Pro bono work – why Carbon Financial Partners gets involved
Scottish financial planning firm Carbon Financial Partners took part in this year’s Financial Planning Week, run by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments (CISI). Here, managing director Gordon Wilson talks about the motivation to get involved, the reaction from consumers and the advice gap
Adviser Business Review: What was the motivation behind your decision to take part in CISI’s Financial Planning Week?
Gordon Wilson: I think it’s a fantastic way to raise the profile of financial planning. It’s only one week out of the entire year and it’s important we give consumers the opportunity to understand a little more about financial planning and answer any questions they may have about their own financial situation.
It’s not for me to tell other people what to do, but I would encourage more firms to take part as I think it benefits both the financial planning industry and the consumer. Individual firms won’t be inundated or overwhelmed by enquiries, they are at a level that an adviser could handle comfortably, and I think it’s nice to help people where you can.
ABR: What was the reaction from consumers?
GW: We had nine enquiries over the phone and from which five meetings were arranged. What’s interesting is that the enquiries were spread across our three offices, rather than focused entirely upon our Edinburgh office. I believe there’s growing interest in financial advice and consumers are becoming more aware of the need for a financial plan, but there is still much work to do and I think a lot of it boils down to the need for greater education.
It would be helpful if we could raise even more awareness of the financial planning industry, and what it is we can offer, but collectively as a group we’re not good at coming together. We’re often referred to as a cottage industry, and that does make it difficult for us to unite for a cause.
ABR: What’s your view on the advice gap?
GW: Initiatives like Financial Planning Week help to address the advice gap, but in my view nothing has really changed. In the past, before the introduction of RDR, people were just sold products without truly understanding what they were or how they fitted into a financial plan.
I think the focus needs to be upon education; consumers need to have a better idea of what each of the different financial products does and what financial matters they should be addressing first, such as debt. I don’t believe RDR has suddenly created an advice gap overnight, I think it’s simply highlighted the need for greater education around planning for the future.
To some extent, robo-advice will serve a purpose in providing advice to a segment of the market, but it’s not a threat to financial planning which is driven by a very different set of criteria. We might build a client a financial plan but with no products included – for us, it’s about offering sound advice rather than the investments and assets.
ABR: Do you take on any pro-bono work?
GW: We’re happy to help consumers where we can. An initial meeting doesn’t cost anything, so we can decide from there whether we can do something for someone.
Of course, our job is about adding value and we wouldn’t take someone on if we felt the cost of the fees would be disproportionate but we would offer assistance where we could. Whether we would take on an individual on a pro-bono basis would really depend on the circumstances; we would judge it case by case.
We also do a lot of charity work as a firm, especially around school children, and we are part of the Fife employability scheme, which seeks to help children in deprived areas. As a firm, we’re of the philosophy that it’s important to give something back.
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