This was my third attendance at the NextGen Planner’s annual conference (out of 3), perhaps unsurprising as I’ve spent the last 5 years at Xentum learning my craft under the wing of NextGen co-founder, Adam Carolan. The value provided this year feels like a big step up from previous years, certainly from the perspective of a younger financial planner. Last year there were a couple of talks around the sale and merger of businesses, with a late afternoon session from Ruth Sturkey at Paradigm Norton that was interesting, but this year focused on the skills younger planners need to build their career built around the theme of influence, with sessions on communication skills (not something you’ll read in a CII textbook), effective networking skills and how to be a leader in the industry.
The highlight I thought was the engaging speech given by Daniel Priestley, which was good timing as I’ve recently consumed his book, Key Person of Influence, so his talk hammered home the key messages. As an planner who is starting to have new client meetings for the first time, understanding and delivering Xentum’s value to a client through an effective pitch is a really important skill for me to learn. Daniel encourages people to perfect their pitch as a priority. Answering the question of what Xentum do in a much more effective and engaging way than ‘we are a financial planning firm’ is important to get people wanting to work with me and the firm.
The theme of influence seemed particularly relevant for the conference. Whilst membership has been increasing at a decent pace, the NextGen team have recognised that promoting members into positions of influence by leveraging the NextGen platform itself is the best path and it makes a lot of sense. Five years ago next month when I first started in the profession and was sent off to the PFS conference for the first time, amongst a sea of white haired fifty something advisers, it felt like an environment that would put off most younger graduates thinking about coming into the profession. It certainly would have put a few doubts in my mind if I wasn’t fortunate to have started at such a good firm such as Xentum. To have a profession that is dominated by forward thinking NextGen Financial Planners in leadership positions feels like a much more welcoming profession to want to be in. I look forward to the first cohort of the Speaker and Influence Programme standing up on the stage in London in June 2020 for their first major speeches.
Another interesting session for me was the hour from Dominic Colenso, he of Thunderbird fame. Another speaker that I’ve listened to on the NextGen podcast (I think on the plane back from Greece recently), Dominic gave some great insight to help improve communication skills, another key skill for a young planner that are getting used to the dynamic of leading planning meetings and dealing with clients who are all slightly different from a psychological perspective. It’s a lesson I’m constantly learning that people need to be managed and communicated to slightly differently depending on their own style. I’ve perhaps been static in sticking to my own style previously. The first session on networking skills was a little bit long and perhaps ran over some points which quite a few of the room had heard before, but again it was another key skill for me as young planner to learn. I’m in the camp that doesn’t particularly look forward to networking type events as I don’t particularly like talking about myself, which I’ve always thought was important in the networking environment, but really a focus on partnership is the key. This came across in both Daniel and Jonna’s speeches. Being more entrepreneurial in a sense and focusing on connecting people with other people, rather than focusing on yourself is an important skill and builds trust. As you can see there were plenty of takeaways for me to keep moving forwards and building my skills. I’m writing as NextGen have announced the tickets are available for 2020 and I will be getting in early for next year’s conference. I don’t think i’ll be the only one.
Written by Ed Stubbs, Financial Planner at Xentum.