JOHN MARKHAM: Advisers Should Invest In Themselves

Invest in yourself, for the good of you and your clients.

Comments questioning the costs of conferences are popping up on various adviser forums, and they got me thinking. On the face of it, paying £200-£300 to listen to some financial experts on a stage may seem a lot – especially if you then factor in ‘lost’ work time, travel and accommodation costs. But how can you quantify the value? To quote Warren Buffet, ‘price is what you pay, value is what you get’.

Quantifying value versus price is something we all do on a day to day basis, whether it be on a new piece of clothing or a conference ticket. We all ask ourselves, ‘What is the cost and in my opinion, is it worth it?’.

I have never paid for a conference and wanted my money back. But I have attended free conferences and wanted my time back.

Conferences may not even prove their value by what’s happening on the stage. While there are huge amounts to learn and be inspired from listening to those who have earned the right to be on stage (assuming you’re in the right room – see health warning*), sometimes the magic can happen elsewhere. I’m talking about a conversation at lunch, over a beer (or two!) in a bar afterwards, or even on the train home. Connections and improvements that last a lifetime can all start with a simple 5-minute chat. 

Of course, investing in yourself does not start and end with conferences. While I’m not going to list here all the things that I have tried and tested to get better, I want to touch on a few core areas.

*Health Warning – be careful of free conferences lead by providers/fund managers. You may not even realise it’s happening, but you are likely to be sold to rather than learn anything you and your clients will benefit from. If you are turning up simply to tick a CPD box, you are missing the point and there is no such thing as a free lunch!

Professional Qualifications

This one normally splits opinion. Personally, I am a fan of professional qualifications, but they are just one part of a very big, lifetime puzzle of learning. At age 30, I set myself a challenge of becoming a Certified and Chartered Financial Planner in 5 years. Many of ‘the leading lights’ of the financial planning community held these awards, so I thought rightly or wrongly, that it was a good place to start.

The CFP is tough, really tough, but I guess any degree level qualification is not going to be a walk in the park. I learned so much about how to build a comprehensive financial plan from my CFP I would urge any adviser, young or otherwise, to pursue one! The Chartered exams (one more to do in a couple of weeks and I’m over the line) are more technical and arguably the most recognisable financial badge to possess. They have both given me knowledge and confidence, so I’m pleased I have invested the time and money in myself here. 

However, qualifications do not maketh the planner…

Soft Skills

It’s great being able to build the most technical, all-encompassing financial plan and understand the most complex pension tapering and transitional lifetime allowance protections, but can you interact with a real human being? Can you shut up and listen? Empathise? Ask deeper, sometimes uncomfortable questions?

I was ‘fortunate’ to have worked in environments in my first years as an adviser where I was observed by other advisers for hours upon hours, in addition to soft skills and ‘sales’ (sorry!) training. I did not feel fortunate having someone sitting there in the corner of my office scribbling down notes when I had said something either good or bad, but with hindsight, it helped me a lot. For many starting out now, this feedback isn’t as readily available.

But there’s still a lot out there. I previously invested in Inspiring Advisers run by Paul Armson. The mindset, technique, and knowledge I learnt there were definitely worth the cost for me. Whilst I haven’t yet tried the FP Training Academy courses or Kinder Institute yet, there is no doubt these resources are out there for us all to invest in and learn from.

Read Widely. Read Wisely.

One of my best ‘investments’ in recent years was purchasing Apple Airpods coupled with an Audible subscription. With podcasts, I sit back and soak up knowledge wherever and whenever. I admit I have never been a huge reader. However, as I get more candles on my cake, I read a lot more and thanks to Audible and podcasts I actually look forward to long drives as I can ‘read’ and learn at the same time.

Bottom Line

As financial advisers we are familiar with the concept of compounding when it comes to money and the same principle can be applied to knowledge. Let’s be a bit fancy and use a philosophical argument to help draw an analogy, The Sorites Paradox:

If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin?

What if you add another?

Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.

One conference, one exam, one podcast, one book, one more connection or conversation will not give you mastery level of financial planning wisdom, but just one bit, day by day, will set you on a lifetime journey of improvement for the benefit of you, your career, and your clients.

So, go ahead and book the ‘expensive’ conference, buy that book, subscribe to Audible, buy that online training course, and start your CFP journey. It’s not a cost, it’s an investment; your future self will thank you.

A headshot of John Markham

John Markham is a Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Wealth Manager and Managing Director of Future Financial Planning.

The views expressed in this article are that of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Voyant.