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Read Warren’s interview with financial planning social media site – Octo

June 17, 2021

Warren was recently interviewed for Octo.  Octo is a private networking website specifically for financial services professionals. Check out the full interview below.

How would you define your role, and what for you is the biggest source of job satisfaction?

I’m a financial planner. I think people try and make it out to be something greater than it is, but I think it’s good enough as it is. So there – I’m a financial planner.

My biggest job satisfaction? It’s really nice to see the twinkle in the client’s eye, or the tone of their flesh change, when they realise they can accomplish something that they didn’t realise they could.

For example, this week, I had a couple of clients who were particularly stressed. They’d been overly busy for the last year while every other year, they’d been very happy running their business, but this year, they said they wanted out. I showed them that they could sell their business for a lot less than they expected to, and not actually have to work again.

So that’s where I get most of my job satisfaction; I get to show people solutions to their problems.

Outside the current crisis, what are what are some of your biggest challenges? 

I think we always have challenges with software not talking to each other. We have lots of great bits of individual software, but it’s not seamless across the board. That’s a challenge we’re constantly reviewing. The regulatory fees and PI insurance costs going up, that’s a bit of a pain.

Also, finding really good new members of staff.

We’d like to take on another couple of members of staff and there are people with flashy CVs and look good on paper, but we want to find people who will really care about financial planning.

Our experience with a lot of paraplanners is they’re not really paraplanners per se, they’re more report writers. We’re after really good paraplanners and what we refer to as an associate partner, somebody who wants to learn true, proper financial planning.

What are your key priorities for the rest of the year?

Number one would be not to be as busy as last year. For the first time in my working life, last December, I almost burned out because I had so little time off, with working the day job plus implementing all the remote working and adapting the business.

Number two would be that having just taken on a new associate planner and an office, or practice, manager, I also want to make sure they’re really embedded within the firm and understand our values, know they’re adding value and that they feel valued.

To what extent are you incorporating responsible investing or ESG-type concepts to your operations?

We’re very environmentally conscious. We are virtually carbon neutral as a company.

We have been offering ESG and socially responsible portfolios for a number of years but about 18 months ago, we began offering them as our default. Any new money that comes into the firm, by default goes into an ESG portfolio.

We still offer our previous range of portfolios for those clients who are invested in them, or if a client specifically asks us not to (which no one has done), but the default offering will be ESG.

What is your approach to or experience of communicating with working with younger demographics? 

We’ve always offered financial planning – without cost – to our clients’ children up to the age of 30 and encourage them to come in to see us even just for an educational talk.

I’m quite big into financial education; helping people get their banking right, understanding compound growth, the risks of borrowing too much money, unsecured debt, and things like that.

Once those ‘children’ hit 30, they’ll start paying fees.

We launched LEXO, which is our online investment platform a number of years ago, and we do most of our children’s investments through that portal.

Communication-wise, I’ll be honest, it’s tricky because I friend all of my clients on my social media, so sometimes their children if they’ve met me, will send me a friend request and I’ll accept, and then they’ll message and we’re away.

But it’s an issue because all the software doesn’t link up together, so you’ve got different social media platforms with messages coming in, which you need to record on your back-office system, so I often end up literally copying and pasting into emails.

I’m a big believer in the telephone. I think because as human beings, we like relationships, one of the things the modest-sized financial planning firm can trump any of these private banks on is relationships.

When the relationship is there, a lot of the other stuff doesn’t really matter, because people buy from people, irrespective whether they’re a millennial, Gen Z or any age.

What’s your take on the current regulatory landscape?

I think I don’t think it ever changes.

I’m not one to jump up and down about the regulator, I think they do the best that they can. They are looking after such a wide breadth of firms who do everything from corporate EB schemes through to smaller financial planning firms, so having a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to work.

It’s a shame that we have things like British Steel still happening because it a bad reputation on a lot of excellent financial planners.

I’m also particularly passionate about these unregulated investments – people setting up a SSAS to buy hotel rooms in some Caribbean island and things like that really grate me. There are too many unregulated individuals meddling in regulated areas.

But I think the regulator does the best they can. I’m sure they can do better, but I think if anyone looked at what we did, they’d always say we could do better too.

Who would you credit as having the biggest influence on your career to date?

I spent about 10 years training with Paul Etheridge, who – hands down – probably had the biggest influence over the way in which we run Lexington.

I’d like to think that we have developed it and improved it slightly on what we originally learned but that’s only because of time passing and the technology available to us.

Of the people that you currently spend time with. And either personally, professionally we can suppose who brings out your best qualities? And what are those qualities?

It’s easy to say my clients bring out my best qualities, because I really like solving their problems.

But who challenges me the most is my 16 year-old and 14 year-old. They are brilliant kids, who challenge me in wondering, ‘how do you be the best parent you can be?’ Because we don’t know if we’re a great parent until they are grown up, and we reflect back on it.

What piece of advice would you give to young people thinking about coming to work in financial services?

It’s probably the best profession in the world and you could build a fantastic career. It’s both enjoyable and rewarding.

Find yourself a real financial planning firm, not a firm that masquerades as a financial planning firm – not that there’s anything wrong with people who don’t do financial planning – I’m not one of those that thinks everyone has to be a financial planner.

But for me, the reward is not in the money you manage but the discussions and the impact you have on people.

What is the one topic you think we should be discussing more as a sector?

As a sector? I don’t know because I think there are pockets within the profession that do different things.

For instance, I’ve been working with Brett Davison, who is really getting me to think about how I run the business.

In the same breath, I’ve been doing a lot of webinars on ESG investing.

But I think the biggest challenge is making financial planning attractive to the next generation, so how to bring in new people to keep the profession growing, perhaps with a more formalised apprenticeship trainee or graduate programme they could follow.