What’s driving the growth of Future Cashflow Planning?

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of working with some of the leading financial advice firms in United Arab Emirates over the course of a couple of days in Dubai (the photo is of the VERY impressive Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world today). My involvement came about as part of a brilliant programme developed by Zurich International Life to help advisers in UAE prepare for some major changes that will impact their market, probably in the not too distant future.

The Insurance Authority in UAE has flagged some substantial regulatory changes, of which the final details and dates are yet to be clarified. However all the consultation papers to date point to significant reductions in commission levels on products sold and restrictions on indemnity terms that can be offered, along with a number of other changes. The changes will result in better outcomes for consumers, however the changes also create enormous challenges for advisers.

So what has all this to do with Future Cashflow Planning, I hear you ask? Well advisers in UAE are looking at a possible drop of more than 50% of revenue when the regulations come in. It is a market where advisers today are largely remunerated by commission only, and the impact of the regulations mean that relying purely on product sales in the future will see advisers simply be paid less for the same amount of work. They really have two choices,

1. Write double the amount of business they’ve been doing to date or

2. Broaden their proposition beyond products, add more value to customers and charge accordingly.

The second option looks far more appealing to me.


What might this proposition look like?

Advisers in UAE are fortunate that they can look at other markets around the world that have transformed in recent years. If they look at USA, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Holland and of course here in Ireland, they will see a common trend. That trend is towards progressive advisers providing a lifetime financial planning service, where the client’s lifestyle aspirations for their whole life are identified, and then a financial plan is developed to enable the client to achieve that desired lifestyle.

Sitting at the heart of this is Future Cashflow Planning, giving the client a snapshot of their financial capability for every year of their life and enabling the adviser to answer those big questions for the client,

• Are we always going to be ok?

• Will we have enough money to live the life we want?

• Can I stop working today?

Offering this deeper and richer proposition to clients will potentially enable advisers in UAE to charge for their expertise along with / instead of charging for the products that they arrange. This has certainly been the trend in other markets. While of course this deeper and richer client proposition will not be appealing to every client, there is a large cohort of clients in every market to whom this service will appeal.


It’s not all about regulations though…

In Ireland it wasn’t regulatory change that heralded the growth of lifetime financial planning and the use of future cashflow software. Instead it was as a result of ambitious advisers watching the trends in other markets (particularly the UK) and seeing how the leading advice firms in those markets had extended their proposition into lifetime financial planning. It was clear that this deeper and richer client proposition results in a far more engaging and valuable service for clients.

Lifetime financial planning, built on the foundation of a future cashflow plan has been the single biggest shift in the advice market in Ireland (and these other markets) for quite a long number of years. It has redefined the value offered by financial advisers, and has enabled them to really establish themselves as a trusted professional in the eyes of their clients.

And in Ireland, the rewards have followed for advisers. They enjoy more valued and durable relationships with their clients, who are happy to pay for this advice year after year. Whether this is paid by fee, retainer or trail commission is not really the point – these are all simply methods of payment. The key point is that clients are willing to pay for advice year after year, irrespective of whether product transactions happen or not.


That has to be good news for advisers further afield, such as those advisers in UAE who are facing regulatory change. Commission reductions on products are of course a challenge. But the opportunity is there to broaden the client proposition, add enormous value to clients through the provision of lifetime financial planning and charge accordingly for this.



Image Courtesy Flickr – Tom Sespene – wajortom34

The latest thinking about financial planning

I had the pleasure recently of attending the excellent Back2Y conference in Birmingham. This conference is predominately for financial planners, but also for anyone interested in hearing about best practice among financial planners in the UK and further afield.


What struck me first of all was the number of Irish advisers at the event. It was really heartening to see 40 – 50 advisers investing in their futures, taking a day or two out of busy schedules to travel to the UK to listen and learn. I think it was certainly time well spent by all.


So what messages hit home with me? Well I thought that 2 speakers in particular stole the show. The first was Nick Lincoln, a financial planner from South East of England. Nick had a very engaging and humorous delivery, but all backed up with a very simple message. The other great speaker was Mitch Anthony, an American who runs a training and communication consulting firm specialising in the financial services and insurance industries. Mitch is a real pro, with some really strong messages that were very thought provoking.


The Three Killer B’s

This was the simple message delivered by Nick. He spoke of how important it is for advisers to never lose sight of three important standards in their business,

  1. Be Picky: You’ve only so much room in your client base to deliver your services as you want to. So pick your clients carefully. Trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to say “no” to potential clients, that you are not the right fit for them. This resonated a lot with me, as I quite often hear advisers moaning about how certain clients “wreck their head!” Nick’s view is that these clients are a drag on your business and you are better off without them.
  2. Be Honest: Tell clients the full unvarnished truth about their money, don’t build false expectations. They won’t thank you for this, ever. Tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.
  3. Be Consistent: Nick’s view is that clients all have the same big question – “will we be ok?” You need to answer this question for clients, and then answer it again, year after year using a consistent process.


A very simple message, very well delivered!


The Return on Life Revolution

This was the first part of Mitch Anthony’s presentation in which he spoke of revolution in the financial planning world today, as opposed to the relatively gentle evolution over the last decade or so. He spoke of the consequences of misplaced value, where an adviser is judged solely on the financial performance achieved for clients. This is a recipe for disaster – you are judged on factors over which you’ve no control, you’re under scrutiny every month / quarter / year, you are constantly compared to others and unfortunately will be wrong in your predictions very often!


Instead Mitch contends that advisers should position their proposition around intangible factors such as “helping people make wise financial decisions”. The value in this instance is felt and seen, but is not measurable in the way that tangible financial performance is. Mitch spoke of 6 core values of Return on Life,

  1. Organisation: helping clients bring order to their finances
  2. Accountability: Helping clients follow through on commitments
  3. Objectivity: Helping clients not to make emotion-based decisions
  4. Proactivity: Helping clients prepare for big changes in their lives
  5. Education: Helping clients understand what they need to know to succeed
  6. Partnership: Working in collaboration with clients towards achievement of the best life possible for the client.


All of this is a lot more valuable that achieving a particular financial result!


The big questions for advisers

Mitch Anthony then spoke later about the 3 big questions for advisers, for each of you to really look inside yourself and to answer truthfully.


The first question is to understand whether you’re in the money business and happen to work with people, or in the people business and happen to work with money? I think everyone will immediately say the latter, but does your discovery process really reflect this? Unfortunately with some advisers there is still a race to find out how much money a person has, and as a result the person (client) gets forgotten. Financial planning today is all about people and their life objectives; it’s not about money (even though of course this is part of the solution).


The second question relates to this focus on people rather than money. How have you changed your conversations to reflect this changed world? Because only talking about money and financial solutions just won’t cut it with clients who yearn for a deeper insight into achieving their life goals.


The final question related to the forces that cause money to move to you. Mitch’s view is that these come down to 3 forces,

  • An intellectual force: People are curious; they want to know more when you have positioned what you do correctly. Often their experience with a previous adviser leaves them seeking a better one going forwards.
  • A force of life: As people think about transitions in their life and their responsibilities for other people, they seek support – your support.
  • An emotional force: This is when you show deep empathy, that you are really listening. And then ask carefully crafted questions about their principles and values in relation to life and money. From this will come goals. And from there will come the potential to build highly engaged relationships with clients.


It was a day very well spent!