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How I learnt the hard way to be the best planner

A few years ago, I got soaked in a downpour on my way to meet a client. I’d not bothered to bring an umbrella with me and arrived at the meeting bedraggled and wet.

The first thing my client said was: “You didn’t plan that very well, did you?!” 

Not a great advert for my ability to think ahead. But that comment is an important reminder of a rule financial planners like me need to follow – you have to walk the walk.


Holding back the floodgates

Their words must have been in the back of my mind when I was taking out insurance on my family’s home in East London. Where we live in Leytonstone has never flooded and is nowhere near a river. Despite this, we’ve had the most comprehensive buildings and contents cover available – including flooding.

At £92 a month, this cover wasn’t cheap and last year the provider added 20% onto the premium for flooding risk (maybe their data was telling them something). 

At the time this might have seemed a waste of money. But then this July, severe flash flooding left our kitchen and basement two-foot deep in water. It was distressing for the whole family, but thinking as a planner, I felt ok. Other than build an ark, I couldn’t have put us in a better position financially.

Our insurance company quickly arranged for us to move to a local hotel while a team of specialists fixed the house. The guttering people, building surveyor, loss adjuster and specialist cleaning company all descended just a week on from the event. 

While neighbours in the same situation struggled to find people locally to carry out work on their homes, our policy meant we could source tradespeople from all over the country. In fact, most of our neighbours, it turned out, had buildings insurance, but no contents insurance.


Lessons as a financial planner

Protecting a family home and its contents against flooding might not seem directly linked to my career as a financial planner, but it is. 

Sometimes it is the small details – that might even appear trivial – that count. In this case, having the best insurance wasn’t just the difference between getting our house fixed quickly or waiting several weeks for repairs. It was a demonstration of my abilities as a planner, that in both personal and professional life things nothing is left to chance.

What I’m saying is, that we as planners don’t have any excuses. We have to walk the walk and make sure our finances are in the best possible shape. 


No excuses

As a financial planner, I know I’m in a privileged position, and clients will expect help in plotting the direction of their financial affairs. 

While it might be tempting for us to think about the tech, or the investments, as a holistic financial planner, we have to ensure that what we do is completely watertight – not just good in one or two areas.

And that means giving you the trust that as your financial planner, I’m getting the smaller details right. There’s a great example of a graduate I once worked with who was really good at the big stuff, but spelled a client’s name wrong and made a mistake in the address. They could take pride in everything else they’d got right, but the client was upset. 

That’s because, even though something like a spreadsheet might be important to me, it’s the visible elements that we’re going to be judged on. That could be correcting the avoidable spelling error, or taking as much care with my own financial affairs as I do with yours.

At the heart is avoiding making you ask the question: “how can I trust them to get the complicated stuff right, if they get the simple details wrong?”

Or, to put it another way: “why is your hair wet when you could just have brought an umbrella?”

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