The evolution of financial services – from profits to people

Ruth Sturkey, Chair of the Institute for Financial Wellbeing, shares her insights about what financial wellbeing means for the future of financial services.

In November I was fortunate enough to attend the PFS Festival, Humans Under Management and the Worthstone Impact Investment Academy in the space of a couple of weeks.

Each event was unique, yet all had common threads about the nourishing nature of human contact and the importance of wellbeing and financial wellbeing.

The PFS Festival highlights included the launch of ‘Power Planning’, a new Consumer focused Outcomes definition of the essence of proper financial planning. I call it the ‘5Cs’ – Clarity, Comprehension, Choice, Control and Confidence.

What really caught my attention was the definition of Clarity – that is helping clients identify the human outcomes that really matter most for them, the client, personally. The skill required? Coaching.

There was also an excellent talk by Rob Stephenson, mental health campaigner and founder of Form Score and Inside Out Leader Board. Rob’s talk was packed full of personal experience and tools to help us all look after our own and our colleague’s mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

I was fortunate to speak at Humans Under Management in my capacity as Chair of the Institute for Financial Wellbeing. My talk title was ‘Another Way of Being’, and presented my hypothesis that we as financial advisers and financial planners are evolving our service as our understanding and learning develops. The genesis of our profession is evolving:

  • Version 1 – Financial Advice, focused on product sales with limited advice. This evolved in the early noughties to…
  • Version 2 – Financial Planning which included the then new tools of Cash Flow planning and platforms meaning we could start to provide a more rounded service to our clients. We are now on the cusp of…
  • Version 3 – Financial Wellbeing made up of all of the above PLUS Behavioural Science, Wellbeing and Happiness Theories and Coaching & Leadership skills. I believe that our core service will be the quality of the conversations we have with our clients and the growing importance of better articulated additional services such as Philanthropy and Impact investing. Really connecting our clients to their values.

My prediction is that we will eventually become ‘Wellbeing businesses that happen to do financial planning.’ After all, if we’re not helping our clients lead a more fulfilled and contented life, what exactly is the point of what we do?

At Humans Under Management, my line of thinking was carried through with a super positive look at Consumer Duty by Helena Wardle of Smith & Wardle and tech start-up Money Means. A compelling talk about investing in line with your values and the future needs of the planet by Jeannie Boyle came next, followed by Melissa Kidd explaining the benefits of Essentialism, that is, only doing the things that bring you closer to your goals and accord with your values.

We also had a fireside chat with Nick Taylor hosted by Alan Smith. Nick talked us through some tools for having deeper conversations with our clients to get to the essence of what a good life is, for them.

The third conference was the Worthstone Impact Investment Academy, a high calibre day that started with Simon Mundy from the FT Moral Money beaming in from Sharm El-Sheikh and COP27 to give us a fascinating update on the negotiations around damages to countries most effected by the ravages of the climate crisis. The Worthstone conference continued with talks around active share holder engagement, the new FCA anti-greenwashing rules (far more interesting than it sounds!) and a superb talk by Dr Greg Davies Behavioural Scientist around understanding your clients’ preferences and mapping them to investment solutions. This important topic was rounded off by a Financial Planner panel which included (again) Nick Taylor and Farida Hassanali talking about positioning impact investing conversations with clients and the corresponding challenges and successes.

So what conclusions do I draw?

There is a growing recognition and appetite for change. The wanton accumulation of wealth is being seen for what it is – a shallow and ultimately unfulfilling objective. Together we can help change societies’ views around money and success.

Come and join in with the conversation at the Institute for Financial Wellbeing, and invite your friends to join us too. We’d love to hear what you have to say.

Ruth Sturkey
Chair of the Institute for Financial Wellbeing.