Named in Citywire’s Top 35 Under 35 Next Generation Advisers 2021, Scott Millar is one of First Wealth’s valued Chartered Financial Planners.
We caught up with Scott to find out more about his work, what he has learned from the Pandemic, and his advice to anyone who wants to become a Financial Planner.
Can you tell us more about your role and what you do?
My time is divided between client work, and mentoring and managing our team.
I spend most of my time working with clients. I focus on supporting them with building a plan to help them reach their financial goals.
This involves everything from building specific recommendations to creating cashflow forecasts to helping people see their financial future with a bit more clarity.
More recently, I’ve moved into mentoring younger advisers who are rising through the company. This will find me observing them in their meetings, helping them with any training needs they have, and always making sure that we’re compliant, which is, of course, vitally important.
It’s also up to me to make sure that they’re competent and ready to deliver a first meeting. Most important of all, I ensure they know how to deliver a presentation so the client gets the outcome that they want.
What are your specialties?
Many of my clients are young entrepreneurs. Rather than considering how to sell their business, they are often in the growth phase. I work with them to help them maximise their potential wealth.
So, a large part of my role is to not only help them grow their business, but also grow their personal wealth, outside of the business.
With their business established, many business owners know their business inside out but don’t always understand how to translate financial success to their personal life.
I particularly enjoy getting involved with more complex cases.
For example, setting up appropriate SSAS arrangements to help fund business growth while investing for future retirement. You can read about one such case I was involved with in this article, which explains how to use a pension to purchase commercial property and land.
What is the most valuable piece of financial advice anyone ever gave you?
Rather than worrying about how much money you do or don’t have, focus on what you want to get out of life and understand how much is enough for you – not what is enough for someone else.
There’s an idea that you have to have loads of money to be happy. But no one’s lifestyle is the same and we don’t all share the same motivations or ambitions.
When talking with clients about the cost of their lifestyle, they give a figure and immediately ask how that compares to other clients.
There is no norm. So, don’t build a plan you think other people are going to be impressed by.
Instead, ask yourself if you are doing everything that you want to be doing; understand what you want to get out of life and then build a plan for that.
What is your favourite part of your role?
Meeting new people. I love sitting down with new clients and being able to get on a level with them where we’re not just talking finance but discussing their motivations, ambitions, and concerns with their situation.
Conversations like this help us both gain a better understanding of what they want from life and how we can then piece the jigsaw together to get them as close to their goals as possible. The process is always different; some people have yet to take any steps towards securing their financial future while others have already begun to accumulate wealth.
The whole point of what we do is twofold: first, we give people confidence to do the things they want to do. Second, we help people to start working towards leading their dream lifestyle with dignity and independence.
Often, I think, people forget that part of the job we do is to help others to live the lifestyle they want, without fear of money running out.
First Wealth is a B-Corp and a very innovative, multi-award-winning company. What does the future hold?
Good question! I think the obvious one is bridging the gap between the perception that financial advice is only for the wealthy – and tackling the ingrained belief that you need to have a certain amount of assets to even consider getting financial advice.
This is something First Wealth are actively trying to break down, which is super exciting.
We’re already spreading the message that financial planning is for everyone. Technological advances have allowed firms to deliver advice more easily and we can capitalise on this to reach more people.
Finally, from an educational point of view, First Wealth’s Thrive Money brand is working to break through the noise of all the things that people think are important but actually aren’t.
Through Thrive Money, we’re able to teach people the fundamentals about how to be financially successful. This is an area I’d like to see us continue to lead the way in.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a financial planner?
You have to genuinely care about the people you’re trying to help.
Whether that comes naturally or not, what I’ve seen with everyone who works here as an adviser is that people do genuinely care for each other and for the people they serve.
Next, always be learning. Doing the exams is important, but that’s not what will make you a great adviser.
You also need to invest time in self-education. Study other people who are leading the way in financial planning and form a deep understanding of how they’ve done it and weave some of that learning into your work.
Even if you pass all the exams, it’s a very different thing to go from an exam hall to sitting with a client and having a deep conversation with someone who knows, potentially, very little about investing and managing finances and is asking you to help them get to where they want to be.
Studies have shown that while financial knowledge matters to prospective clients, it’s way down the list compared to trust and empathy. So, work on your soft skills to become a better people person.
It’s true that people buy people. Most people just want to be listened to, to be understood, and feel that you have their best intentions at heart.
What did the Pandemic teach you about financial planning?
That it’s important to be in the forefront of your clients’ minds all the time – not just when things are going well.
You can’t go hiding when times are tough and come out when things are rosy, because people don’t rally around people who are only there when times are good. They want you to be there through all times.
And another thing is that the world is moving on. Since we’ve started seeing people begin to return to the office, they still remain far more open to having meetings online than they ever were before.
Before the pandemic, I could count on one hand how many times I had a video call with a client. Now I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen someone face-to-face in the last month.
Again, technology has enhanced what we do. And the way tech gives us the ability to see more people plays directly into the idea that everyone should have a financial plan. And that’s great because good advice should be open to everyone.
What do you think the future of financial planning looks like?
I would like to say there’s going to be more of a focus on “client first” – understanding a client’s emotions towards getting advice and focusing on that, rather than purely on the investment aspect.
Investment advice can get super complicated and be overwhelming for individuals with little to no financial knowledge.
We’re here to help clients build confidence and gain clarity on their financial situation. We work to give them the freedom to live the lifestyle they want, the competence to make big decisions, and go through important life transitions with complete dignity and independence.
Ultimately, I think more firms will start to go down the lifestyle financial planning route rather than sticking to the wealth management side of things.
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