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IFAs tweet and shout to bring planning to the masses

As Financial Planning Week gets under way, advisers use Twitter, an iPad app and radio, as well as free financial surgeries, to urge the public to shape up their finances.

Advisers across the country have taken to the radio and Twitter in an effort to boost the public’s interest in finance, despite the pressure preparing for the retail distribution review (RDR) is putting on their time and resources.

The rise of social media in promoting this year’s Institute of Financial Planning’s (IFP) Financial Planning Week is a reflection of its popularity among the adviser community but also the limited time advisers have to dedicate to the popular initiative with the RDR just over a month away.

Such pressure, though, has not stopped Joss Harwood, director of Durham-based Eldon Financial, from hosting a daily show called Financial Fitness on her local station Radio Teesdale.

‘The reason for doing this kind of thing is to get good information out into the public domain, and you never know what switches you’re flipping and what information they’re going to run with,’ she said.

Harwood’s show will air every day for the week, beginning 26 November, and aims to help people overcome their fear and get their finances into shape.

She said every episode would make reference to the IFP and instruct listeners about the best way to find a financial planner.

‘For a whole week on a local radio station we will highlight the basic principles [of financial planning] and the profession,’ she said.

Harwood is not the only adviser having a go at being a DJ. Fergus Muirhead, financial planner at Glasgow-based Independent Advisers (Scotland), will interview IFP chief executive Nick Cann on BBC Radio Scotland.

Away from the airwaves but with even more frequency, Chris Daems, director of London-based Principal Financial Solutions, will use social networking site Twitter to promote the virtues of advice.

Daems will be posting three blogs relating to Financial Planning Week and will upload a video a day on his financial education website, Commonsensemoney.co.uk.

He said that the videos would be a journey through all the planning stages individuals might go through during their lifetime and will emphasise the importance of taking financial responsibility.

It’s not all about the Twitter and the radio however, with many advisers taking a more direct approach to get the man on the street through their door and engaged with financial planning.

Seven IFP member firms in South Wales have joined forces to co-ordinate a programme of free financial surgeries across the region.

The firms are Penguin Wealth of Cardiff, Heron House Financial Management of Newport, Future Asset Management of Bridgend, Bevan & Buckland of Swansea, Financial Planning Solutions of Cwmbran, Blackstone Partners of Cardiff, and Guardian Wealth of Cardiff.

Penguin Wealth director Craig Palfrey said, having run a free financial surgery on his own last year, he wanted to make a ‘bigger impact’ with more firms. He started preparations a few months ago by getting in touch with other IFP-member firms.

‘In these challenging economic times, there are many people in South Wales who could benefit from expert financial advice, whether that’s information on the best ways to save in an inflationary environment, to retire early or to find the most appropriate mortgage,’ he said.

He said the surgeries had received good exposure in the local media in the run-up to Financial Planning Week and he hoped to make the seven-firm tie-up an annual event.

Chris Jordan, co-owner and financial planner at Heron House, another of the seven-strong group of Welsh firms, said he hoped the free surgeries would help younger people who did not usually seek financial advice.

‘I would hope we would be able to reach younger people through this exercise because the perception is that they are struggling and they need us,’ he said.

‘If you’re looking at a demographic that is younger, the 21-35 age group, I think it’s difficult for financial planning firms to reach them.

People at that time in their life are struggling quite a lot with the downturn of the last five to six years. They have got very little [in savings] behind them.’

Advice on pocket money

Derbyshire-based Freedom Financial Planning is planning to go one better than Jordan and is aiming its efforts at even younger members of the public.

Financial planner Nicholas Heys will visit nearby Whaley Bridge Primary School to teach 10- and 11-year-olds about the importance of budgets, pensions and savings.

‘When I was at school we had lessons on numeracy but were not told how to look after money,’ he said. ‘Just by starting with the basics and teaching children how to manage their pocket money may help society in the future.’

Cashflow modelling

Consumers in the Scotland will also get an opportunity to receive complimentary financial planning through Aberdeen-based Money Plan-it, which will use a new iPad app to promote cashflow modelling.

Money Plan-it director Craig Chapman said: ‘It [Financial Planning Week] is a great opportunity to shout about what advisers do.’ He added that the surgeries provided his firm with an opportunity to promote its new software and restore consumers’ faith in financial advice. ‘We’d like to put the profession in a different light,’ he said. ‘If they’ve had a poor experience [of advice] in the past, or possibly for those who have never experienced it before, hopefully [they will] go away with something positive even if it is as small as “I need to reduce my expenditure” or “I need to think about retirement planning a bit more seriously”.’

Media campaign

Cann said the timing of Financial Planning Week, falling just before the RDR deadline, had placed constraints on some firms’ involvement but also gave advisers an opportunity to educate consumers about the upcoming changes.

‘We’ve accepted that this year for even the most advanced and sophisticated businesses committing their time to something else is quite an ask,’ he said. ‘So that’s why we’re driving a lot of our campaign through media and articles and expecting social media to play a big part.’ ‘It [this year’s Financial Planning Week] is very important, as the RDR is happening, so consumers can be aware of the changes going on and the positive aspects of that, such as greater professionalism and greater transparency.

‘At a time when more and more people seem to need help with what they’re doing [financially] and more surveys show people are not doing enough to save for their future, we want them to know, good financial planning is available.’