Diary of an IFA: Stephen Fox
Stephen E. Fox, 26 February 2018
A week with Stephen Fox, Flying Colours Liverpool.
My business plan sets out what I want to achieve for the year; broken down by quarters and months. I have a sound working relationship with two professional connections - one, an accountant and the other a solicitor. Both great guys whom I get on well with, and while we are notably dissimilar as people, we certainly work well together for the client. The knowledge accrued across the Financial Planner, Accountant and Solicitor complement one another perfectly, and it is equally important to the three of us that our clients are happy and well informed throughout the relationship as this, in turn, helps to grow our respective businesses. Obviously, the first point (if done well) leads to the second, and Mondays are perfect for spending time with my professional connections at our places of business or, dare I say it, down the pub!
As a rule, midweek (Tuesday to Thursday) I like to spend in front of the client. The older I get, the more I find myself unable to truly relax if I don't feel like I've 'earned it'. Therefore, it is important that I have made a real difference in the week so I can take the weekend at a reduced pace - if such a thing is possible with rugby and football sessions for my two young sons. Younger readers may not quite understand what I mean but, trust me, the trade-off for earning the right to relax at the weekend will come to you. I spend my time either meeting new people via Initial appointments, presenting our thoughts and recommendations in the follow-up meetings (typically four weeks after the initial discussion) and Client Reviews. I am forty days into my role with Flying Colours, so it is probably a bit soon for client reviews. I spend my time in initial and follow-up meetings; of which I aim to have three initials and four or five face-to-face follow-ups per week, as a minimum.
Over to Wilmslow for an early start this morning. We were approached last week by a lady nearing retirement and, after working for her employer for 25 years, she is looking at her options for a sustainable income in post-work phase life. She has been diligent with a personal pension alongside her work's defined benefit arrangement and has been making good use of her ISA each year, when she had the money to do so. I would run our Discovery meeting which, as a financial planner, gives me sufficient insight into her past, her present and what she is looking to achieve in future. We would take authority on her plans and policies and agree on a suitable point to reconvene in circa four weeks when we can walk through our findings. This exercise tends to take ninety minutes and, unbelievably, earlier in my career this was an area that I didn't cement as part of my process. I know now that this meeting is crucial and if the client didn't have ninety minutes free, I would insist we change the appointment to another date when they do. From here, it is over to Wigan to see a young family looking for help with protecting against if the worst were to happen and they were to lose Dad's income as the main breadwinner. Thereafter, it's back home for a well-earned dinner with my family before the bath and bed routine commences!
After my breakfast meeting with a local business; and putting in place a plan for two of their directors and their families, the diary is purposely free and allows me to work from my home office in relative peace and quiet. My children come bursting through the door at 16:40 on the dot which, for today, invites a welcomed early finish given I was up at the crack of dawn - it's all about balance! I am a big fan of ensuring clients receive my Client Meeting Report(CMR) straight after all appointments. The CMR has in black and white everything discussed in meetings, the actions we are now working on, when they will be completed and when next we will meet. The CMR step is a simple yet effective way of delivering a professional approach and keeps clients engaged so they are not left guessing what their adviser is going to do next. It manages their uncertainty, promotes peace of mind and builds confidence in me and my team. The CMR is sent over to the business before I proceed to take on the afternoon's tasks in the diary, including a case discussion and cash flow planning for tomorrow's afternoon appointment.
Fridays work well for catching up on any backlog, squeezing in a client session, or simply keeping on track with admin; preparing reports, running analysis, providing updates to clients and pushing my marketing plan. I have a weekly check-in with the support team to discuss ongoing cases and to confirm we are all on the same page with actions and responsibilities. Of course, a little over a month before I had never met the people I work with today; hence there is always the risk that working styles can differ. Thankfully, the team around me are all hard-working, knowledgeable people who have been carefully selected by the owner and his trusted recruitment specialists. Qualifications, experience and knowledge are, of course, important as an adviser with Flying Colours, but they are equally paralleled by having the kind of personality that facilitates everyone getting along well. Fortunately, I could not have selected the people in my support team better, and they afford me no surprises or shocks (so far!). Once we have caught up, I have a meeting in the diary for 14:30 that I am looking forward to immensely. I am due to deliver the news to my client that he has been waiting for: a proper plan that will allow him to retire in the coming months and spend more time doing the things he loves. What a great feeling for the both of us! All that remains is to beat the traffic and decant the Merlot!
Stephen Fox is a Flying Colours independent financial adviser servicing clients in the North West.
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