Beyond the finances: What the role of a financial planner really is

People may call us financial planners or financial advisers even but the reality is that our relationship with our clients goes way beyond their finances. More often than not we find ourselves in the role of confidante, of advisers across all aspects of life.

We build long lasting relationships with our clients for a reason – so that we can be there to support them whatever life throws at them. It’s a privileged position to be in and one we take great pride in.

Financial planning still brings joy

If I’m honest, I’ve always enjoyed advising clients on their finances. I like the responsibility of being able to help answer and action queries from technical questions around the Lifetime Allowance to reviewing the risk versus reward chart in the investment process or providing options for Inheritance Tax planning.

But I really enjoy the planning, getting to know what people want from life and looking ahead to see how we can make that happen. What is the three year strategy plan?  How do you reward yourself? How do you enjoy the now, while planning for the future? I also like being accountable to my clients. For the client relationship to truly work, there needs to be accountability on both sides, with me and with the client.

So much more to life than finances

But over time my relationship with my clients rarely stays focused on finances. I get asked on average four times a week a question starting with either “Kunle, what do you think about this….? Or “Kunle, what do you think I should do about…”

These questions are not financial questions, they don’t relate to their investments or their funds. It could be about a new role, buying a new business, addressing a family or health problem, reviewing a deal or advice on an offer they can’t refuse. Being trusted into a client’s inner circle or inner thought process is a huge compliment – it shows that they trust me enough to ask for my opinion.

When I first got asked these questions, I didn’t want to offend anyone and initially I’d try to be too diplomatic. I then realised that I needed to ask better questions to understand the context of the situation before I then proffered my opinion. This approach really helps me as I know I am providing a trusted, informed view based on facts and figures, whilst appreciating the feelings of the individual.

The all-important art of active listening

There are of course times when things get really tough for people and my role changes again. If they have experienced the loss of a family member, it is always heartbreaking as typically I have been with them for a long time, I’ve seen what they have been through. Being there for people who have endured domestic or financial abuse is a reminder that I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, while dealing with clients who are struggling with their personal health is a hard one to take and a reminder to all of us that bad days can take their toll.

In these moments, my role is all about being a guide, a sounding board – I need to be supportive and truly empathetic, but importantly I need to listen. I listen and try not to interrupt because I truly believe that we all have the answers to our own problems, we just need the right environment to help our mind find that state of calm to assist with our decision making. I want to create that space.

My role as a financial planner, as we call ourselves, is all about the relationships I have with my clients. I am there to provide whatever is needed in times of success and of sadness. When I get a call asking for my advice, I feel it’s a true privilege to be asked for my opinion. Trust is everything and I will always do my best to be congruent, clear and caring in what I say.