10 questions to ask when choosing a financial planner

  • Financial planning
  • 4 minute read

When it comes to managing your money, seeking advice from a financial planner can be a very smart move. Not only can a financial planning expert provide you with an objective view of your current financial situation and put together a plan to help you achieve your future goals, but they can also help you navigate the complex financial landscape and guide you through challenging periods. In today's financial environment in which interest rates are low, stock markets are volatile, and tax rules are complicated, a financial planner can be a great asset.

However, before you commit to a financial planner, you want to make sure that you’re selecting an expert who is a good fit for you. The planner you choose to work with can have a profound influence on your financial future, so it’s important to identify an expert that you can build a long-term relationship with. With that in mind, here is a list of 10 questions that are worth asking before selecting your financial planner.

What are your qualifications?

To ensure that a financial planner is competent and has the specialist knowledge that you are looking for, a quick check of their qualifications is sensible. In the UK, financial planners need to hold an appropriate RQF Level 4 qualification such as the Level 4 Diploma of Financial Planning. They also need to hold a Statement of Professional Standing (SPS Certificate), which shows that they are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and proves the validity of their qualifications.

How much experience do you have?

Along with qualifications, experience is also extremely important in the financial planning industry. Ideally, you want a planner who has been in the industry long enough to experience multiple market cycles and, therefore, has the expertise to guide you through both the good times and the bad. Ask about the financial planner’s work experience and also find out how they stay up to date with developments in the financial markets.

What services can you provide?

Next, find out what services the financial planner can provide. Are they able to provide a broad range of wealth management services including investment advice, tax planning, pension advice, and estate planning, or are their services more limited?

Be aware that some financial planners may lack expertise in specific areas. For example, while they may be extremely competent at constructing a long-term financial plan, they may not be able to provide detailed advice on topics such as sustainable investing or thematic investing.   

What is your investment approach?

Determining how your money will actually be invested is also essential. Here, there are a number of details to ascertain. For example, does the firm employ a model portfolio investment strategy or is the investment approach tailored to each client? How much portfolio customisation is available? Does the firm recommend low-cost passive investment funds or actively-managed funds? Is it possible to invest on an ethical basis? These are all important questions to answer in order to get a better understanding of how your money will be managed.

Where will my money be held?

It’s also worth finding out where your funds will be held and asking the financial planner who their custodian is. Having an independent third-party custodian is essential as it allows you to verify any statements or performance reports they provide you with.

What is your fee structure?

Moving on to compensation, gaining a full understanding of the financial planner’s fee structure is another critical aspect of the selection process. Financial planners can be paid in a number of ways including consultation fees, annual fees, a percentage of assets under management, or a combination of all of these fee structures.

You should request a full breakdown of all fees associated with the service before you’re taken on as a client.

What can I expect as a client?

It’s also important to determine what you can expect as a client. For example, how often can you expect a consultation or a portfolio review? Some clients will prefer an initial planning meeting followed by an annual review, whilst others may require more support, so it’s important to discuss your needs fully with a potential planner.

Some other useful questions to consider are:

  • What financial products are available?
  • Will the planner be able to help with tax relief?
  • What is the response time if you have an issue?

Discussing their key responsibilities, as well as yours, is a sensible idea.

What kinds of clients do you typically work with?

Another good question to ask is whether the financial planner has experience advising clients in a similar position to you. This will help you determine whether the planner has the requisite skill set you’re looking for. For example, older clients may wish to work with an expert who has substantial experience helping people prepare for retirement and dealing with complicated issues such as estate planning and inheritance tax.

Would we work well together?

It’s also worth considering whether the financial planner is a good fit for you, personality-wise. It’s important to find an expert who you can trust, and who you can form a long-term relationship with. Do you get on well with them? Do they understand your personal goals and aspirations? Have they explained things in language that is easy to understand? These are all issues to think about when selecting a financial planner.

What is your succession plan?

Finally, it’s worth asking what the future may hold for the financial planner. If they were to retire or leave the firm, who would be responsible for managing your wealth?

A succession plan does not need to be complex, however, having some form of succession plan in place is important in order to ensure that your needs are met if they leave the firm in the future.

By asking all of these questions, you’re far more likely to select a reputable financial planner who you can form a long-term relationship with. Find the right expert, and they could be by your side for decades, helping you as you grow, consolidate, and pass on your wealth. To find out more or if you have any questions relating to financial planning, don’t hesitate to request a call back

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