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CFPs, Lets Take The Lead

By GovernanceToday
In Advisory
October 9, 2014
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You have done your CFP certification. Fantastic! You have also started your practice? Even better! If you are working in the financial planning/advisory area after the certification, that’s fine. I have a question for all of you. You are all stakeholders in the financial planning industry. Each one of us are working in our own way and are contributing to the financial planning movement that is slowly gaining momentum. We will all do well if financial planning awareness increases in the country, more people want to seek professional advice and financial planning profession joins the mainstream, isn’t it?
It is then strange to see the amazing reluctance of those in our FP community to participate wholeheartedly and evangelize the merits of the profession and communicate the benefits to the public at large. What are we waiting for? Do we want someone else to do this job for us?

Let’s Stop The Blamegame

It is easy to blame but tough to galvanise into action. So, most take the easy route – blame FPSB India for not creating awareness of CFP certification and the profession, blame the media for talking to only a few planners, blame the public for their lack of foresight in not approaching hotshot financial planners ( like all of us! ) before investing, the lack of financial awareness among the investing public and their aversion to pay fees. Who will be one of the biggest beneficiaries when the profession takes off? The Regulators, Media, FPSBI ?

The regulators may get bragging rights for laying the foundations and engendering a financial planning industry. Media might take credit for spread of financial planning. FPSBI could thump it’s chest for bringing CFP certification, the golden standard for the FP profession into India and thereby kick-starting the profession itself.

The biggest beneficiaries in all this however would be the Clients and the Financial Planners. If we are one of the biggest beneficiaries when the FP profession starts taking off, should we not catalyse and facilitate that change. Do we not need to take necessary action to make this happen?

A Nonstarter Attitude

At an intuitive level, we even understand that we need to work towards making financial planning & advisory desirable and sought after. But, is it not the job of others? Why me? What will I get if I do something that is good for the profession? Will I get some clients for my effort? We will know only when we do put in the efforts.

It is true that if one conducts a workshop today, the participants may not approach immediately for advice. They may approach later or they may even approach some other advisor, in future. But, this kind of a market seeding operation is sorely required now for establishing the profession. Also, at least some of them would become  clients. A more expansive attitude would work well for everyone. A polish proverb comes to mind – If you chop your own firewood, it will warm you twice!

RECLAIM THE HIGH GROUND

It is a pity that financial planning space is not fully dominated  by financial planners. While there is a fair presence of Financial Planners in the media, the blogosphere has been ceded to others. Hence, you have sundry people, most of them not CFPs and nonpractitioners, talking on Financial Planning, how to choose a financial planner etc. Is it not an irony that someone else is writing about us and our industry? To rub salt in the wound, these guys have shown CFP Certificants in poor light, question our knowledge on even elementary things (like what is Fiduciary and difference between fee-based and feeonly model) and try to claim moral high ground with clients.

What they are doing is building a second business in our area, while holding day jobs. While we do not have a problem with that, we cannot be mute spectators while someone else is chipping away at the edifice we are trying to build. What is even more sad is that some CFP Certificants themselves have allied with them for perceived immediate gains.

Not everyone is playing such black roles though. Jagoinvestor is an exception, which is doing wonderful work with the public and is at the forefront of spreading financial literacy and engaging with others in a dignified way. We need to identify and work with those who further our cause. There are others as well.

What needs to be done is to fully reclaim the financial planning landscape and clear it of squatters and pretenders. For that, the real planners need to start communicating, be it with their blogs, seminars, articles, social media engagements, newsletters, columns in publications etc

CONCLUSION

We need to establish the profession. Like honeybees, let us build the honeycomb and build our colony. There would be honey for all. Honeybees had long realized that one honey bee cannot survive alone. They need to work in unison. Like them, we need to work in amity. We need to work
together to expand the reach of financial planning to the public. Only then, we will get to enjoy the benefits.

We are reaching critical mass now. We need to steer in the right direction and establish a trunk line with our clients. Reclaim the territory that truly belongs to us. Let us put down the flagpoles and let our banners flutter, establishing our suzerainty over this territory. Rest is easy. We have work to do. We have wood to chop – it will warm us twice!

THE ANGEL’S SHARE
THE ANGEL’S SHARE Coca Cola famously had said that they don’t compete with Pepsi in India – as the consumption of colas themselves is so low. They said they compete with other mainstream contenders like Nimbu-pani & tea! It is that daring attitude that is missing with us. We are so concerned that someone else will benefit that we don’t want to do anything at all! Also, such effort is daunting.Who will start contacting the corporates or various associations? It will take so much time and effort. Why not do it as a group and split what comes out of the efforts? Why can’t 4-5 planners come together and keep doing this for a year, say, instead of carping that there are no clients? Best of all, there are enough people to support such efforts financially, as long as one is genuinely doing financial literacy work. Mutual funds, FP software vendors and platform providers are already offering support to those who are doing such work. You have to let go of something to get something (kuch pane ke liye, kuch khona

padta hai ). In wine making (as well as for whiskeys) a certain percentage of the spirit is lost due to evaporation during the ageing process, which is called The Angel’s share. Upto 30 per cent is lost by the time the spirit is ready for bottling. But that is what imparts colour, fragrance and it’s individual personality. Without it, the spirit will be soulless. The industry pays obeisance to mother nature by surrendering The Angel’s share and gets rewarded richly for what is left! Without a second thought, don’t we pluck the fruits from the trees planted by someone else, from the distant past? Why not plant the saplings today for others to benefit? Why are we not ready to do our bit and allow others also to profit from our efforts?

Suresh Sadagopan

The writer is the President of The Financial Planners’ Guild, India