Around the world with CFP® professionals
by Amyr Rocha Lima, CFP®
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professionals around the world may face different challenges depending on where they are. In this article, draw together insights and views from global CFP® professionals.
The raison d’être for the financial planner everywhere will always be the same – making their clients’ financial goals a reality. The work is similar in character and complexity, although subtle differences exist for peers overseas. These are the nuances created by working environments, cultural differences, legislation and the economic climate in each country. We spoke to CFP professionals in Brazil, Canada, South Africa and America to gain a picture of financial planning across the world.
Canada: The millennial factor
Shannon Lee Simmons CFP® is a Canadian chartered investment manager, life coach, speaker and author who won the Wealth Professional Award for Innovation in 2018, awarded by online publication Wealth Professional Canada. She focuses on attracting millennials to her business by building her personal brand through popular finance shows, writing a personal finance column, and being active on social media and on her own YouTube channel.
Shannon – who, at age 34, is herself a millennial – started New School of Finance, a financial planning firm for Canadians that focuses on an advice-only approach and affordability. “Many millennials are just starting to save,” she says. “They have good jobs but don’t meet asset-under-management requirements.”
Shannon continues: “The main pain points I see with Canadian millennials is housing affordability. In major urban centres, housing prices and rent have skyrocketed in the past five years. Many people are spending over 45% of take-home pay on housing. It makes other things like day care, savings and emergency savings difficult when so much money is going into bills each month.” Shannon helps her millennial clients address this by publishing freely available educational material on her YouTube channel, including a four-part series titled Can you afford to buy a house?
The real estate search site Zoocasa compiles an annual Housing trends report that, in 2018, shows that home ownership remains a coveted goal for many Canadians. However, achieving this is a challenge. Based on the average Canadian home price of CAN$491,065, even a minimum 5% deposit is CAN$24,553 – but 38% of renters only have CAN$4,999 or less saved.
Another issue for which Shannon helps clients prepare is the possibility of losing their job in their late 50s. While they could get another job, their income level would not be as high, she says. When discussing this issue with clients, Shannon builds a financial plan that incorporates a scenario with a lower-income assumption later in life to highlight the budget changes that might be required. “Planning around this from [clients in their] 40s and 50s is super important to ensure people are able to still make it work if this happens to them. I also advise clients to be more aggressive with their mortgage payments. The less outflows they have later in life, the more flexible they can be.”
Brazil: Financial planning for medical professionals
Thiago Sampaio CFP® lives and works in Salvador, Bahia – the fourth largest city in Brazil and still largely uncharted territory for the financial planning profession. His business caters predominantly to the medical profession because, despite the high salaries earned in the private care sector, these professionals complain of lack of time and knowledge to manage their own finances. Brazilians generally aren’t comfortable talking about finances, investments and insurance, Thiago says – a sentiment confirmed in a recent study by the Brazilian Financial and Capital Markets Association on the relationship of Brazilians with money: Debate a relação do brasileiro com dinheiro.
Thiago adds that, because financial planning (as a CFP professional sees it) is quite a new concept in Brazil, one of the biggest hurdles he faces is selling the concept of financial planning in the first place. He overcomes this by asking prospects questions that help to build a picture of their overall financial situation and their attitude to money. Questions include: Tell me a little bit about your day-to-day financial situation; how do you make financial decisions? Who influences you in the important decisions you need to make in your financial life? Is there anything causing you frustration?
Thiago meets a new client six times in their first year of working together, taking them through the Financial Planning Standards Board’s six-step process (see box). He adds, “The most important thing is to help the client design the pathway for change to occur. If the client feels confident, they will walk side by side with you for a long time.”
Thiago finds that prospects’ biggest worries are around debt, better budgeting, and concerns around retirement. Once a prospect understands that no one product answers all of the questions that Thiago poses, and that a CFP professional can help to build a plan to tackle their financial concerns, they start to buy into the financial planning process.
US: The financial planner with a niche
Jared Reynolds CFP® has noticed a shift towards working with a niche client base, much like Thiago’s focus on medics. Jared, who lives in Missouri and has a love of the great outdoors, has made championship-winning bass fishermen the centre of his financial planning practice.
This group faces specific challenges, such as weighing up the value of sponsorship deals or TV contracts that they might be offered as a result of their sporting prowess. Jared says that the approach to tackling these challenges is very similar to the simple risk and reward scenario that financial planners are used to dealing with for other types of client.
He uses an approach that he calls “passion prospecting” to attract new clients. This involves organising fishing and hunting trips with potential clients – the more adventurous and expensive the trip, the better the prospects because they attract people with larger discretionary incomes. On his latest trip, he took prospects peacock bass fishing in the Amazon. He hopes to build a reputation for organising ‘cool trips’ that will attract more people from his niche who want to find out more about the services his firm offers.
He believes that the CFP professional is a financial planner, first and foremost. “Many times, when prospective clients come to see me, they bring in what they think is a financial plan from another adviser,” Jared says. “Almost without fail, what they have is basically a sales proposal with a pitch to sell some product that will somehow solve all their financial problems.
“A CFP professional should talk about what the client is trying to achieve and look at everything affecting them financially. What strategies will help the client achieve their goals the best way? It may involve a lot of tax planning, estate planning, and other solutions that don’t involve any kind of product.”
Jared’s firm uses sophisticated financial planning software: Riskalyze to assess a client’s risk profile and Emoney to build and deliver a financial plan to show clients their whole financial picture. This includes the financial impact of their decisions before they even make them. This ultimately helps them to make better-informed decisions.
Jared says that his favourite part of the job is “that moment when presenting a plan and seeing the client’s reaction when everything comes together, then working with them over the long term and building not just a relationship but a friendship”.
South Africa: Focusing on pre-retirement and retirees
Janet Hugo CFP® is the Financial Planning Institute of South Africa’s 2019 Financial Planner of the Year. She entered the profession around 15 years ago, when she and her husband had to review their insurance policies and coverage. Although their broker had set them up with new policies, she had many unanswered questions that eventually led to her pursuing a career in financial planning.
When Janet opened her practice, she made financial plans for clients that quantified how much life cover they needed. She was independent of the insurance companies and was loyal to her clients first, whatever the commission differences, knowing that chasing the best commissions would not let her sleep well at night.
Today, Janet’s practice focuses mainly on retirement planning and she says that the behavioural aspect of financial planning is something her clients are beginning to value. She believes that in order to achieve long-term goals, it’s important to “identify and wrestle with some of our personality-driven investing mistakes” and encourages clients to adopt a rational approach to investment decisions. She aims to make clients feel more confident about their financial planning by ensuring their goals are SMART: specific; measurable; attainable; realistic; time-based.
In 2018, South African stocks had their worst year since 2008, falling 24% in US dollar terms as a strengthening dollar and worsening trade relations between the US and China buffeted emerging markets. Amidst a climate of stock market wobbles, she says her coaching approach has encouraged her clients to stay the course with their investments: “Goals-based wealth management helps investors to focus on their goals and outcomes, as opposed to short-term returns.”
She adds, “Much of good financial planning is about asking the right questions and providing for the ‘what happens if’ worries that we all have.” Janet will ask clients how they plan to take care of their ageing parents, whether their will is up to date or how they are going to educate their children.
Janet believes that a CFP professional marries information between several professional disciplines – legal, accounting, taxation and investment. “In many situations, we are often the only person sitting at the table who is able to interpret the implications of these various professions into the personal circumstances of our clients.
“Clients are starting to value the way a CFP professional can deliver complex financial information in language they understand, as well as the behavioural aspect of financial planning.”
The big picture
Whether catering for millennial investors, giving people the confidence to change their career or helping people plan for their retirement, a CFP professional is an expert in comprehensive planning, but the client is the expert in their life. The best way to bring financial planning to life for clients is to collaborate on solutions. This, across the world, has proved to create true partnerships between financial planners and their clients.
CFP professionals are skilled in drawing up a financial plan and allocating assets into appropriate investments to fund that plan, ensuring that a sustainable withdrawal strategy is in place throughout retirement, and identifying and mitigating risks through protection planning.
This overall knowledge enables them to ensure that clients attain overall financial wellbeing. It is not just about an investment or an insurance policy – it’s about how these elements work together.
Amyr Rocha Lima, CFP® is a partner at Holland Hahn & Wills LLP, a financial planning practice based in Kingston upon Thames. He specialises in working with successful professionals age 50+ helping them reduce taxes, invest smarter and retire on their terms.