Professional Spotlight, Millennial Addition: Sean Banks

Guess what the average age for a financial adviser in the UK is?

45? 50? 55? Depending on where you look, it should fall somewhere in that range.

Sean Banks is 26.

A financial adviser at Premier Wealth Planning, Banks began at another large pensions company working as an auxiliary planner. But soon enough he was having regular phone calls with clients and began to understand what they were seeking out in the planning process. That was when the actual prospect of working as an adviser came into play. Pretty soon Banks was studying for exams, and shortly thereafter landed a financial advising job.

Working in financial services as a millennial might initially seem like a disadvantage, but Banks has reframed his age in a positive light. He knows that experience doesn’t always equal expertise, and his young age means he’s in this fight for the long haul:

“No one has ever questioned my age from a client side. If they do, they can go to someone who is older, in their 50s. Someone like me, I’m always looking for what’s out there, what’s new, what’s working, what will always work, and what will work in the future.”

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Sean Banks

That’s not to say he believes boomers aren’t fond of technology. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Banks explains, “Most people now in their 50s and 60s are quite tech savvy. Technology has come leaps and bounds. People who are coming up to retirement [are] very switched on the latest technology. They love it.”

Rather, Banks’ so-called lack of experience motivates him to prove himself more:

“I don’t have [decades] of experience to rest on, which is why I do the blog, why I put myself out there.”

He’s speaking about The Finance Guy, his personal finance blog exploring everything from economic cycles to the true meaning of happiness.

This is one of the ways Banks stands out. For Banks, financial planning is a 360-degree process, full of comprehensive output.

Banks has his clients give him their basic information before meeting with them in person. This way, by the time a client enters his office he already has a base plan pulled up for them and the meeting won’t consist of going through facts and figures. Then, comes the fun part: mapping out achievement.

“Voyant will be open at the start of the meeting. That creates an expectation immediately of what we’re there to do. [It’s a] chance to get to know each other, for me to show [the client] what is achievable. This is what your situation is now. You’re either there or you’re not on track. What can we do to change it? Or, you’ll be absolutely fine.”

Voyant’s visual format makes it easy to kick off these exploratory meetings. There’s more than enough evidence to give clients an idea of what they need to be exploring. Says Banks, “I’ve been incorporating Voyant more recently, to open up these initial discoveries.”

Money Misconceptions

As a millennial himself, Banks knows there are both money misconceptions from and about millennials.

“I think that older generations maybe look at millennials as if we are very entitled. Sort of ‘oh, you got it easy, you’ve never had to struggle like we did.’ That’s natural: the next generation will be better off than we are, that’s just the way it goes.”

However, Banks notes that millennials have faced the challenge of stagnant wages and rising home costs. This makes it more challenging than ever for them to achieve the hallmarks of adulthood.

But, Banks points out, millennials are succeeding in at least one aspect:

“There is a lot of information out there. Younger people are more switched on to use a company like Vanguard rather than a discretionary fund manager. There’s the FIRE [Financial Independence Retire Early] movement. Previous generations would get a job in their 20s, work for 40 years…retire and that’s it. People are coming up with new ways of creating wealth.”

And while millennials may not be in the position to seek out financial advice now, Banks has no doubt they’ll get there. The reason why?

“I think things are going to happen in your life where you’re going to want to consult a human about it rather than a machine. It’s not what do I do with my money. You need someone who has empathy, to go at a pace that [you’re] comfortable with. I can judge when the right time is to suggest something, when maybe it’s a bit too soon. Money is so strongly connected to emotion.”

Speaking of which, Banks believes millennials’ greatest downfall is the fatal mixture of money and feelings.

“I think we’re [millennials] very consumer orientated. We want to have the new stuff right away… overspending to try and impress people who don’t really care. That’s a real problem.”

In Banks’ opinion, the solution to this isn’t to be miserly and stop spending altogether, but to splurge on experiences rather than items.

“Focus on spending on things you enjoy, rather than buying stuff – going away for a weekend experience rather than new clothes. Chances are if you overspend you’ll regret it whereas if you spend your money on experiences, that sort of stays with you.”

Stealing FIRE

Although Banks is not a full-fledged adherent to the FIRE movement, he has taken some inspiration from it:

“I get it and try to follow some of the principles. I try and invest as much of my income as I can. I contribute to my company pension scheme, ISA tax free savings, and that kind of pay yourself first happens before anything else. Whatever I have leftover is what I spend on lifestyle.”

In general, Banks aims to practice what he preaches to his clients. It’s not always perfect or easy, but it’s simple enough in theory:

“Think about reducing your expenditure and focusing on things that really matter. That’s something I’m trying to do. It’s easier said than done, but it’s definitely in my mind.”

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