Financial Planner: Tina, you were chair of this year's IFP Annual Conference committee. How was the role and have you caught your breath yet?
Tina Weeks: I loved this year's conference and truly thought it was the best yet. Myself and the rest of the events committee have caught our breath and are already busy working on next year's conference.
FP: How do you think the conference went and what were the highpoints for you? What's the feedback been like?
TW: The conference went very well and everyone involved is very happy about it. The highpoints for me were the networking opportunities. I learn so much from my peers, many of which I now consider friends. The best surprise ever was seeing Nick Cann! The IFP team (particularly Katherine Morgans) work very hard to ensure it runs smoothly and are able to iron out any issues that arise at the time. On the whole, the feedback from delegates has been very positive. We have taken it all on board and in particular will be working on making the sessions even more exciting and relevant next year.
FP: How did you get into Financial Planning and what attracted you to the profession?
TW: I started off doing three years with Allied Dunbar as a tied rep, then five years as an IFA/ mortgage broker for a large London firm. With my husband, we set up our own IFA business in 2004 (Financial Weeks Ltd) and mainly did mortgages. I always wanted to deliver Financial Planning but had no idea how to do it. After much research and study, in January 2008, I decided to slowly convert the business from an IFA practice to a Financial Planning firm. My plans ended up having to be speeded up drastically when in April 2008 my mortgage business completely dried up (literally!) due to dual pricing and changes in lender criteria; I faced near bankruptcy in the following months, on more than one occasion. I knew my heart was in Financial Planning but I couldn't see another firm at the time that was doing it the way I wanted to do it, so for the next couple of years I put everything I had into designing the ideal firm. I discovered Life Planning in March 2009 and knew immediately that it was the missing piece that I was looking for. I launched Serenity Financial Planning in March 2010 and have not looked back since.
FP: How has your team/company changed since the launch of the business and what has the journey been like? How many advisers do you have and what's the annual turnover?
TW: The firm has changed beyond all recognition since launch. I started out as a 'one man band' working with my husband. He now has a 'proper' job elsewhere and I am currently one of seven advisers in the firm (two started in September) with a four member support team which is growing fast. The journey has been an amazing experience so far and I feel truly privileged to work with a team of people that all believe the same things and work in the same way. This year our turnover will be around £500,000 with a healthy net profit. Next year I am confident we will do much more. I am under no illusion that a great firm without profit is not likely to be around for long. I pinch myself sometimes and try to never forget how hard it has been to get to this stage.
We never set targets within the firm and we never insist clients have a certain level of assets we can manage. Instead, if they are willing to pay our annual fees and are the right fit, we are happy to work with them.
FP: Why is the firm called Serenity and what inspired you to use that name when setting up the company?
TW: It was an easy decision really. I knew that so many people struggle with money, regardless of how much of it they have. I knew that to best serve and honour my clients I had to deliver peace of mind around money and the confidence to live the best life they can today, not tomorrow. Hence, with synonyms such as calmness, composure and patience, Serenity Financial Planning seemed the perfect name for us.
FP: What has been your greatest source of achievement in running your business and what are you proudest of?
TW: I am immensely proud of the team of people that have come together under Serenity. We all work to the same agenda and have the same ambitions for the firm and for our clients.
I am also proud that I started a business in a recession and built it up from scratch. There were many times when I questioned my sanity, especially when the finances were tight. I took a leap of faith and luckily it paid off. I am also proud to have more Registered Life Planners (RLP's) than any other firm and this backs up our ambition to give as many people in the UK
as possible access to Financial Life Planning. All advisers in the firm are working towards becoming Chartered and Certified too as this is part of our long term vision. I love my work and I can honestly say I am having more fun than ever before. There is nothing like seeing clients literally come alive before my very eyes. The energy is infectious and the effects run into every part of my life.
FP: Many planners are concerned about the rising cost of regulation and other threats to their businesses. What do you see as the main threats to your business?
TW: I stopped worrying about things I can't control a long time ago. I have a very clear vision of the business, where it's going and what we want to deliver to our clients. I prepare the firm as much as possible for all eventualities and am focused on becoming as financially stable as we can be. We will deal with each thing that gets thrown at us one at a time but in the meantime we will concentrate on being the best Financial Life Planners we can be.
FP: You are a big supporter of life planning. What is it about life planning that attracted you to it and how to do you incorporate the principles into your business?
TW: I had a very strong 'light bulb moment' when I discovered Life Planning. There I was trying to design the Financial Planning firm that was in my head but there were pieces missing. Life Planning gave me the tools to bring the vision to life and put together a client offering that only worked if each client was completely at the centre of it. I wanted to become the antithesis of the banks and the 'bad' advisers that had tarnished the good work that so many of us do. I just can't see how you can deliver Financial Planning without the skills that Life Planning training gives you. At the end of the day everyone wants freedom (in whatever guise each person seeks it) and that is what we aim to deliver. We have a four stage process and Life Planning comes in right at the beginning when we are building a financial plan. We are a Financial Life Planning firm in every sense of the word. Our foundations and beliefs are around helping our clients to live the best life they can live; with no regrets. Life Planning, cashflow modelling and Financial Planning are core for us, supported by a low cost, buy and hold investment strategy with ongoing coaching.
FP: What Life Planning training have you had and what would you recommend to others interested in Life Planning? What other training / study are you taking?
TW: I completed the Registered Life Planner training which consists of a two day course, a five day course and a six month mentorship. I make sure I never get rusty and attend Life Planning Mastery, which consists of quarterly meetings and a fantastic group that helps me stick to my own life plan as well as honing my skills. For anyone, that is interested in Life Planning I would recommend that you read as much as you can about it and speak to others that have taken the training first.
I am currently also studying for my CFP qualification, have just completed my first year of Strategic Coach and am working with a personal coach too.
FP: If you could change anything about the Financial Planning profession what would you choose and what's the future for Financial Planning?
TW: I believe that we are at a point of maximum opportunity, where those that truly have client- centred businesses will thrive. If I could change anything it would be to wave a magic wand and just get rid of all the greedy advisers that line their pockets by fleecing their unsuspecting clients and give the rest of us a bad name.
Financial Planning IS the future and I am so positive about how our profession is evolving.
FP: What do you like doing in your spare time outside of work?
TW: With two children aged nine and 10, I don't really have that much spare time if I am honest. I love spending time with the family and a big part of my own life plan is to be able to take all school holidays off. I do manage to squeeze in quite a busy social life with friends and it mainly revolves around my love of food and dancing. I have also discovered yoga recently and have quite thrown myself into it. It makes me laugh to think that one of the early criticisms thrown at me regarding Life Planning was that I would become a yoga-loving, tree- hugger – and now I AM one!
My Business Day
My days vary so much and there is no typical day, so here is what I did today:
- 07.30 – Got kids up for school and myself ready for work.
- 09.00 – Worked through emails and outstanding work.
- 10.00 – Got to Whetsone office and interviewed a potential new adviser.
- 12.30 – Met with PA and Paraplanner about plans for the week.
- 13.30 – Discussion with one of the other advisers about changes to our investment portfolios.
- 15.00 – Review meeting with existing clients for whom are conducting an estate planning and trusts exercise.
- 18.00 – Took daughter to her swimming lesson. 19.30 – Dinner with the family.