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What I discovered spending a fortnight with a Financial Planner

My two weeks at Informed Choice were certainly extremely interesting; not least due to my time here coinciding with the debt crisis in Greece and the first Conservative Budget in 19 years, but also because it has been a real eye-opener to the world of Financial Planning. There have been a few other lessons along the way.

My time here has primarily shown me the importance of Financial Planners having an excellent relationship with clients as well as having a strong client focus, enabling them to fully understand the client’s situation and requirements so that valuable advice can be given. I have also witnessed the level of information required for each client and the difficulty in obtaining all the information for clients, particularly when constructing a Financial Plan.

I started off the fortnight with an extremely limited knowledge of pensions (to say the least), so after being at Informed Choice for two weeks I have discovered the dynamics of the pension system, the complications around pensions and the problems that clients have with their own pensions.

I have also learnt that there is no easy solution to many issues with pensions and there is a whole range of factors that need to be considered when giving retirement planning advice.

After being at Informed Choice I developed an understanding of how concepts I have been taught at University are applied in the real world. Particularly interesting was the application of Modern Portfolio Theory, especially how the efficient frontier is used in the analysis and optimisation of investment portfolios. Similarly, it was fascinating to see how the client’s attitude towards investment risk affects the portfolio mix.

Something I had not put any consideration into before my experience at Informed Choice was how to plan for care fees, hopefully an event that will happen substantially later on in life! However, after a presentation on the topic from Partnership I now have a good insight into the difficult and personal nature of planning for residential care costs. It was particularly interesting to be told the myths surrounding care fees planning, which many people believe to be true, and to have them debunked.

Lastly, it was also extremely interesting to come to a business such as Informed Choice. This is due to the fact that they have such a proactive marketing style and I was able to witness how effective this is at appealing to new clients, but also to existing clients. They also have a unique culture and management style which differentiates them from other independent financial advisers and again it was evident that this was something that appealed to clients.

Overall, the two weeks have given me a useful understanding of the profession and the various tasks that advisers and Financial Planners face today. It has also given me insight into the complexities and challenges of the sector, and how these are made even more problematic by changing rules and policies of the government.

Despite these complexities, I have discovered that the client focused nature of the profession makes it interesting and fulfilling and the sector plays a vital role in helping those who do not have the level of knowledge required to make an accurate decision with their finances.

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