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Plain Sailing – the benefits of coaching for financial planners

I wanted to share with you the personal experience of a client of mine who attended the Quiver Management Interpersonal Skills course for financial planners a couple of years ago.

Russell Haworth is a Chartered Financial Planner with over 17 years’ experience in financial services. He works with business owners to help them plan for successful and exciting retirements. He believes that people should leave this world with memories, not dreams, and uses financial planning to help people understand their financial position and the possibilities available to them.

As Russell says, this post is not meant to be prescriptive! But it’s good to share and you can make up your own mind whether you want to look into coaching yourself.

When starting the course, Russell was a relatively young financial planner at 35. Even though he was Chartered, he did not see his role as purely technical. The knowledge was important, but it was the application of it that he felt would stand him in good stead for the future.

Russell takes up the story.

People have always told me I am a good listener and I felt that I was doing it well in my financial planning role. But I’m always looking to improve and, having spoken to Chris Budd (of Ovation Finance) in the past about coaching, I jumped at the opportunity to attend a one-day session with Jan Bowen-Nielsen, as recommended by Chris.

The course itself highlighted areas that in hindsight seem like common sense – but that I had not been doing. Suffice it to say it was one of the most valuable days I have spent in my career on my own development.

It focused on simple things, like listening and asking good questions, but it also taught the techniques needed to deliver these. Again, common sense ideas, which were only revealed when they were acted out in role-play.

The course opened my eyes. The skills it taught me – in listening, effective questioning skills and understanding needs and motivations – were not exactly brand new but were demonstrated in a more efficient way.

Putting it into practice

I left the course excited and eager to put into practice some of these techniques. At my next client meeting (it happened to be a new client) I had the perfect opportunity.

I opened the meeting with a request: “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” The response was: “I have worked in this industry all my life, and will retire at 64.” He paused, then said: “I’m not sure what else there is to say, really.”

Now typically I would have continued my questioning in a fact-finding way. “How much do you need when you retire?” etc. I may have got the answers I needed to provide my client with a decent financial plan and recommendations on how to get there.

However, with the course fresh in my mind, I picked up on a particular point that he had mentioned: age 64. I was thinking: “Why 64?” But the course had taught me that ‘Why…?’ is a sloppy question. It elicits justifications, reasons and excuses. So I framed it differently and asked: “What is it about age 64 that is important to you?”

The client then opened up about health concerns, that his father had died aged 68 and he had plans that he thought would take up four years of his life, hence wanting to retire at 64.

By asking better questions and ‘coaching’ some answers out of the client I was able to quickly gain insight into his motivations, his fears and his aspirations – including his dream to spend two years sailing around the Caribbean when he retires, despite not knowing how to sail at the moment!

I came away from that meeting with a far deeper understanding of what my client was trying to do with his money than perhaps I would have done before the course. We were able to put a plan in place that allowed him to save for retirement whilst at the same time having enough spare cash available to pay for sailing lessons.

A lot of the above may sound obvious but I would recommend the course to any Financial Planners. Coaching coming before planning (which comes before product), means helping my clients understand themselves better. In turn they get much more out of my advice than might otherwise be the case. The result is happier, more loyal clients, and increased job satisfaction for me.

Long lasting training

2 years on and I am still using the coaching, questioning and listening skills that I was taught. I have no doubt that the relationships I enjoy with my clients have been greatly enhanced by using coaching skills during my meetings with them.

They have created a foundation for deeper conversations, helping them feel better able to articulate what it is in their lives that’s really important to them and what they’d like to achieve with their finances.

The skills continue to be useful, to reshape the way client conversations unfold, and enhance the level and of service I can provide. It’s great for my reputation too, and we all know how important that is when seeking new clients.

Training for financial planners

The Interpersonal Skills course that Russell attended has recently been renamed Coaching Skills for Financial Planners, to reflect the broader coaching skills that are covered during the day long programme. The content is the same, so if you’d like to follow in Russell’s footsteps, we have details of new course dates and locations available here.

Russell, and his business partner Huw, are now poised to take the follow on Certificate in Coaching for Professionals, to further enhance their coaching skills. We look forward to working with them again.

With thanks to Russell for sharing

Russell works for Proposito Financial Planning Ltd, a firm of Chartered and Accredited Financial Planners, which helps business owners to become financially independent of their business and successfully transition from full time work to full time play.

Thank you Russell for sharing your experiences.

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