Reaching the pinnacle is only half the work done

24 January 2018 Jonathan Faurie

The South African investment industry is growing every day as clients want to increasingly preserve their wealth.

The majority of this is done through consultations with Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) who work tirelessly to assist clients. At the recent 2017 Financial Planning Institute (FPI) Convention, Mark MacSymon CFP – a Wealth Manager at Private Client Holdings – was named as the 2017 Financial Planner of the Year in recognition of the work he does with clients. 

FAnews spoke to MacSymon to discuss his feelings about winning the award and the overall state of the South African investment industry. 

Pinnacle point

MacSymon became a CFP in 2011 and followed the careers of the previous winners of the Financial Planner of the Year Award because he felt that winning this award would be the pinnacle of any CFPs career. 

“Winning the award not only proves the capabilities of the person who wins the award, but it forces a person to sit down and ask some serious questions about what they do, how they do it, and if the client is at the centre of every action that they take. As a profession, CFPs need to remain relevant in the eyes of clients and change systems and processes to adapt to a changing client profile,” said MacSymon. 

It is clear that the process of becoming the Financial Planner of the Year was more than a competition to MacSymon, he said that it provided him with a true north bearing and gave him clarity on the activities that he needed to put in place to win. 

MacSymon was a runner up in 2015 and he added that the critique that he received from the judges proved very valuable when it came to the 2017 campaign. 

However, MacSymon said that winning the Award is only half the work done. 

Key responsibilities

Winning the Award not only proves the value of the company that the winner owns or works for, but it gives the winner a sense of responsibility when it comes to engaging with clients. 

When one spends a number of years in an industry, one can at times become complacent when it comes to the basics of the profession. MacSymon pointed out that some of the basic mistakes that a client makes is the tendency to stray away from a financial plan. 

“Clients need to stick to a financial plan that will not tempt them to make knee jerk reactions. Life happens, but clients cannot react immediately without taking a coordinated approach into account. It is the responsibility of CFPs to ensure that this is reinforced,” said MacSymon. 

Changing behaviours

At the launch of Financial Planning Week in September, David Kop CFP – Head of Advocacy and Consumer Affairs at the FPI – said that changing the habits of clients is a long and arduous process. However, it is central to financial planning.

“Changing behaviours is never easy. Clients need to become used to having a new budget, a new income and they have to make sacrifices along the way. However, a CFP can make this process a bit easier. We need to get people actively involved in their financial plan; at their annual review meetings, constantly change the retirement assumptions of clients so that they can see how much money they will need in retirement. This makes them accountable for their actions,” said MacSymon. 

Client profiling

Just as clients select a financial planner based on their credentials/profile, CFPs need to adopt the same approach when selecting the clients that they work with. 

“I recently attended a Morningstar event where there was a high level panel discussion. Every panellist said that if they could have their career again, they would be more discerning on how, and with whom, they grow the business. CFPs need to be discerning when it comes to their clients. At the end of the day, the time of a CFP is not scalable, and they cannot be everything to everyone,” said MacSymon.   

It is not a sin to do this. Every CFP is unique in the skills that they offer. MacSymon may not work best with an investor who has basic investment needs, but another CFP will have these skills. Eventually, a client that has basic investment needs can be transformed into an investor that has complex needs. This is what the industry needs, the progression of a client from a basic investor to a complex investor. 

Take the directed path

MacSymon said that there is a lot of work that he would like to do as the winner of the Financial Planner of the Year Award that is centred around the education of clients and the growth of skills in the industry. 

“While I feel that the South African consumer is still under pressure, there is a general awakening in the country in that the public knows that they need to invest. It’s not about investing more at the moment, it’s about finding value in their investments. A lot of this is gravitating towards self-investing and going the direct route, and clients need to realise the potential pitfalls of this decision. An uncoordinated approach is never ideal, and the value of a CFP will always be inherent in the industry,” said MacSymon. 

Editor’s Thoughts:
There is a significant amount of responsibility that comes with winning the title of Financial Planner of the Year. Client interaction in the current investment space is key and changing habits can only be done through effective dialogue. MacSymon warns that this cannot be to prescriptive as clients want to feel as if they have a key role to play in growing their wealth, which they do. Do you agree with this? Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts

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