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Your Money: What should you be looking for in a financial planner?

Aberdeen chartered financial planning trainee Kelly Shek says they need to be a good listener for starters.

Kelly Shek.
Kelly Shek. Image: Bold St Media

I would be the first to admit my introduction to the financial planning profession was a happy accident.

After graduating I took on an admin role at Mathieson Financial Consulting, who were subsequently acquired by Thornton’s Wealth.

While working there, my curiosity got the better of me and I acquired a keen interest in all things financial planning.

I wanted to understand the “why” behind the documents I was processing. I also realised I thoroughly enjoyed working closely with clients. And so began my journey to becoming a fully qualified financial planner.

‘Relationship is everything’

I’m now studying towards achieving chartered status, such is my passion for continuously refreshing my knowledge and professional practice.

For me, relationship is everything. Clients are, understandably, initially quite hesitant to let us advisers in to give us access to their hopes and dreams.

But it’s important for me to understand what drives them.

It’s a personal relationship, because once I understand what they want out of life I can advise them on how financial planning measures can help them to achieve their goals.

Hand holding piece of jigsaw puzzle with words FINANCIAL PLANNING.
Image: Shutterstock

I really enjoy building personal relationships with clients. With every conversation, I feel I get to know them a bit better and they increasingly trust me with what’s going on in their lives.

For example, if they have experienced a bereavement, there may be inheritance issues to resolve and that’s something I can help with at a very difficult time in their lives.

What does “good” look like in a financial planner?

There’s no one all-encompassing definition of a good financial planner.

Like all personal relationships, a variety of different styles, processes and personalities will suit different clients and their needs.

Equally, there’s no universal structure that can be applied to all client scenarios.

A good adviser adjusts their knowledge and expertise, tailoring their guidance to each and every individual client.

The key is to establish and maintain a consistent service over the long term.

Business accountants are taking notes in notebooks and using a calculator to calculate financial costs.
“A good adviser adjusts their knowledge and expertise”. Image: Shutterstock

I find myself working with clients over many years, which becomes particularly gratifying and rewarding for both parties.

Of course, life happens and things change. I encourage regular annual in-person meetings to discuss what’s happening and what needs to be adjusted to reflect those changes.

I think being a good listener is also high on the list of skills required to be a good planner.

Listening carefully to what our clients are telling us is key to us applying our specialist knowledge and helping them resolve whatever challenges they face.

parent holding a children around the beach. after life assurance investment benefit.
Everyone has different goals In life. Image: Shutterstock

It’s a cliche, but like most cliches, there is a solid foundation in fact – financial planning really is a journey. Over the past year I’ve found this “whole journey” ethos to be really well embedded at AAB Wealth.

To achieve the best outcome for a client we need to gain a holistic understanding of their financial circumstances, along with their aims and ambitions.

It’s important to not focus on any area in isolation, for example your pension.

It’s all about the big picture

The various pieces of the puzzle are inextricably intertwined – from saving for retirement, helping your children onto the property ladder, paying for your grandchildren’s education or buying your dream car to that round-the-world-trip you have always dreamed of.

It would be a disservice to address one issue without considering your bigger picture,

A financial planner should be able to help bring all of these goals together and create a plan for how best to save and spend to achieve your aims and ambitions .

Kelly Shek is a financial planner at AAB Wealth, part of AAB Group, and based in the firm’s Aberdeen office.