Great leaders achieve great things
…and great financial planners achieve great outcomes for clients.
As the awful and unnecessary situation in Ukraine continues to unfold each day, most Ukrainians and other observers have been hugely impressed with the leadership qualities of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine. Wars are won and lost by clever leaders. Irrespective of the external factors that actually caused the war, they never just wander into it and start fighting. Instead they carefully consider all of the external factors that will impact their success – the strength and equipment of their enemies, the conditions and terrain on which the war will be fought as well as the weather and other factors that have the potential of impacting their success in the fight. We’ve seen in Ukraine the power of good communication and engagement with allies and friendly countries.
Of course the key factor that they consider is the strength and capability of their own forces; the size of their army, the weapons available to them and the different tactics that can be deployed. In short they take a very strategic approach to the battle. Generals also know that battle conditions are an ever-moving feast – things just don’t stay the same. The battle conditions change, the strength of their own army and that of their enemy change and of course progress towards their overall goals either improve or recede. As part of this, they consider the risk attaching to different tactical options open to them – do they risk lots of men and equipment for a particular short-term strategic objective, or do they wear down their enemy through sustained and slower-moving fighting?
This is where their real expertise comes to bear, adapting to changing conditions. This is also where disastrous mistakes are made – I’m showing my age here, but just consider the decision taken by the German generals in World War II who decided in the Battle of Britain to stop bombing airfields and instead to start bombing cities. This gave the Allies valuable time to rebuild their air force and fight back. And then as the German advance stalled later in the war, the Allies planned and executed D-Day, the ultimate turning point in the war. Clever generals achieve their country’s goals and win wars.
And clever financial advisers help their clients achieve their goals and achieve financial independence. You do this in the exact same way as military leaders go about their job. You first of all understand what the objectives are, what is the desired end state. You then consider risk and how much is appropriate for each individual client and situation. You then consider the current external conditions and most importantly the current financial strength of your client. All of this is then evaluated and captured in the financial (battle) plan to get your client to their final objective.
Of course your real strength, just like a general’s, is that you recognise that the battle has now only just begun. From the day you develop your client’s financial plan, conditions start to change – in the external environment, the client’s own circumstances or indeed the end objective. Your real value is in the ongoing evaluation of these changes, and the adaptations and tweaks that you make to your client’s plan and the tactics (products?) that you’ve deployed to achieve their end goals.
Sitting at the heart of this is the client’s future cashflow plan, as this clearly demonstrates the current and future financial firepower of your client to achieve their ultimate objective – a bit like winning the war… Your client will see whether they need to take more risk, strengthen their resources (save more money) or maybe rein back their ultimate objectives ( similar to seeking a peace deal). Hopefully this latter situation will unfold in Ukraine very soon.
So if your clients are unclear about the value of a financial plan, it might be time to gently guide them that without a plan, good outcomes are unlikely to be achieved.