This article was created by Joanne Wallen from Complinet (firstname.lastname@example.org) and is reproduced here with her permission.
While some financial advisers are still fretting about the impact of the Retail Distribution Review on their business, two women are fired up by new business models to suit both ends of the financial spectrum. At the higher end, for those with at least some money to invest, Financial Life Planning is rapidly gaining momentum, while at the other end of the spectrum, financial coaching offers people who may have nothing but debt or a bad spending habit some tips for relieving money-related stress.
Tina Weeks, a financial planner who runs Serenity Financial Planning, has just qualified as the first female Registered Life Planner in the UK. The RLP designation is awarded by the Kinder Institute of Life Planning in the US and means that Weeks has completed a two-day workshop, a five-day advanced life planning training and six months of "intensive personal mentoring". Weeks has become one of only seven RLPs in the UK, but the Kinder Institute expects this number to rise rapidly this year.
Life planning was developed by Kinder Institute founders George Kinder and Richard Wagner. It offers a structured methodology for delving deeper into clients' lives, and trying to establish their goals and passions and what they want to achieve with their lives. This then feeds in to the more traditional financial planning to produce a financial plan that enables clients to work toward fulfilling their goals. As well as introducing life planning to her own financial planning business, Weeks has been instrumental in running workshops around the UK to introduce financial advisers to the concepts of life planning. The workshops are run in conjunction with the IFA Life web site. Founder Philip Calvert described life planning as: "The most significant opportunity the financial planning industry has ever seen".
Weeks told Complinet that life planning as an adjunct to financial planning played absolutely to the concepts of increased professionalism and treating customers fairly that the RDR was trying to achieve. "Life planning helps create a practical solution that is so client-focused and client-centric that the client doesn't mind paying for it. When you connect life and financial planning there is a symbiosis. One cannot work without the other."
The recent RDR policy statement confirmed among other things that anyone offering financial "advice" post 2012 would need to have a minimum qualification level of QCF level four, equivalent to a diploma or the first year of a bachelor's degree. Many existing financial advisers have been unhappy about being forced to sit further examinations and estimates of how many are likely to leave the industry or change roles after 2012 vary from about 10 per cent to up to 30 per cent. The Financial Services Authority and supporters of the RDR maintain that the industry needs to raise its levels of professionalism and to be seen as a profession alongside accountancy and law.
Weeks said: "The importance of professionalism through examination has never been more important, but so too are a financial planner's inter-personal skills. I, like many IFAs, thought I was already life planning, but it was only when I started on the Kinder training that I realised there was very much more to it."
There have also been many concerns voiced about how the RDR would drive advisers higher up the social spectrum to service high-net-worth individuals, which would leave the majority of consumers without access to good financial advice.