2016: Onwards and Upwards
I must confess that there are times when it feels increasingly difficult to retain an optimistic and positive view of our world. I am not naturally a pessimist, and indeed the whole culture at ValidPath is predicated upon a generally positive view of human nature, and the constructive outcomes if we only pull together. Nevertheless, it does seem that we are living through a period when pessimism and cynicism are the dominating outlooks - for most of us, such traits tend to well up within us when watching the Six O'Clock News on the Beeb, or listening to politicians trotting out their signature offerings of self-serving, mendacious drivel, or working our way through the latest gold-plating of regulations that nobody needs or relishes.
It is, of course, not always easy to remain immune to what is going on around us, especially when the media agencies seem to specialise in the purveying of news which is negative, or disturbing, or just plain horrifying. A quick trawl through the BBC website is suggestive of a myriad of current events which, in aggregate, might lead us simply to pull the sheets over our heads, or book ourselves onto that first expedition to Mars (although you'll have to wait another nine years). Sometimes, the mere act of whistling 'Always look on the bright side' is not enough. Sometimes, what we need are good, or at least believable, 'reasons to be cheerful'.
Several things struck me about this. IFAs tend to be, on the whole, extraordinarily positive and resilient people - so if we at times succumb to temptations towards negativity, just think how the rank and file of our clients must feel every time they switch on their telly for the News? Perhaps such people don't benefit from the kinds of intellectual disciplines which we may take for granted, which enable us to stir ourselves out of apathy and strive for real achievements? Perhaps the masses of people who endlessly defer the disciplines necessary for building personal wealth, do so because they lack positive input and encouragement from outside? This hints at the kind of role we may have, as financial planners, and the kind of style we need to cultivate in our outward communications, as well as the practical personalisation of our own advice: do we walk the talk?
And then, following on from that emphasis, there is the issue of certainty, or rather the lack of it. The pervasive message which hits us every time we watch the news, is that of our essential disempowerment. Having registered our token assent to the idea of democracy and representation, one is forced to admit that most of what goes on in our culture occurs in a way that is driven primarily by elites or minority groups, and finds precious little supporting justification in the needs and desires of ordinary people. The natural human response to this is firstly cynicism, and secondly a kind of hopelessness about even the possibility of effecting control over our own lives. Thankfully, on a financial level, you and I have precisely the tools to help reassert the balance in favour of our clients. With Clarity, we have a functional infrastructure to allow us a replicable framework for managing and influencing client expectations, implementing change, and handling the essential ongoing reviews and planning which transition people from a financial wasteland to an infinitely better place. With CashCalc (or Voyant), we have the planning tools to put the client very clearly in the driving seat, and thereby effectively manage the process of change: we have an objective way of demonstrating how altering financial behaviours can (and does) profoundly impact on outcomes. With DeFaqto, we have the means to show the client that his or her financial choices are not arbitrary, but rather are built on only the best ingredients. And with ValidPath's VIP, hosted on Parmenion (or using your own similarly-wrought alternative), you can demonstrate that the client is not taking on hidden or unnecessary risks which are not appropriate for his or her financial plans.
In essence, you already have, within your reach, all the tools you require to address the the cynicism, apathy and negativity of existing and potential customers. People who fail to see the point of effective planning will find your lifetime discounted cashflows a revelation. Those who are cynical about other advisers will find your independence and consistency a breath of fresh air. Those who sense that they need to break out of the 'old' transactional way of doing things, will become excited by your fee-based financial-planning service. Those who have been exploited by other investment providers and advisers will find the low costs, efficiency and transparency of our VIP something to tell their friends about.
So here comes 2016, with all the usual uncertainties, anxieties and threats - but what do you care? You have everything you need to make a profound difference in your clients' lives, and in the process be handsomely rewarded for your service.
Here's an idea!
CashCalc has two CashFlow Modellers - a simplified version, and a full-fat one. Why not use the simplified one as a kind of 'suck it and see' exercise for clients who may, initially, be unpersuaded of the value of this form of planning. This is an ideal strategy for accountancy firms which wish to hook existing clients into their financial-planning service.