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UNIQ Family Wealth: Bridging the gap

UNIQ Family Wealth sees opportunities in tackling the advice gap, intergenerational and family business advice, financial planning director Gemma Williams tells Fiona Bond

Since launching in July 2013, Cardiff and London-based UNIQ Family Wealth has been on a mission to raise awareness around financial planning, and says it is passionate about getting the right advice to the right people.

Gemma Williams, financial planning director, believes the advice gap and lack of knowledge around financial planning poses the biggest challenge for the profession.

She says: “As a firm, we really believe in ensuring people receive the help they need. The advice gap is still very prevalent and we see it as our duty to address the issue and ensure that consumers aren’t afraid to seek help. I think the problem we face is that is what financial planning is has not been well defined.”

The firm recently took part in the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) Financial Planning Week.

“For us, Financial Planning Week has been about bridging that disconnect between consumers and the financial planning profession. A lot of consumers are still unsure of the difference between financial products and what true financial planning is, and how Financial Planning can help them,” says Williams.

It’s a mission that appears to be working for the firm, which has seen enquiries climb to 30 this year, making it the most successful year of UNIQ’s participation.

“Part of the success has been down to CISI and UNIQ marketing the initiative, but there’s also growing awareness around the need to seek advice,” says Williams. “I think it helps when people open the newspaper and read interesting and informative articles by leading financial planners.”

She adds: “We use the week as an opportunity to provide consumers with whatever help they need – be that answering questions, helping them complete the planning themselves or forging long term relationships with them, as clients. We see it as our chance to help.”

UNIQ Family Wealth, which has around 270 clients, has put a lot of effort into raising the profile of both financial planning and the firm’s activities on social media, and publishes articles and a blog as part of its drive.

“A lot of the younger generation want information fast and that’s what we’re seeking to offer,” says Williams. “People have always had the need for advice at different stages of their life, but I think the rise in social media has really helped open up opportunities to access the younger generation where we can educate them on the benefits of having a firm financial plan in place for the future.”

Inclusive client model

Since the outset, the firm has adopted an inclusive approach towards clients and their families, refusing to operate a minimum assets level but instead charge fees that are bespoke to the needs of the client.

The firm’s client base is split into two camps; those nearing or at retirement, and young professionals. It is a split which allows the firm to access all generations, an element which is very important to UNIQ.

“I’m quite a young financial planner, and I envisage myself working for the next 30 years so I want clients that will be able to grow with me through those years,” says Williams.

“From a business perspective, it’s important to have clients across all generations so that you can ensure the longevity of the business.”

Unsurprisingly, a key thread running through UNIQ is families.

“We seek to help the family members of our clients, including their children. When advising a client, there are often family issues, succession and family wealth that come into play. We take a very proactive approach to helping families pass on wealth,” explains Williams.

Advising family businesses

The firm also specialises in advising family businesses, a decision that was spurred by the fact that not many financial planning firms have that as a focus.

“It’s really quite an interesting and complex matter. We look at all the different aspects, and of course succession planning is important. There’s often an assumption that a child will take on the family business, but they may not be interested or the best person for the role, so it’s our job to identify who else in the business might be a possible successor,” says Williams.

The firm’s desire to promote financial planning across all generations isn’t just limited to its clients; UNIQ is also keen to interest school children and highlight the benefits of financial planning.

The firm takes part in My Money Week, a national activity week for primary and secondary schools that provides children with skills, knowledge and confidence in money matters.

Williams says: “It’s eye opening to discover what children do and don’t know about money and finances and I think we have a duty as a profession to help educate future generations.”

Visit the UNIQ Family Wealth website

Fiona Bond is freelance journalist and media consultant

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