Balance: Wealth Planning was founded in 2014 to solve a problem. Our founder, Rebecca Aldridge, had been a practicing Financial Planner for many years, as well being responsible for the Operations, Compliance and Business Strategy of successful financial planning firms. She had a clear sense of what great financial planning should look like. Importantly, she could also see what was fundamentally flawed in the profession, and how it needed to change.
She believed the financial planning profession was structured in a way that easily created bias, unethical business practices and poor professional behaviour.
She was not alone. Two years prior, the Financial Conduct Authority had made changes with the goal of fundamentally changing the way in which financial advice operated in the UK. It aimed for improved transparency, higher minimum qualifications, and improved clarity of information to clients, particularly concerning the cost of advice.
The new regulations had prompted 20% of financial advisers to leave the profession completely, and firms had to take big steps to improve their practices. But it wasn’t enough. Rebecca felt the conditions where poor practices and bias could thrive were still embedded in the fabric of those companies and would take a long time to be shaken out.
How most firms charge for advice
The fundamental issue was the way most companies charged for their advice. Those companies were usually paid a percentage of the amount a client invested. This meant clients investing a great deal were essentially paying for the advice received by clients investing a more modest amount. Rebecca felt this was unethical, and poor business practice. Unfortunately it is still happening in the vast majority of firms today.
This method of charging a percentage of a client’s investments to pay for advice also created problems where a financial adviser would be incentivised to invest more than might really be sensible for a client, and for it to stay invested. That’s because many financial advisers were still measured and remunerated based on targets linked to the amount their clients were investing.
Disrupting the profession and thinking differently
Rebecca believed important cornerstones of financial planning going forward would be:
- A holistic approach to financial advice, understanding the whole of any client’s circumstances
- Fees based predominantly on time-costs rather than a percentage of any investment
- Goals-based, lifetime financial planning, with clients having a deeper understanding of what their money was for, and the type of lifestyle it could support
The number of firms offering that type of service at the time in the UK was tiny, and most were boutique companies. However, Rebecca was convinced the future of financial planning lay in that direction, and founded Balance: Wealth Planning in 2014 on those principles. By doing this, she was part of a movement away from what had gone before, and towards a new way of thinking about financial advice. For many taking that same journey within the profession, they stopped describing themselves as Financial Advisers, Wealth Managers or IFAs. Instead, they started describing themselves as Lifetime Financial Planners.
A promising future
Now, there are many more companies operating in the same way as Balance: Wealth Planning, or trying to move in that direction. Qualifications are more aligned with this way of working, and there is increased understanding of what a Financial Planner does, as compared to an IFA. These changes would not have happened if it wasn’t for people like Rebecca sticking to their principles, and creating ripples, which eventually turn into waves.
Regulations are also continuing to increase the professionalism of firms and outcomes for clients. We still feel there’s a long way to go, and are continuing to lead the way.
So what are you waiting for? Start working with a company that knows what it’s doing, and where it’s heading.