Perception is Everything: What is compassionate financial life planning?

21 September, 2016

Perception is Everything: What is compassionate financial life planning?

I love this photo of our dog Phoenix leaping into the lake, beautifully captured by Peter Richardson who was visiting us for the weekend along with his wife Emma (in the picture their dog, Tilly, is waiting for her turn to leap.) It’s easy for us to read into their eyes what they could be thinking. Phoenix gets very upset when people jump into the lake, we assume he thinks he needs to rescue us however, having been on the receiving end of his repeated “rescues”, he tends to do more damage than good—I have the scratches and bruises to prove it and yet his intentions are honourable. I love how he puts his entire body into the jump helping to project his body as far as is doggy possible, to reach out to the person now enjoying their leisurely swim, but not for long.

This concept of perception haunts me in many other ways including in my business and more specifically the numerous bodies that regulate me and my work. Recently my brother Paul, who works with me, was not approved by one of our regulators to meet with our clients without additional supervision by our company because he has another job working with men (primarily) in conflict with the law who abuse their wives/partners. The concern is “undue influence”.

Their concern is that he could, I don’t know, give a better deal to a friend or family member of someone who attends their programme, given his position and the services he provides. He helps men learn how to deal more effectively with their anger, rather than turning to violence. In order to keep Paul in a position within my business where he can meet with clients (under my supervision of course) we are required to pay an additional amount to our company for supervision which boils down to ensuring that every client Paul sees has signed a form saying they are not a friend, or family member of an offender he has or is currently working with. Where this gets a bit tricky is that there may be a good chance that the person signing has no idea if they have a family member who has been or is in trouble with the law. When I questioned the logic of all this (not to mention the additional cost to my business) I was basically told I was being difficult and perceived as being uncooperative. Hmmmm . . . troubling to say the least. We must comply and so we do and yet I am left wondering why it is that the regulators perceive us as in need of additional supervision when the principles we abide by are honourable.

I agree that we are in a position where we have a lot of influence over our clients and prospective clients. That is why, for example, even though I meet with many people who have insisted that I invest their money—now please!—I take time to ensure that they completely understand their options, the pros and cons of each option, and in many cases refuse to take their cheque to invest until we’ve covered all the bases. What we do in these situations are never looked at and therefore rarely taken into consideration by our Regulators. They are however factored in when it comes to our Code of Ethics attached to our designations along with our voluntary Professional Association Advocis. This is why Advocis is lobbying hard to have our Regulators use a Principles based approach along with stressing the importance of designations.

I spend an inordinate amount of time within my business answering to my Branch Manager, our compliance department, and the Regulators about what I perceive as nitpicky minor crossing of the “t’s” and dotting of the “i’s” . Thank goodness I have an Assistant Jingling who used to be an Auditor with KPMG so her attention to this sort of detail is impeccable.

There’s a reason I call my business Making Dreams a Reality—I am a dreamer and I have big dreams for my business along with my desire to change how Financial Planners are perceived. I want to help others see the benefits of planning, while illuminating their relationship with money, how it works or doesn’t work in constructing their dreams. It takes time, energy and effort to understand someone’s current situation and how they got there. This is extremely important because the answers to these questions are what will guide us in taking you to where you want to go.

As an empowerment model we drawing on your strengths, mapping out the journey together while being there as their coach to catch you when you fall or falter. Sadly none of this can be regulated, or so it seems, and yet this is where I spend the majority of my time. The gap between what I actually do as a Financial Life Planner and how what I do is perceived by the Regulators is growing wider and wider. At times I do want to shout, the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes and if I do then I will most certainly be perceived as being even more difficult.

These are indeed interesting times and, perception is everything.

Written by: Betty-Anne Howard with Trevor Strong