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5 things we should focus on to build trust and bridge the succession gap

Regular surveys of financial planners return results that suggest 30% are planning to retire over the next five years and now with the sharp increase in regulatory fees I suspect that number will only increase.

However, what is most telling to me is that these surveys are regular, the number of financial planners is not going down and each time a new survey comes along we still have a third of the population saying they plan to retire.

So, what is stopping people who are experts at planning other peoples’ retirement from retiring themselves?

It is normally at this point that someone says, “But retirement has changed, people don’t need to retire they just need flexibility and choice as they get older.” I agree, flexibility and choice is of course a good thing but I have met and spoken with hundreds of people in retirement who have planned and are financially secure and every one of them has said that it is the best thing they have ever done.

Are we doing ourselves a dis-service by changing the narrative on retirement and to some extent, is it, at least in part, to make ourselves feel better that as a profession, we have got our own retirement plans so wrong?

One of the challenges is that the succession model was damaged in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when the profession for a period, collectively forgot about recruitment.

The natural succession model would be that if business owners in their mid-fifties and beyond are looking to pass on their business to the next generation, that would mean passing it on to those in, say, their mid-forties. Traditionally, this cohort would have built up some assets, be on the property ladder, have some management experience and feel ready to take on the challenge of business ownership. However, this cohort is smaller than it should be. With hindsight, it is clear that following the lack of recruitment 20 years ago is now beginning to experience the unintended consequences of collective myopia.

What I see happening in small firms around the country now is people reviewing their succession model and looking to those that who are earlier in their career. This means the older generation of advisers needs to be more open and trusting of people they weren’t necessarily expecting to trust with their business. For the younger generation of planners, this means there are certain things you have a responsibility to do if you want to get that older generation to trust you.

Of course, the owner managers running small businesses, which make up the majority of the profession, also need to be more open to the concept of ‘learning from inexperience’.

Otherwise, if everybody is trying to retire and sell their business at the same time, either the consolidators will mop up, or business owners won’t be able to retire on the level of income they were hoping for.

There are some very simple things that we can do to build and engender trust between the different generations, and make sure great ideas are taken forward.


There’s a tendency to think it can be quite easy to gain credibility in our profession, namely through taking and passing exams but credibility goes beyond qualifications. It’s about being the best you can be, and being focused on the simple details.

It’s about being prepared so you can deliver your best in any given situation. It’s not about being perfect, but about putting your best foot forward.


Reliability is often the most challenging aspect of building trust. We have busy lives with lots of distractions, and that makes it difficult sometimes to be reliable.

But we also like to promise things that we then don’t always deliver on, because something else got in the way. We all fall down on reliability sometimes. But where you possibly can, do what you say you’ll do, and do it on time.


Going all the way back to the 1920s, it was Dale Carnegie who talked about being genuinely interested in other people. Today, the basic application of this is putting your mobile phone away when talking to someone. It’s difficult to empathise when we’re doing another task. But the next natural step is then to focus entirely on that person who you are with. If we orientate towards that person rather than thinking about ourselves, then they will trust us. Trust is about behaving in a trustworthy manner, and empathy is where that really starts.

To be great financial planners you have to be genuinely interested in the people you are working with, and the same goes for your colleagues.


This is about encouraging the current business leaders of the profession to take on board the great and innovative ideas that younger planners are putting forward.

If you’re the one suggesting a different way of doing things, make sure the logic behind your idea is absolutely sound. You also have to be able to communicate your idea clearly. Put the key part or point of your idea upfront in any discussion. That way, if nothing else, if you’re interrupted halfway through, you have made your point.


This is the most important step of all when building trust. If you are going to genuinely innovate and drive the profession forward, then you have to be authentic.

It’s very easy to parrot someone else, or to say what you think you’re expected to say. This is something that both business owners and younger planners need to be aware of. Owners need to give the younger generation the space in order to let people be their authentic selves.

If we allow people the space to follow the above steps, the two generations can come together and the profession will move forward, driven by innovation but guided by experience. We are custodians of this profession, and all we can do is hope that we leave it in a better state than when we arrived. We all have the opportunity to do that.

Adam Owen, NextGen Planners

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