My 3 principles as an aspiring financial planner

I am not sure anyone ever sets out to be a financial planner but ever since I stumbled into this world, it has absorbed my life.

I love my job and despite the constant negative infighting amongst the financial services community, I feel like I have picked a great career.  I am fairly lucky to have found a firm that has backed youth and the future of the profession, although it has not come without doubts and I often am faced with being lumped in with the traditional adviser and sins of the past – the type that transferred my father out of a very strong Final Salary pension into a balanced managed pension (that is another story for another day).

Being one of the youngest in a room full of IFAs has become common for me over the 11 years or so I have been in the profession.  I am however sensing a change.  Despite the sensionalist headlines, I am starting to see a few younger faces than me at some of the conferences and I am even starting to see more women enter the profession which is great.  As I write this, I am off for a lunch with another up and coming financial planner to chat about ideas.  It is still nearly 70-80% men in their 50’s and 60’s but that figure seems to be ever so slightly shifting.

Coming at it from the angle of a younger financial planner

Anyway, the reason for this blog was to come at it from the angle of a young aspiring planner.  I have listened to a lot of the experts (there seems to be many) talk about financial planning and advice and how you “should” do the job.  Most of it isn’t relevant to the career path I took (from graduate trainee to Director of a financial planning firm).

I had no prior experience of financial products or commission, and I had never “sold” a thing in my life.  I surely couldn’t be a financial adviser without the “selling” skills everyone seems to love talking about- what a load of rubbish.  I am servicing and growing a successful client bank and doing very well at Xentum and I still haven’t sold a product or taken commission.  I work on fees only and provide full comprehensive financial planning and I can tell you that there is a big demand for this from my own personal experience.

What have I learned so far?

I have been observing and learning for quite a while and now is the time to give something back to any aspiring planners.  My belief is that there is no right or wrong way to do this job, it is an “art” as Carl Richards says.  I have followed 3 fairly simple principles so far in my career and I thought they would be of use to someone out there so here you are:

  1. Give a S**T about your clients.  I tried to find a more eloquent way of putting this, but I just couldn’t find a way to emphasise it enough.  People love to teach listening skills in this profession but if you actually care about the clients, you will shut up and listen anyway.  If you start to load your agenda on clients then you clearly don’t give two hoots about the clients as that is YOUR agenda, not the clients.
  2. Take the job seriously – This is kind of linked to the first but I am not sure enough people in Financial Services take their job seriously enough.  We are dealing with people’s life savings and livelihoods and people deserve better.  I view every meeting as an opportunity to make a difference but also a chance to make a mistake, so I pay attention!  Every mis-selling scandal seems to originate because people don’t take their job seriously enough.
  3. I don’t recommend anything I wouldn’t recommend to my mum (and be able to explain) – As a Daily Mail reader, my mother is my toughest client but I genuinely believe this is true and will help me to have a long lasting career without looking over my shoulder.  I am also talking about transparency and giving the right advice here- it all flows together.  I am a fan of the work Michael Kitces does in the US and he puts it perfectly – “Suitability means selling a sweater that fits you. Fiduciary duty means it actually has to look good on you, too.”  It is a shame that we don’t seem to have a standard of fiduciary duty in the UK.

There are plenty of other issues in the sector

There are other issues I seem to see regularly in financial services particularly around jargon and opaqueness but sticking to the three principles above has helped my young financial planning career so far.  I am a long way from the perfect financial planner and I don’t preach to know the right way, I just believe that you have to work on your “art” all the time.

Anyway, thanks for reading this and hopefully it gives hope to aspiring planners that you can do this job despite your age.  It is a great job; you can make a difference to people’s lives and also get paid well!

I would be interested to know if any other financial planners have principles that they stick to that can help the younger planners out there?


Adam Carolan is a Director at Xentum


3 thoughts on “My 3 principles as an aspiring financial planner

  • Thanks for sharing this Adam. As a ‘young’ professional, I find there is very little content aimed at our generation. It’s a sad reflection that one my best resources is a podcast based in the US (XYPN Radio).

    This reminded me of yesterday’s article from Steve Martin about the future of the financial planning profession. As individuals, we look towards the IFP or the CISI for leadership to promote our profession. Should we not have a greater focus on what we are doing as individuals and businesses?

    Like Adam, I was fortunate enough to find a trainee graduate position. I feel lucky to have had this under Steve Martin’s pupillage. The time working with Steve has not only changed my career but also had a significant impact on my life. At the time, there were zero opportunities anywhere to train as a financial planner or IFA and I was struggling to get an administration job because I didn’t have enough relevant experience.

    One reason we are struggling to promote financial planning is because we simply don’t have enough financial planners promoting it. I know personally, I should do more and will from today. I challenge anyone interested in the future of financial planning to help bring in the next generation of financial planners. As a professional, it might just be your greatest legacy.

  • Those 3 principles will serve you well whatever you do in Life Adam so good luck.
    Always turn up on time, smile , say please and thanks and do what you say.
    Used together the World will be your oyster !

  • Phil and Adam.

    Both great comments and thanks for reading.

    It seems that there is a great community ready to engage with each other out there, we just need a way to drown out the negative noise and connect.

    I have had a few younger advisers connect with me regarding this article which is really positive but was hoping for some more of the established and successful planners out there to comment and give their key principles It is valuable information for anyone reading.


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