through?
Dan Campbell 22:12
Mainly just agreement. So David says, “I think that where we need to do good, is to share broader financial planning tips, acting for the good of the community, and not those that we have underserviced.” So for example, what Helena is saying. Question in from Alan, “Great answers for investors. I would be interested to understand if the panel has experienced any difference between them, and clients who are drawing income – how have they adapted?”
Phil Bray 22:40
Anyone want to take that? Matthew, Carl, Helena?
Matthew Aitchison 22:44
I can start off? So, the really simple answer is, we’ve noticed no difference whatsoever. So, the way we tend to run our client portfolios is quite simple, kind of asset class approach. So we’ve got growth assets, we’ve got defensive assets. And for the income drawing clients, the defensive allocation always has their next 12 months of cash withdrawals in it. So, there is currently absolutely zero concern. There’s not very many of our clients that are really stressed, stressing their portfolios in terms of withdrawals. But, you know, we are – for the clients that are taking withdrawals – we are talking to them about, you know, they have reduced expenditure at the moment. So, at the moment they’re building up excess cash in their bank accounts. So it might be that when we get to the annual planning point, or a little bit further along the line, that we reduce what they’re taking from their portfolio, and use some of their surplus cash flow they’re building up currently. But that’d be a case by case basis, to be honest.
Phil Bray 24:00
Helena Wardle 24:02
I think this is where the value of calling clients have really helped us, because I can talk to them about strategies. So we spoke to clients in drawdown, or coming up to drawdown about planning strategies anyway. So you know, having an emergency fund to help cope with, you know, moments like this, how to plan for things that will make them feel uncomfortable, and trying to just say to them, “Right, if you’re not going to spend the £5,000 that we’ve planned for you to spend on holiday, then perhaps think about cutting your income, and changing it slightly.” So it’s been a very personal conversation with every client, rather than just the blanket approach.
Phil Bray 24:42
Cool. One of the things I’ve noticed over the past few weeks, is there was a spell of planners doing exactly what you were doing, Matt, and you were doing Helena, and Carl, you’ve been advocating by picking up the phone and having conversations with clients. And over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a shift, that that period is maybe coming to an end now. And we’re seeing more planners focusing on working on their business, rather than in it. And taking this as an opportunity to make some changes to their business potentially, work some projects that they didn’t have before. And clearly one of those is around education, improving skills and educating. So, I think this is a perfect opportunity to move on to the middle part of this webinar. And talk to you Carl, about the fellowship, if that’s okay? So, Carl, for those people on the call who aren’t aware of the fellowship, and could you explain your motivation for doing it? What it is? Give us the background and just explain more about what the fellowship is, if you would?
Carl Richards 25:55
Yeah, maybe I’ll give Helena and Matthew a heads up that, what am I talking about, the motivation? And I would be really curious before I explain what it is, to see what they say, because I’m really fascinated by how other people talk about it. So here’s the motivation behind the fellowship. So the fellowship, I can tell you like, technically, it’s like, it’s 21, declarations of… it was my attempt, to forcibly insert my opinion into the industry – speaking broadly, I’m using that term on purpose, the industry – the financial industry. It was my attempt to forcibly insert my opinion of what real financial planning looks like. So, I did that through the form of 21 declarations. It’s a manifesto, right? It’s just a flag in the ground. Now, the reason we did it, the reason we built it (and when I say we, just mean the whole team here), was because I noticed that I was like… I’ve been speaking at financial planning events all over the world. And I noticed that I was increasingly getting asked to address (and I know, we won’t admit this, like, we won’t admit this anywhere, but we especially won’t admit this in the UK), I was especially I was getting asked to address this sort of pervasive sense of professional self-esteem. Like all over the world, the ground was shifting beneath the feet of those people who have been in this – again, using this on purpose – this industry for a long period of time, really good people, trying to do really good work, and not quite understanding what their job was anymore. You know, there was this shift from technical – which is critical – but this need to understand the art of planning and how to communicate with clients. And it’s an overlay, right? Like, I’m not downplaying spreadsheets and calculators, it’s still critical. But you’ve also got to understand humans. So there was this sort of shift. People were crying in your office. You thought you were in a business with spreadsheets and calculators and somebody’s crying in your office, there’s this sort of shift. And then you’re also getting pricing pressure from… if you didn’t understand your value, if you didn’t understand your value, you were getting pricing pressure from things, fancy things with the cool kids and their robot toys, right? So, we built a series of workshops that were really tactical, like, here’s exactly what to do, like word for word scripts, on marketing, and word for word scripts on meetings, and word for word scripts on planning. And people paid a lot of money for them. And they said, this was amazing, incredible. But I noticed they often didn’t do them, and didn’t do anything with it. That’s a human problem. But I was like, “So how can we address this?” And I realised that I think tactics are easy. Sorry – better way to put this – I think tactics are simple. Like we can learn about the tactics. I think the competence to do them is hard. And, I wanted to try and address that confidence at scale. And that’s what the fellowship is – it’s a confidence forge. And it’s a place to remind you (maybe in some cases convince you), but in a lot of other cases, just remind you of the value that you provide to the world. So that’s why we built the fellowship. And I can tell you about what it is, but I’m super curious to see what Helena and Matthew say about what it is. With no preparation.
Phil Bray 29:25
Over to Matthew and Helena. Who’s gonna go first? Matt, do you want to give that one a go?
Matthew Aitchison 29:30
Go on then. So for me, there’s a progression that everyone goes through as a financial planner. And I… you know, in danger of offending some people, I’m going to kind of plough ahead slightly, and try not to offend anyone. So you kind of start out and you learn the technical, the very technical stuff, and that’s your kind of base level exams. And you kind of go through that, and you build up your technical knowledge, and you build up your ability to deliver advice. And it can be ongoing. But a lot of the time, it’s quite… even when it’s ongoing, it’s quite transactional, it’s quite one-piece of advice. You then kind of move across to, okay, you’ve got the technical baseline, and then you start to develop cash flow modelling and ongoing work, on all the good stuff that comes along with that. For me, the fellowship is just an evolution again. So it’s about increased confidence. It’s about where you’ve learned the technical aspects, and you’ve learned how to, use lots of big words, it’s about taking it back to simple ways of communicating with people. It’s about community. So it’s… for me, it’s all about kind of distilling – taking where you get to, and distilling it into more confidence, better communication. Because I think for – certainly, for me – I think the more you learn, the more you realise that you don’t know. And the more you get the imposter syndrome of you know, “But it could be this, it could be this, it could be this, it could be this.” There’s about 10 million solutions, and they can all be wrong. So it’s, all about… yeah, for me, it’s about confidence, making it simpler, good messages. And also knowing you’re not alone in the world, in how you think.
Phil Bray 31:35
What about yourself, Helena?
Helena Wardle 31:37
That’s gonna be a hard one to follow! But, I do agree with that. To me, it’s been such interesting perspectives and ideas, and just trying to think about how to make what we do, incredibly simple for clients. And that is something I’m really passionate about. I think we do sort of live in a very technical world. And we can over complicate things. And that sometimes is not going to engage people. So we need to think of new ways of doing it. And sometimes that means just going back to the actual simple things that mattered. So it’s not rocket science. It’s just really, really clear and easy. And that’s what I got from it.
Phil Bray 32:18
And, Helena, you’ve got… there’s 21 declarations in the Fellowship, which of them stuck out the most to you?
Helena Wardle 32:32
I struggled with this, when you asked me the first time. I generally found the one that I practised the most, was listening. So, it sounds really simple. And it’s something that I always thought, “Okay, I’m relatively good at this.” But when you really start thinking about it, I’m quite chatty. So to me, it’s quite important to put people at ease, when they first come into a meeting? So I use conversation and being chatty and friendly, to sort of just relax them a bit. And when you start thinking about it, you realise how much talking you’re doing. And there’s a little game that suggests that… that talks about, trying to say as little as possible as you can in the first meeting, unless there’s a question mark at the end of what you’re saying. And that has been a real interesting exercise to do. So I’ve loved that. And I also love the section about simplicity. So trying to make things as simple as possible. Because I genuinely think, if we can do that, that’s how we’re going to make our services so much more engaging for clients. And that’s really important. Because if you can make the hard work that we do, come across incredibly easy, people will engage that much more with that. And I really believe that.
Carl Richards 33:47
Can I ask you… Helena, can I ask you a question? That, why do you… I get asked this question a lot, and I’d be interested in your perspective. Why do you think we get scared of making things simple?
Helena Wardle 34:04
I personally think, we have done a lot of work to understand what we do. We have had to do so many exams, you have to stay on top of so many things. It’s like showing off a little bit what you know? And I mean that well, I promise – I’m not arrogant. But, we have to… we have to know a lot. So almost, it’s an opportunity to show off what you know. But I genuinely think it’s so confusing to people. It’s not because they’re stupid. They do really understand things in their own world. But money is not engaging to a lot of people. And that’s our problem. We do, as an industry, overcomplicate it, and that’s just sort of how I think of it. Try and make it as simple as possible, because that’s how you’re gonna get someone else that doesn’t work in your world, to understand what you’re trying to say.
Carl Richards 34:54
How do you… This is – I hope this is okay Phil. Actually, I don’t care if you think it’s okay – I’m going to do it anyway, because I’m so curious about what Helena would say about this! And Ian asked this question too. If you’re used to being – as you put it, “quite chatty” in a first meeting, how… and the goal of that I’m assuming, the goal of that’s well intentioned, right? To put clients at ease, help them feel trust, help build trust. How do you put clients at ease and build trust, if you’re not being chatty? If you’re not talking?
Helena Wardle 35:30
You can, by just asking them the right questions? Because you’re putting them centre stage, and that makes them really feel valued. If they can walk out of the room, feeling like they’ve had an hour to give you their problems, what they’re thinking, and how they feel about things, they feel really listened to. And that’s been quite powerful. Because they still feel like you… you’re still giving off a warmth, and I’m still chatty and warm in a sense, but I’m using what I’m saying by asking a question, instead of making a statement. And that’s been quite a useful thing for me to really think about.
Carl Richards 36:15
That’s amazing. It’s really… I think you’re pointing at something super important, which is, there’s a switch we need to make in our minds, to understand that we think we’re in the solutions business. And we are, later, but we’re really in the problem understanding business. Right, like until you… that would be like a doctor thinking they’re in the prescription business. You can’t be in the prescription business, if you’re not first in the diagnosis business, right? And so I think if we understand that trust… trust is really a function of the quality of the questions you ask. And giving people a chance, there’s data like, I’m not making this up, right? Like there’s data behind this, that when you talk about, when you engage with somebody who’s genuinely interested in you, and they ask you questions, and then they listen really carefully, you release oxytocin – not oxycontin – oxytocin in your brain, which is a chemical reaction, generated genetically for us to like the other person. I think we’ve all had that experience where you’ve been with somebody, like, “I think you could solve my problem.” It’s a ninja trick. I love when I get a chance to play it. I practice it sometimes with my wife and my kids. She knows now. So she’s like, “Don’t pull your ninja tricks on me!” But when somebody’s like, “I think you can solve my problem.” And you just say things like, “Tell me more about the problem? What have you tried? You know, what worked? What didn’t work? What do you think you should do next?” And they… 15 minutes into that they grab your arm and say, “Thank you so much, you’ve solved…” and they run off and you’re like, “I didn’t say a word.” You know. So, I think it’s really, really important, what you’re pointing at. Which is the well intentioned desire to make things complicated, is because we’re smart, and we think we’re in the solutions business, and we want to build trust. But, I think there’s another way. And the other way, I think we point to other areas, people pointed this out, like psychiatrists, and psychologists and coaches. They ask really good questions, then they listen. So thanks for that.
Phil Bray 38:30
Matt, which of the 21 declarations stood out for you?
Matthew Aitchison 38:36
I think, for me, you know, there’s a lot of them that stand out to be honest, and you go through and you kind of find yourself nodding along, and everything. I’m not going to… I was going to talk about declaration 20. But that’s pretty much what Carl has talked about, about being a guide. For me, that’s even more relevant now. But it’s relevant, anyway. We’ve, as I said before, we’ve sat with clients, we’ve stress-tested market falls, we’ve stress-tested non recoveries. And we talk to our clients all the time about, it’s a best guess, it’s… we don’t know what the future holds. But we’re there to use the best that we… the best tools that we can, knowing that they’ll be outdated tomorrow. And we liken ourselves to the sat nav that spots traffic, and spots when new roads have been developed. So it’s kind of, for me that that one stood out huge. And then, just for pure inspiration, 21, I loved. Which is, actually we… our job, is to turn dreams into reality. Which, as corny as it sounds, that’s what it is. So yeah, every single declaration, I found myself nodding along. And absolutely, going “Oh, that’s a great way of explaining that,” or, “Yeah, that – do you know what, I thought that, but I didn’t know I quite thought it like that,” if that makes sense? So it kind of clarifies your thinking, gets gets you going, “Yeah. Do you know what, that’s what I thought, but I’ve never put it as succinctly as that.”
Phil Bray 40:25
Carl, any supplementary questions to Matt?
Carl Richards 40:31
I was just curious about, how often have you… have you found yourself going back, as reminders? Like, have you gone back? Because, one thing that fellowship includes is lifetime access to those things? Right? Like, it’s not a one… have you found yourself going back and reviewing? And if so, how often or what are you looking at?
Matthew Aitchison 40:55
Yeah, I do. So I’ve, I do go back and review. Because I think, everyone – we’re all human. We all have our moments of doubt. We all have our moments of impostor syndrome, of thinking, someone said something, do I… is that right? Is that wrong? I think especially when this all kicked off, with Coronavirus and lockdown, and the economy was tanking. And you, and you kind of… I did have… I’ll share with with just you guys and the other hundreds or so of people that are listening…
Carl Richards 41:38
Don’t worry, it’s just us here, so…
Matthew Aitchison 41:39
And you know, for a day or two, right at the start. You kind of felt yourself in private thinking, “Am I right? Is it gonna bounce? Are my clients financial plans in danger?” And you start to, not quite doubt yourself, but you do kind of start to… it’s that little chip away at your self-confidence. But you know that you have to have the confidence, and you have to reassess, and you have to look at it with a very clear mind. So I think the declarations, it’s moments like that where you revisit them and you re-read… re-watch the videos, re-read the stuff and you think, yeah, actually, yeah. We… it is an ever changing landscape. We are, you are a guide. And you can look at all the declarations, and pick up something from each of them. And just think, “Do you know what, actually, I need to do this. I need to do that, I’ll make any… I need to make it simple.” And yeah, so yeah, I do revisit.
Carl Richards 41:41
Mmm. One last question about that. Have you noticed that we put the PDFs in there, of each declaration?
Matthew Aitchison 42:52
Yeah. I think they’re great.
Carl Richards 42:53
Have you actually printed them? Or do you just look at them?
Matthew Aitchison 42:59
So, I look at them…
Carl Richards 43:01
You haven’t printed them out?
Matthew Aitchison 43:03
I could see the value in printing them, and maybe putting them on the wall I’m looking at right now. But yeah, I think they great. And, they’re very well presented. Yeah.
Carl Richards 43:14
Okay, Helena, did you notice those?
Helena Wardle 43:16
Yes. No, I’ve got them. I do print stuff out, because I tend to read and underline and write notes, so I have got them. And it’s good to revisit things, because it has a different meaning the second time, sometimes. Like when you look at something the first time it’s sinking in. When you go back to something, you always notice something different. So yeah, I have revisited. I like the fact it’s short – no offence! But I like the fact it’s short. It’s much quicker to fit in to your day, then a, sort of, hour long presentation sometimes. So yeah, that has helped, the fact that we can go back to it, because it’s actually short and sweet.
Carl Richards 43:52
Thank you. We… I mean, that’s no offence taken, we worked super hard. Everything I do I work really, really hard to send people less. Right? I figure you would much rather pay – at least, I would much rather pay – for somebody to distil things and get to the point. And so yeah, I’m glad to hear you say that. But I asked about the PDFs just because I was curious about if they were valuable. And we… the feedbacks been amazing so far. So anyway, thank you for that. That’s all I had, Phil.
Phil Bray 44:20
That’s no problem. So one of the questions, one of the thing, who was it? Let me just scroll back up. So, David talked about in the chat, Carl, your diagrams are “the sheer work of a genius,” which is very complementary.
Carl Richards 44:35
Or a madman?
Phil Bray 44:37
Well, there’s probably a fine line.
Carl Richards 44:39
There is a fine line!
Phil Bray 44:41
So what I wanted to do, as we’re talking about the fellowship, is just share my screen again, and show everybody how they can get their hands on the fellowship, and also how they can get their hands on some of these animations… oh, sorry, some of the the graphics and the sketches that we’ve turned into animations. So, the special offer that we have agreed with Carl is: lifetime access to the Fellowship, which includes the 21 daily essays, 23 video lessons, for $500. And we’ve agreed with Carl and his team, that we will provide a free bundle of three of Carl’s best sketches, but as a sketch and as an animation. There’s the link there, if you want to go and have a look at the fellowship and learn more. But what I wanted to do, Carl, is, because we’ve animated these three, you’ve already seen these three. So what I thought I would do, is just put them on the screen. And just, if you wouldn’t mind, Carl, just talk through each of them. And the logic behind each of them, if you wouldn’t mind for a minute?
Carl Richards 45:53
Yeah. This, by the way, is so cool. I’ve been thinking about doing this for 15 years. I remember having a meeting with a guy in the Netherlands actually about doing this, back when it was gonna be like hard. Not to this wasn’t hard, but it was a lot easier than it was 15 years ago.
Phil Bray 46:07
Well, I should absolutely give credit to Dan. It was Dan’s idea, who’s using this webinar today, and it was Dan’s idea to to animate these. So, cheers, Dan!
Carl Richards 46:17
Super good, Dan, you did a good job. So this one was just trying to be the reminder that, look, we tend to… when people call up scared, you see this on Twitter all the time, and I just don’t think it’s that helpful, where we’re like… There’s a smugness that we’ve developed in the industry, as we’ve learned about behavioural finance. We tend to go, “Hey, look at those dumb humans down there, behaving so dumb!” And, we kind of forget that A) that’s not helpful, and B), we happen to be humans too. And we have all sorts of blind spots in our lives. So this was just a reminder that… and if you’ve ever tried, reasoning with your teenage daughter or son, you know, when they’re in the middle of making an irrational decision – if you try to reason with them? It doesn’t work. Another example would be, try reasoning with somebody about lung cancer, while they have a cigarette in their mouth. It doesn’t really help them stop smoking, I can tell you right now, it doesn’t help. So, first a hug, then we can get to the facts. That’s what that was about.
Phil Bray 47:30
Fantastic. Next one?
Carl Richards 47:37
Yeah, so we don’t need to spend a lot of time, you know, the only thing I, like I… that’s maybe like the classic image that I drew, that’s one of the oldest ones. And it’s not like it’s all that new, right? Like the “dot, dot, dot repeat until broke”. I’ll just comment on that. Well, two comments. One, I love using this along with Warren Buffett’s quote, that we try to be fearful, when everyone else is greedy, and greedy when everyone else is fearful. So, I love using that. And then I’ll just comment as a communication style. A little trick that we’ve learned over the years, after doing this to a pretty discerning audience every week for 10 years – and an audience who did not feel any shame, about telling you what they thought about your work. One trick we learned was trying to give people permission to enter these conversations. So my editor calls it being confrontational, without being off-putting. And that’s what that “dot, dot dot repeat until broke”, like, that’s the one image that we hear advisers all over the world who have that framed on their walls. I hear the story over and over, where clients will walk in and go, “Oh!” It allows them to enter a mistake they’ve made, because there’s just a teeny bit of humour there. And they say, “Help me fix that.” Right? So that’s just a little trick we’ve tried to figure out, is “How can I be confrontational? How can I… without being off-putting, without feeling like I’m lecturing, and allow people to enter the discussion?” So, that’s what I’ll say about that one.
Phil Bray 49:13
Fantastic. And then, finally?
Carl Richards 49:18
Yeah, I’m super jazzed about this. This… I have these moments, every once in a while, so it may not mean much to you. So thanks for entertaining me when I tell you the story. But, I have these moments where I’m trying – and this is what I’m addicted to – trying really hard to get the core of an issue. And this happened, just… this is new. This is like maybe a month ago. I had one that was said, five days – five years. And it was similar, and I had shared it. And I’ve learned a couple of things over the years and it’s surprising to me that I forgot it, but anytime you use a number, anytime you use data, people want to argue about the data and they missed the point. So I’m continually trying to refine down, what’s the point? What’s the point? And, this is like, this is the complexity of this, like, this looks simple. But there’s a bunch of complexity that’s gone on before. And you have to leave… So, I noticed, five days and five years, people were saying, “But, what if it’s 10 years? What if it…” Or, they were saying, “That’s not really five days, or, that’s…” like, there’s all this confusion, and I was sitting in a coffee shop not far from the house (I’m just pointing the direction of the coffee shop). I was sitting in the coffee shop, struggling with this, and I was seeing the reaction on Twitter. And I was like, wait… wait, it’s not about five. It’s about, the whole point here is, are you focused on the short-term or the long-term? It’s about days versus decades. And this, like, I get – I’m a freak, because I get a little like, I get like, my hair stands up – like I get so excited at that moment, where you’re like, “Oh, that’s the thing!” and then, trying to strip away everything that would distract. I’m not talking about my sketches right now. I’m trying to trick you into learning something about your marketing and your communication. If you can strip away everything that distracts from the point you’re trying to make. That’s what we’re trying to get to: simplicity. What I just read somewhere, someone said, “Simplicity is complexity, resolved.” How good is that, right? Simplicity is complexity resolved. Not my quote, I don’t know whose it is, but simplicity is complexity resolved. And this is one of the most recent example. I only have 10 of these where I would almost cry, because I get so excited about that moment. And this is the most recent one.
Phil Bray 51:49
Fantastic. Thank you, Carl, for that…
Carl Richards 51:50
Oh, and let me just mention one last thing, Phil. That one, has been one of the most useful right now. People are… we sell these on the… at the Behavior Gap store for $100 apiece, you get the licence to use them indefinitely. And what you’re getting here, is three of them. Along with the licence – correct me if I’m wrong, Phil, but you get the same licence – you can use them for anything. Put them on a t-shirt, print them on the wall, put them on mugs, make a puzzle – whoever made a puzzle, I saw that recently. In Texas, somebody put a billboard up (of course, in Texas!). You can use them for anything you want, forever with that licence. And the one that’s – by far – been the most popular one in terms of sales is that days in decades, one right now.
Phil Bray 52:35
Absolutely. So it’s obviously access to the fellowship, the three static images to use on jigsaws, mugs, billboards, whatever you want to put them on. And animations, which would work fantastically in newsletters, on websites, gifs on social media, etc.
Carl Richards 52:52
Wait a second, they get the animations, too?
Phil Bray 52:54
Carl Richards 52:55
As part of the… that’s a little silly. That’s a little silly. I want the animations. How much…? Anyway, go ahead.
Phil Bray 53:05
The… Okay, Carl. One of the things that people have been talking about in the chat and on this call with Matthew, is the imposter syndrome. And last time we had you on, you talked a lot about the imposter syndrome. And, just wondered if you can maybe talk through some of the techniques that you’ve had for dealing with impostor syndrome, in the past?
Carl Richards 53:30
Yeah, this is so important. And it comes up every time. So if you’re, you know, Andrew, I saw you mentioned it, and everybody else is thinking it. We all deal with it. Here’s the most… look, I want to just clarify, as I talk about this, there’s like paralysing anxiety, that is legit. And people go through it, and and maybe even the clinical definition, the deep, sort of clinical definition of the imposter syndrome, might be closer to like paralysing fear and anxiety. And that’s beyond my paygrade. And if you need that kind of help, you get it. And I’ve needed that kind of help in the past, I have no shame in admitting that. I’m talking about a slightly different thing. I’m talking about when we just get scared. And the definition of imposter syndrome, is, “The inability to internalise your value, despite external evidence to the contrary.” So, in most cases, you have external evidence, like you’ve built a business, people tell you you’re decent at your job, you can’t fool… So, one of the hallmarks of the imposter syndrome is, you think everybody, like they’re gonna figure… they’re gonna find out. Right? Someday everybody’s gonna find out. I remember President Obama, Barack Obama said that – it was in an interview with Jay Leno – he said that he worried… like the first time he was alone in the oval office, he was like… I mean, I’m not going to get political. But I’d say, every president of the United States has gone through this, with maybe one exception (which I’m not going to point to) has wondered the first time they’re in the Oval Office, like, “I hope nobody finds out I’m here!” Right? So, imposter syndrome increases, by the way, it’s not just when you’re new, although it’s there. That’s one flavour of it. It increases, with achievement. And part of the reason it increases, is the ground beneath you, the space that you could fall, it’s bigger. Right? So if you’re feeling like, “I’m successful, I’m happy. Why am I still feeling this way?” Actually, that’s normal. Right? And so, here’s a couple more hallmarks, then I’ll tell you how to deal with it. What another hallmark is, you think that what you do, because it’s “easy”… like it’s become easy, it might even be natural, you may be in this business, because you like the things you do… because it’s easy for you – this is the biggest hang up most of you have, with creating content and sharing it – is you think you have nothing valuable to say. Right? And I’m telling you, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s like that way you… that story that you use to help somebody understand diversification. You think it’s like, “I’ve been using that for 20 years, that can’t be valuable.” No, it’s massively valuable. So you tend to discount things that you’re good at, as not valuable. Because you think because you’re good at it, everybody must be good at it. So that’s another little hallmark of imposter syndrome. So what do you do about it? Here’s my favourite technique for this. And what’s worked for me (I was just looking around to see if this thing was here – I don’t see it), what’s worked for me is to personify imposter syndrome. I got this trick from Elizabeth Gilbert. And Elizabeth Gilbert, personified. So, she first was the one that taught me to personify impostor syndrome. So what I’ve done, and here’s how this happened, I noticed that every time I was about to do something that turned out cool. I had the same feeling. And sometimes it didn’t work. I’m okay with that. I like doing things that may not work. But I noticed at my wedding, at the birth of my first child, at a mountain bike race. Every single time I was doing something, like if I looked in the vault of things that I consider my coolest moments of my life, every time there was one person at the party, every single time, among every – all the changing crowds. There was one person there that was there every time. And it was this person that I’ve now personified as imposter syndrome. It was the same feeling like, “Oh my gosh, am I ready for this?” Do you remember, the first time you were alone with your first child? I remember thinking, “Who did… who thought this was a good idea?! Like, no owner’s manual? No training!” Like, I remember that in the wedding. Getting ready – I mean, I had no doubts – but I had, “Am I ready for this?” You know, like, I remember that when I started my business, I remember that first time I go to speak at, I remember that before this call – same feeling. Different versions, obviously. Wedding, child – not the same as getting on a webinar, but different versions of that same feeling. And the feeling is, “Who do you think you are? Do they know who you are? You’re just a kid from the hills in Utah.” Like that. So now, what I’ve done, and I had to deal with this every week with the New York Times, every single week, that feeling comes up. Every single week. And I still haven’t figured out how to get rid of it. So instead of getting rid of it, I figured out, I don’t want to get rid of it. Because, I don’t want it to go away, I actually want it to be there. I want to be exposed to it more often. Because, every cool thing I’ve ever done – it was there. So that changed everything for me. Now I say this, when I feel that feeling. So step one, is to recognise what it feels like for you. And for me, it’s just a sort of pit in the stomach, feeling in the chest. So to recognise it, because often we loop on it without recognising it. We just think it means bad, bad bad fear. Stop. Don’t. Aah, you’re gonna get eaten. Right? Like, tiger in the bushes, you’re gonna get eaten. So recognise it. And then I’ve personified it, and it’s Mr. Burns, Homer Simpson’s boss. That’s who was showing up in my dreams. You can personify it any way you want. I don’t think you kick fear in the teeth. Like fear has kept you alive. Like I don’t want to… So, Elizabeth Gilbert says fear can come on the trip. It just can’t drive. Right? So now, when fear – in this case, one strain of it – imposter syndrome walks in the room, I recognise it. I look over and I literally say, I have… somebody sent me Mr. Burns, a bobblehead of Mr. Burns, and I keep him on my desk. And I don’t know where he is right now. But every time now, I think, “Oh, I’m glad you’re back. Let’s get to work!” Right? That’s how I deal with impostor syndrome.
Phil Bray 1:00:26
Fantastic. Thank you for that. That’s so useful, for me personally, and for a lot of people on this call, I’m sure. I want to move on to talking about client communications now, but also communicating with prospects – people aren’t necessarily clients. Start with Helena, if we can? Over the past few weeks, what have you done, specifically to reassure clients, but also to talk to other people about the value of financial planning? Because financial planning is now more important than ever, as Andy said – Andy Hart said it, this is the Olympics for financial planners. So what have you done over the past few weeks to reassure clients and, and communicate with prospects? People who haven’t necessarily had the benefit of your wisdom over the years?
Helena Wardle 1:01:13
I think there’s something that I felt quite strongly about, for quite a while. People who really care about this job will do it, because – not because they’re getting paid, because they really want to. So, a huge amount of financial planners genuinely care about what we do, and helping people. And, I think it’s a real opportunity in our communities and locally to stand out, and genuinely show that this is what we’re about. This is a great PR (almost) opportunity, to just show people that there’s value in having someone that’s there to support you, that’s there to talk to. And, when they’ve got that level of trust, that they can air and voice fears that they wouldn’t necessarily say to friends and family, I think that’s actually really a privilege. And, I’ve been trying to, sort of, just make sure that I’m approachable. I’m open to trying to help people with no agenda or no, you know, nothing that I want from it, other than just trying to say, “Look, I can see if I can help you. Let me see if I can guide you in the right way.” And that’s something that I’ve been trying to do, just do sort of, for my own benefit really, because helping people makes me feel a little bit less helpless.
Phil Bray 1:02:35
That’s a great line! What about you, Matt?
Matthew Aitchison 1:02:39
Yeah, so we’ve… in terms of communicating prospects, so one of the things that we’ve done, or just about to roll out with with you guys, as you know, is we’ve written a guide with a kind of “12 things that you can do during the lockdown to improve the finances.” So, and the idea is to kind of push that out to anyone that wants it, really, to help them. Make sure that this doesn’t completely de-rail their retirement, some of the things that they can do proactively. No strings attached guide, that they can just pick up and have a look at. We’ve – you know, hopefully, kind of selfishly – it should help us in terms of… it just lets people know that we’re here, who we are, what we stand for. So that if they’ve got anything that they need a financial planner for, or they think, “I need some guidance beyond reading the guide,” then hopefully, they’ll come to us. But it’s just about, I think, for me, it’s exactly the same as for Helena. It’s about trying to help as many people as we can, even if they’re not, even if they’re not kind of ideal clients, and even if they’re not potential future clients, if we can just help a few people, not lose their house, not lose their business, not make some really bad decisions. And if at the same time we can, kind of just… it is a marketing exercise, but it’s not. If we can just say, you know, “Here’s who we are. This is genuinely what we stand for.” You know, all the better. But actually, if we can if we can just make a difference in one life, just by reaching out, giving that guidance, giving that bit of reassurance, stopping a bad mistake, stopping… you know, just, yeah. It’s just, that for me is the message. It’s just about, trying to save a few people that you can. Because we can. We’ve got the ability to kind of use our knowledge. We’re – in my opinion – we’re in quite a privileged position in that our businesses haven’t shut down. Our businesses can still operate. Some, you know, some people are hurting out there, why can’t we? Why can’t we help them?
Phil Bray 1:05:14
Absolutely. And Carl, one for you. I’m very aware that we live in – I think you’ve talked about earlier – this bubble, this financial planning bubble. We all know that financial planning changes lives, relatively few people, certainly in the UK, get to experience it. What do you believe planners can do right now, during this lockdown period, kind of on top of what Helen and Matt are doing, to help more people benefit from planning, and the good that everybody on this call does?
Carl Richards 1:05:48
I tell stories. Right? So I think… I think real financial planning is a bit like the supreme, US Supreme Court’s definition of pornography when they said, “We don’t know, but we know it when we see it.” And I think real financial planning is very similar. Like, all the words that we would use to describe it, have been co-opted by the fake financial planners, right? So you can’t use words like trust, right? You can’t be like, “Oh, trust me!” oh, really? That’s a great idea in your marketing campaign to tell people that… you can’t have another picture of the sailboat with a couple holding hands, unless you actually sail… you can’t use the compass in the lighthouse, you know what I mean? Like, it’s all been co-opted. It looks the same and feels the same. So the only way I know to do this, is to show people. To tell stories. So I would be looking for those stories. Like that’s all the Behavior Gap book and the one page financial plan are, are stories, of real financial planning. And you can say, I used to do this all the time in my writing, go back and read the New York Times articles in the early days, I still had clients. And you’ll see all sorts of things. Like, I was talking with a friend today. Right? So, it wasn’t… I was talking to John the client, I wasn’t revealing any confidences. And then I would make sure to take out everything that could… any… I actually would try to write it to the point where if it was about John, John wouldn’t even recognise it. Right? But, certainly no one else would. So I would just start telling stories. “I had a call with a friend today. This is the situation he’s struggling in. And we talked about this and this and this…” without saying, “And I provided the solution!” We just… and this is what we talked about. Here’s how we… like I would just tell stories, tell stories, tell stories. And we need more of you playing in traffic that way. Telling stories about real financial planning, without pointing at yourself, because everybody’s gonna flip to the About the Author Page anyway, like immediately. You don’t have to do it, if you tell a good story, you don’t have to tell them to contact you.
Phil Bray 1:08:12
Big advocates of stories over here, and they absolutely work. I want to move now into some questions. Helena, I think you might have – and Matt, have prepared a couple of questions for Carl. So, I want to thoroughly say… the rest of the webinar open to questions… but to say thank you to Helena and Matt, for giving their time today. Let’s give you first go at this. So Helena, could you start and lead us please?
Helena Wardle 1:08:45
I know we’re all having to deal with adapting to Zoom and phone calls. And I used to get such a buzz from client meetings. So, my concern is, that talking to clients over video conference and phone calls are shortening the length of meetings. And I was just wondering, are we actually losing relationship building time? So how would you adapt to make those interactions more meaningful, so that you don’t lose the usual level of intimacy and quality that we created in face to face meeting?
Carl Richards 1:09:21
Yes, that’s a very good question. What have you found effective so far?
Helena Wardle 1:09:25
I think it’s interesting, because with previous clients you already have before, so I feel that much more… It’s simpler to still switch back to how you would have been in a face to face meeting. But, if you’ve never met someone, so it’s a first meeting or first interaction of someone, I just… it to me just feels a little bit unnatural. And I was wondering if I’m the only one?
Carl Richards 1:09:50
Yeah, yeah. Well, I don’t think you’re the only one. I think it is… I think we are social creatures, and it’s genetically wired into us, that connection is genetic. I don’t think we can ever replace – at least not for the foreseeable future, which I would say is hundreds of years, right? I don’t think we could ever replace that exact level of intimacy, or interaction that comes in a face to face meeting. So I think we can let go of that desire. I think we’d all agree that in terms of the connection that you build, it would go face to face, video, audio. Right? But, having said that, I think there are… it’s just a new skill. And I think there are like, we do a lot of this work. And I think if you go listen to like, Krista Tippett’s (she’s an American news, or sort of American, like, now she’sa a podcaster), but Krista Tippett, or what was the other… some of the really good radio people, the level of intimacy they can get through voice is pretty amazing. Like just the pause, and here in video, we do a lot of work. I do a lot of work in the video, of like (and if you’ve been through the fellowship, you’ll notice me doing this) where I’ll stop and look closer. And be like, “Look, Helena, if you and I were in the same room, I’d… like I’d give you high five right now.” Right? Can we can we just pause real quickly? Can you go back to that thing you just said a second ago, I just want to make sure I understood it. So you can get closer. But you’re never gonna get all the way there. But I think it is a skill that you can practice. Let’s say, “Hey, wait, hold on, I noticed just a minute ago when John said that. I noticed, did you have a reaction there that you wanted to chat about?” Like, you know, maybe somebody slumped in the chair? So you know, you can… And I wouldn’t say, “I noticed you slumped in the chair, Helena.” Well, I wouldn’t say that! I would say, “I noticed, just a sec, did you have a reaction to what John just said? That would… would be important for us to…” You know, like, you can lean in a bit. In group settings, I’m often finding myself saying things like, “Hey, if we were in the same room, I’d reach across the table and grab your hand right now.” In one on one setting that feels a little different. But in group settings where like, you’re just trying to emphasise, “I’m talking to you. I’m not talking to the 45 people on this call. I’m talking to you.” So I think there’s skill there, and you can learn from really good… I think learning from the really good – and I’m forgetting her name, it’s not Krista Tippett, it’s one of the other – she doesn’t want a video feed. Because she’s gotten so good at… all the other senses are closed down. And it’s just my voice directly into your head, and your voice directly into mine. So you can learn a lot from listening to them do that, and then layer on top of it to video. So I hope that… I mean, I hope that’s at least helpful. A) you’re not the only one, B) we’re never going to get all the way there. C) there are skills we can develop, to practice, and now’s a great time to be doing it.
Phil Bray 1:13:06
And, Dan, I think we’ve got a comment in from Dale on that?
Dan Campbell 1:13:09
Yeah, absolutely. So, “Personally, I find that I miss the nonverbal communication from client meetings, and can’t seem to replicate it through video or telephone meetings. May be needing more practice, I suppose?”
Carl Richards 1:13:23
Yeah, I again, I don’t know that… I think we’re all in the same place, Dale, that’s really helpful. I would imagine that’s – Helena, I would imagine that’s helpful for you too, to hear, right? Like, I think we’re all in the same place. But, there is practice. And, I think the other thing you can get really good at, and we haven’t done that in here yet. But I often will… I mean, look, I’ll show you. So, right, the other thing you can do, is without even really telling anybody you’re doing it during a Zoom call, you can say (and I think I can do this fast enough that nobody will even realise that I’ve done it), like, I can quickly go, “You know, Helena, what I meant by that was, that when we have the plan, we often are thinking of this black line. And I’m telling you that this is where we’re really adding a lot of value.” And I did that in a way that, nobody… I didn’t stop. I didn’t spend a lot of time saying, “Hey, can I share the screen?” I didn’t… I just did it as if we were in a room together, right? So that’s another thing you can practice. That’s just using an iPad, Apple Pencil, and Zoom Share Screen function. So that’s another suggestion.
Phil Bray 1:14:41
Thank you, Carl. Dan, some more questions coming in on those specific points, I think from… And an observation from David, as well.
Dan Campbell 1:14:47
So, we’ve got three points that are effectively about the logistics of the video itself. So, “Is there any evidence on the tone of voice and pace that works best on telephone and video? And also, what backgrounds work best?” That’s from David.
Carl Richards 1:15:04
Can I beg you? Don’t use those virtual backgrounds. Like, unless you’re doing it for fun, like who’s doing that for fun? Dennis is, Dennis… like, unless you’re doing some of these things for fun with clients, it is so obnoxious. And I hope I’m not hurt anybody’s feelings. But just watch it! It changes, your head changes shapes. So, Phil in the team there can comment probably more about backgrounds, but tone of voice, just remember pacing matters. Right? And I would default to slowing down. But then there is sort of this, like, “I’m picking up speed, and picking up speed to make a point.” And then I can say – did you get that? And I think using pacing, and you can just practice, but I would default for now, as you practice, I would default to slowing down. Leaving space for people to answer questions. Leaving space for people to be a little bit uncomfortable, maybe even as they think. Listen to Brian Koppelman. His podcast is called the moment. And he listened to him. And notice how often he just says, “Go deeper!” Like, “That’s it! Tell me more!” Like, he can ask one question, and it’ll be 20 minutes. And he’ll just say, “Go deeper!”, “Tell me more!”, “Why?” There’s a lot to learn there.
Phil Bray 1:16:30
And, Dan, I think David Hearne’s made a really good point.
Dan Campbell 1:16:34
Yeah. So, David says that, “Carl has made me realise how much I need to talk with my hands, and that I’ve had my camera too close to my face to do this, and have others see this. Camera back, hands out from now on.”
Carl Richards 1:16:47
That’s interesting. Seth Godin says it should – the frame should – mainly, your head should take up the whole frame. So I don’t know what the right answer is, it’s really interesting feedback, David. Because I think it’s really valuable to get a sense of like, you wouldn’t talk to a person, in person like this, you know what I mean? He would be able to see a little bit more. So thanks for that.
Phil Bray 1:17:08
Helena, anything else you want to ask Carl?
Helena Wardle 1:17:10
You’ve put me on the spot now! I just think it’s quite valuable to sort of simplify things. And thinking about it, it’s actually not that easy. Because a lot of what we do is quite complex. When you started this process of trying to make things simple, what sorts of things helped you to communicate that better? Apart from your sketches, so come away from the sketches? Because you don’t want to see my drawings? But ultimately, what did you – what approaches helped you?
Carl Richards 1:17:46
Yeah. So, I think it might be helpful to show you something rather than just tell you. So I… one thing I found incredibly helpful, was just to understand the process. And the process looks something like this, right? Like, you understand simplicity – whoever’s quote that was, was super good. Simplicity, is complexity resolved. And I love Oliver Wendell Holmes quote, that, “I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity. But I’d give my right arm for the simplicity on the other side.” And so what goes on, as you like, explore a question, and then you get into it. Right? And you think the answer is going to be super, super simple, but then you’re like, “Oh, geez, what about this?” and this part in here, is about edge cases and nuance and exceptions and rules. And, you know, like… and when you’re in here, you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. It can feel discouraging, and complex. And I used to think that was a sign I was doing something wrong. Then I understood, that this was part of… getting out here, required going through this. So that’s what I do, is I kind of, I only have room in my head for one thing at a time. So, if I want to answer a new question, I’ve got to wrap it up with a simple icon out the other side. So, that’s where I will be like, days versus decades. Like that’s a lot of thinking around long-term investing, and focusing on what’s the main solution to… wealth? Think long-term. Play long-term games, with long-term people. That’s what Naval says about it, which I love. Play long-term games with long-term people. But, that’s after considering all this in here. So there’s a couple of things that need to go on. One, understand the difference between these… understand the difference between these two spots on the graph? You don’t live here. This is where fake financial planners, and people who should be selling shoes for a living live, right? Nothing against shoe sales people, but fake financial planners that should be selling shoes, should be selling shoes. This is where real planners live. And you can’t fake that. So when you’re trying to make something simple, don’t confuse simplistic, with elegantly simple. Simplistic is not valuable, elegantly simple is super valuable. Right? So, you dive in here, spend the time in here, and then say, “Okay, great. Here’s one exercise I would do.” You only get one thing, pretend like you only get one thing. Almost all the work we do here, we think we have one, it’s a single message. Like, I’ve got a secret podcast that is between three and 10 minutes long. It’s one message. Our weekly letter that goes out the 40,000 people – one message. If there’s two, we say, “That’s two weekly letters. It’s not one.” So I’d think about that, with all of your communication. Like, what’s the one thing I’m trying to communicate, and literally remove everything – everything – that distracts from that point. You will, out of necessity, have to leave some nuance out. Right? You’d have to. And you’ll get people – I get somebody every day – sending me notes about, oh, like the last one was this guy that said, “Your breezy diagrams are certainly cute. But I think you missed it on this one.” It was like, “Ooh!” I mean, I get some bad things. But when somebody calls my stuff “cute” and “breezy”?! I was so mad! But, then I realised, it’s aright. He doesn’t get it. But yeah, I’m gonna be accused of oversimplifying occasionally. Right? So anyway, hopefully, that’s helpful.
Phil Bray 1:21:38
Fantastic. Thank you, Carl, and great answer to Helena’s fantastic question! Matt, what have you got to follow that up?
Matthew Aitchison 1:21:44
Helena, you stole my question! It’s a variation on the same question, to be honest. So, one of the things I’d put, is simplification. One of the things that I struggle with, and I think I’ve publicly kind of said, and I’ve got a few examples, but it’s taking the output that we give to clients, that ticks all their boxes, ticks all the CFP boxes, ticks all the compliance boxes? And then distilling that down to, one page – or certainly a lot less than it currently is. How do you approach that? Because, I can very easily get it down to one page. And then I go, “Well, what about… But what about, but what about… Well, and it needs to look pretty as well.” And it… it’s that process of, I can do that, I kind of… I end up doing that. Where I compress it and then I go, “But that should be in it. But that…” So, how do you, for that – for the longer kind of strategy stuff and the document? How do you look at simplifying that?
Carl Richards 1:23:00
Yeah, I would… I would just try to do a little bit less. Like, I would expect a little bit less, from the documents. Because it’s not work. Like clients don’t get… So look, regulatory stuff aside. Like I realise, that a one page plan might be an executive summary on top of 200 pages of regulatory requirements. That’s fine. Don’t – and I know you’re not – but we all tend to use that as an excuse. And we’re like, “Oh, the regulations are…” So regulatory stuff aside, I’ve spoken to regulators about this. They love the idea of executive summaries, right? They love… because they want the stuff readable and approachable. That’s what they’re really trying to do. Now they understand – well, they may or may not understand – that the regulation they put in place is requiring another 200 pages of disclaimers. But, in terms of that one page, I would just try to do less. I would try to think, like, remember, you only get… you only have one… like, what’s important right now? What’s important between now, and the next time we’re going to do this review? Are there, is there one, two, or maybe three? That’s like the outer limit. We expect our websites to do so much. We expect our plans to do so much, and they’re unrealistic expectations. Like what’s, if… here’s a question I love asking, before I give any document to a client, or before we write anything. If we asked – and think of in terms of clients – let’s say I’m not going to meet with him for another six months. Now, of course, let’s say I’m doing the investment plan meeting. And there’s a bunch of documents that they need to understand, like, “Here’s the asset location, here’s the mutual funds, here’s like all the regulatory stuff. Here’s all of it.” I would say then, after I did that, I would say, “What’s the single most important piece? If they only remembered one thing from this, what would it be?” And then I put that in an executive summary. And, because you really only get one thing. You know what I mean? Like expecting clients to remember all that. I used to feel like that was just like, the purpose of that stuff was just to drop it on the desk to prove how smart I was, like, “boof -did you hear that?” Now, let me show you. Here’s what matters. I used to ask clients, I forgotten to tell the story, I’ll do it fast. I remember asking Christine Madison, who was one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with, I remember saying to her, “You know, Christine, I could do this all in… Give me a week, I could put it all in the computer. And I can spit out 200 pages for you. Or – like, I’m totally happy to do it – or, we can get to pretty much the same answer, with this yellow legal pad and my calculator. Like, which one would you prefer? I’m happy. Do you need the 200 pages? Do you want them? Or do you… should we just work through it right now?” And she was like, “Are you kidding me? Of course, let’s work through it right now.” And then I started asking that question with every client, “Now, I realise you might have regulatory issues around it, but would you like the 200 pages? Because here they are. And here’s me summing up what’s important to you?” Hopefully, that’s helpful.
Phil Bray 1:26:09
I think from our perspective, one of the areas where we’ve seen most – or a lot of financial planners struggle with that battle of complexity, is around charging structures. It’s been a journey for a lot of clients (of ours) to unravel that complexity and produce a charging structure, which is as simple as it possibly, possibly can be. So I think a lot of what you said that Carl, and you and Matt and Helena will really, really help. Because producing a simple, elegant charging structure is not the easiest thing in the world to do, as I’m sure Helena and Matt will attest to.
Helena Wardle 1:26:48
Phil Bray 1:26:51
Right. If there are any more questions, then I’m happy for you guys, anybody on the call to put them into the chat function. I just want to give, before we wrap up, a reminder of the offer that we’ve got through Carl and his team at the fellowship: 21 daily essays, the 23 video lessons, lifetime access for $500, plus the three sketches, which we’ve selected and animated for you to use however you wish, whether it’s a sketch on a mug, a billboard, a jigsaw, a tea towel, whatever it is, or an animation as a GIF, on your social media channels, on your website, in newsletters, wherever you want to use them.
Carl Richards 1:27:41
Can I just interrupt real quickly?
Phil Bray 1:27:43
You go for it.
Carl Richards 1:27:44
I don’t want to be obnoxious about this. But I do want to make it clear. Those animations? Like, I don’t know what you would pay to A) come up with that idea, like the underlying sketch, and B) get somebody to animate it. If you tried to go hire somebody to do that, I’m pretty darn sure it wouldn’t be $500. So, I – and I’m sorry for… I don’t normally get like overly salesy about this stuff. But this looks to me like an investment, not an expense. And, so thanks for putting that together. I think that’s really cool. I did know about the animations and the three sketches. But I didn’t really… it didn’t really quite dawn on me like, wait, you’re getting three and the licence to use them. So thanks for doing that, Phil.
Phil Bray 1:27:52
No worries, they’re cool. And, thanks to Dan for the idea, and Michael, who’s not on this call for for doing it. And, as I say, really want to say thank you to Helena, to Matt, and to Carl for giving up their valuable time today. It’s been a wonderful hour and a half. I’ve got lost, forgot I was hosting this, as I was listening to all the value that’s come from you three. So really want to, again, thank everybody. We’ll send a copy of the recording, a copy of the slides, and the link. And, there’s a few questions coming through now, which we’ll answer individually as well. But really hope today has been a valuable hour and a half for everybody, a great investment of your time. And hopefully you found the fellowship a great investment as well. Thanks to everybody.
Carl Richards 1:29:31
Cheers. Thank you everybody.
Helena Wardle 1:29:32
Matthew Aitchison 1:29:33
Carl Richards 1:29:33
Thanks, Helena and Matt. Thanks Phil.
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