5 minutes with Robert Caplan

Robert Caplan co-founded First Wealth with his business partner Anthony Villis 12 years ago and is Financial Planning Director at the now multi-award winning, B-Corp certified financial planning firm.

We caught up with him to ask some questions about his journey so far, what he has learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and his advice to anyone who wants to become a financial planner.

Tell us more about your role and what you do?

I am Financial Planning Director at First Wealth, my role day to day is doing a mixture of client work and also being responsible for the overall financial planning advice delivered by the advisers in the firm. I work closely with them, helping them work through their cases and, going forward, the plan is for them to become more involved in, and subsequently take over more of my client relationships.

I help mentor the current advisers as well as training new advisers being brought into the business. My role will keep evolving whilst monitoring the advice being given to make sure we are delivering the best possible experience and advice to clients.

What are your specialties?

I specialise in working with entrepreneurs and business owners. As a business owner myself I have insights and an in-depth understanding of their situation and the interplay between financial planning and running a business. Entrepreneurs and business owners are usually 100% focused on building their business, managing their team, and creating their vision, so I can help them create a clear plan for the future, help manage their money and remove hassle and stress. I want to create confidence for my clients in both their future and their financial planning, so that they can concentrate on the immediate priority of their business; I consider that a job well done.

When working with business owners and entrepreneurs I try to bridge the gap between business wealth and personal wealth. Business owners often build up and accumulate funds within their business, but they can still be relatively ‘light’ in terms of their own personal assets; their plan is an ‘all in’ approach to the success of their business, which I do understand. As their adviser, we look at planning and investing to identify ways we can take money out of the business in a tax efficient manner to create wealth in their personal wealth; this process effectively provides a degree of de-risking from the future performance of the business.

What is the most valuable piece of financial advice anyone ever gave you?

Start now! Most people are guilty of waiting until they pay off a debt, earn a certain amount or meet a certain goal to start getting their finances in order; these are often artificial barriers created by the individual. The truth is that the only way to build wealth is to start saving and investing now because there will always be a reason to delay. The only way to build true success and wealth is to be consistent and start as soon as possible, get into the habit of investing on a monthly basis and no matter the amount you start with, see it as an investment for your future.

What is your favourite part of your role?

Without doubt my favourite part is meeting with clients, whether that is catching up with existing clients or new client meetings.

I enjoy developing an understanding of people’s relationships with money and how they’ve made their money so that I can help them to achieve their financial goals. I often hold those meetings with other advisers in attendance, who will ultimately take over the day-to-day client relationship, so I split my time between financial planning and my other responsibilities in First Wealth.

First Wealth is a B-Corp and a very innovative, multi-award winning company. What does the future hold?

We have a saying at First Wealth, ‘now to get even better’ because we always want to continue improving. We always want to go above and beyond to deliver an exceptional service to clients, to build on a B Corp status as a business for good and build technology to close the advice gap; we believe that everyone should be able to benefit from great financial planning, so it’s about how you can deliver that at scale. It’s not an easy goal, but we believe in our vision and we’re going to give it our best shot!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a financial planner?

The key skill a financial planner should possess is empathy. It is important to care about someone’s life, dreams and ambitions, not just money. You need to ask good questions, be a good listener and then help then put a plan in place to help clients achieve their goals and live the way they desire. The skill of good communication is so important.

What did the pandemic teach you about financial planning?

Before the pandemic I didn’t think I would have new clients or review meetings online but the pandemic taught us that it is possible and it works well. It is not quite the same as meeting people face to face, but by adapting, we’ve learned that excellent client meetings can be delivered via technology. Some clients prefer the new way of working, but I know others are looking forward to getting back to a regular pattern of face to face meetings.

The pandemic has also shown how resilient global stock markets are. Markets bounce back quickly (history shows that there is a close link between the recovery time and the speed of the sell-off) overcome hard times and continue to advance. That is what we have always seen and a lot of the work we do with clients is educating them around the difference between temporary declines and permanent losses. Permanent losses are a human function which is not achieved by the market in itself. You can only make a permanent loss if you make a human error and sell at that point in time, but markets will always recover and bounce back.

What do you think the future of financial planning looks like?

The future of financial planning is evidence-based, adviser led planning and will place focus on utilising superior technology; it’s the big reason we’re developing our own software. The use of data will drive recommendations, rather than the individual views and subjectivity of the adviser firm you are dealing with.

What are the most valuable lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur?

I learned that no matter what, you have to keep going. Things don’t always go in a straight line and as long as you’re always moving forward and developing, then I think you’re heading in the right direction. Tenacity wins in the long run.


Robert Caplan is now Head of Growth.

This document is marketing material for a retail audience and does not constitute advice or recommendations. Past performance is not a guide to future performance and may not be repeated. The value of investments and the income from them may go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount originally invested.

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