Will the real Financial Planners please stand up, please stand up!

Slim Shady

I woke up this morning with Slim Shady singing in my head and his words got me thinking about the Financial Planning Industry which I love and loathe at the same time. Love because of the difference I see REAL Planners make in their clients lives; and loathe because of the old school type brokers who sell to meet their targets or the ones' set by their product providers where any benefit to the client is purely co-incidental.

In my 25+ years in the industry I have seen plenty of change to make our Profession more Professional and appealing to the man in the street, but at the same time as a good friend of mine says, "the more things change the more they stay the same". Our industry is still dominated and led by the large Life Companies and not by the people who deliver this important service to the man and woman in the street, us. The result of this is that as Financial Planners, the majority of us do not think out the box but instead we think as the Industry (Life Companies) have trained and told us to think. We seldom question the products we are pushed to sell or the way our clients are reported to by them. We are being steered and guided very discreetly while all the time being misled that what we are selling is always in our clients best interests.

When we sell lots we are hailed as Great! Leaders! Successful! We are given awards, holidays, free golf and hunting trips and our ego's are massaged to the point where we see ourselves as having arrived. This reminds me of the fable about the Emperors New Clothes, think about it. In my opinion it is time for us to turn the tables if we really want to make what we do truly Professional, we need to take control and start demanding instead of just accepting what is tossed our way.

A lie is not always words spoken, it can also be what is not said or not done. Here are some examples that come to mind. A large distributer of many products across all sphere's of the industry links all their offerings to a wellness plan; every year they launch their new updates, new partners etc but do they ever highlight all the area's where they reduce, change or take away benefits? We find out months later when clients come to us and question why they are not getting certain things they did before? Another company markets a dread disease that implies they will cover everything any other company will pay out for, yet when you read the small print you realise that many of they claims will be excluded for other reasons. A new entry in the risk market sells guaranteed insurability if taken up within a certain period but then omits, mysteriously, to inform Planners or clients when this specific period is expiring, thereby ensuring many will miss out on the offer.

I could go on and on but I think you get the point. To me, what this points to is that the majority of the industry is not serious about enabling us as Professional Financial Planners or about giving the man in the street a fair deal. To end this, those of us who are proud and passionate about what we do need to start making demands to the product providers and stop supporting those who do not give us what we want.

Just some thoughts, on the risk side; why don't we ask the Life Companies to list the benefits they do not cover instead of the other way around. Why don't we demand that they ask us before they communicate and market other products to our clients? Should they not make sure they get hold of us before clients' benefits expire?

There is a new breed of Financial Planners out there, youngsters that are qualified and want to deliver a professional service, we need to force the industry to change to enable them to not become product pushers or sales people but Professional Financial Planners. We need to all make sure we join and support Professional bodies like the FPI to ensure we take this wonderful industry to the heights it should be at.

Are we going to stand up!?