Benjamin Brown joined First Wealth in October of 2023 as one of our newest Chartered Financial Planners. With many years in the profession under his belt and a real passion for client service, Benjamin is a talented financial planner and we are incredibly excited to welcome him to the team.
We spent five minutes with Benjamin to find out more about his journey to First Wealth, his motivations, and the future of the financial services.
Can you tell us more about your role at First Wealth?
I’m a Chartered Financial Planner. In short, this means I’m responsible for looking after our clients and ensuring they get the right advice to achieve their goals.
This can take different forms…
For a new client, the process begins with an informal conversation to understand what makes them tick. Then we then bring this to life with cashflow modelling, which helps us and the client visualise their financial position. We then use the cashflow model to inform the creation of a financial plan which considers what matters most to the client, where they are now, and what needs to happen to bridge the gap between the two.
Cashflow modelling is a hugely striking part of the process. It allows us to visualise in a way that a spreadsheet simply cannot capture.
For existing clients this might involve more of coaching role. Particularly for the last couple of years, investment growth has been a bit sluggish in the face of global events, making the siren call of higher interest rates hard to ignore. But history tells us that savings accounts alone deliver underwhelming results and investments typically have their best days in the immediate aftermath of market shocks. Acting as a coach, reminding clients of the ‘why’ is therefore a vital part of my role at First Wealth.
Behind this scenes, this involves working with the team to collate client information, discuss possible strategies and questioning assumptions. This is key for ensuring the best outcome for clients and is also helpful to train the younger advisers.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Helping our clients and working with a really talented group of people!
I find the work I do with clients really brings purpose. Often clients will start by talking about the money in their bank account or pensions. My favourite part of the process is asking them questions: What will this buy them? How will this make them happier? Questions help us picture future-us, they help bring things to life. I love that eureka moment – when clients see their plan for the first time, they see future-them – it gives an unrivalled level of confidence that may otherwise have been lacking.
Being a Chartered firm means working with a really qualified team. This is great as if someone doesn’t know the answer there is usually someone within earshot that will! It also means we share a commitment to professional development and code of ethics, giving us a real community feel.
Tell us about how you came to work at First Wealth. What was your journey?
My path is a meandering one compared to most. I graduated in the quiet, calm days of 2009 and went into banking. This is where I first started thinking about financial planning and taking my exams. At the same time, the rules changed which ultimately led to the banks binning their financial planning offering.
This gave me a huge motivation to keep moving forward with my ambition to become a planner. So, from there, I spent several years working in venture capital with investments in the media, renewable energy, and real estate sectors. This involved working with lots of advisers to ensure the investments matched their clients’ objectives and highlighting further potential planning areas.
This experience – seeing advisers in action – led me to take the plunge with a well-known nationwide advice network before joining the First Wealth team in 2023.
What valuable lessons did you learn on that journey?
To paraphrase a cliché: the client may not remember what you said or did in a meeting, but they will remember how they felt. Money is an emotional topic for many and the psychology behind how we make our decisions is vital in understanding why we make the decisions we do. So, technical knowledge is great and should be encouraged, but more important is how the client feels.
For example, inheritance tax is often thought as being unpopular and raises strong emotions. However, HMRC statistics show that it actually effects less than 4% of us in the UK. It is a valuable skill of a great financial planner to navigate those strong emotions and help put their root cause into perspective.
What kept you motivated on your journey?
I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some hugely inspiring people, one of whom was the past president of the Personal Finance Society. This made me realise that surrounding myself with positive, professional, people creates a virtuous circle that compounds over time, fostering a can-do attitude.
By fostering this attitude, I came to learn that empathy is a key attribute for any financial planner. It allows us to understand the clients’ concerns and emotions surrounding their financial situation. Clients are also more likely to trust a planner who shows genuine concern for their well-being. I have always considered empathy to be a strength of mine, but after seeing its value played out in real time, it became a motivator too.
Ultimately, financial planning as a career is motivating in and of itself as it enables us to make an ethical impact while helping clients achieve what matters most to them. And, along the way I found ample opportunities for personal and professional growth.
What’s not to like about that?
What career advice helped you?
Continuously educate yourself.
From financial trends and regulations to the emergence of technology and AI, the industry will not sit still.
As a result of the Retail Distribution Review, just over ten years ago, we saw an exodus of advisers. This year, we are seeing similar trends because of Consumer Duty. Remaining advisers will be more qualified and focused on delivering positive client outcomes. Those that do remain, are still here (in part) because of continuous education.
I was also told that it’s important to cultivate your network.
We financial planners work alongside a whole host of other professionals (accountants, brokers, and lawyers, etc.) to give our clients a complete service. This is best done when you have cultivated your network as you can make more productive and valuable referrals to ensure your clients are best served. Strong inter-personal skills go a long way in this as clients who feel best serviced are likely to become your biggest advocates.
What do you think the future of the financial services holds?
There have been several legislative changes in the industry recently, and as a result, I think we’ll see more focus on personalised, tech-driven solutions.
Troublingly, there remains an advice gap in the UK, with only 42% of adults saying they would use a financial adviser. Consequently, the regulator has been pushing firms to emphasize transparency and deliver client-centric approaches. All of which require personalised tech driven solutions.
This is a good thing. One of the major historic problems of our profession is a failure to provide confidence and trust; partly due to the past ‘opaqueness’ of fees. Personalised tech driven solutions will be a huge helping hand in dismantling this.
One of the (many) great things about First Wealth is that it’s a really progressive company in addressing client concerns in this area.
Who has inspired you during your career so far?
My old boss! He was a past president of the PFS and has always pushed me to go the extra mile, whether that be more exams, networking or taking on extra responsibilities. Without him, I doubt I would be where I am today.
What’s the best financial advice anyone ever gave you?
Make your child a millionaire by the time they retire!
Obviously, the millionaire part is never guaranteed, but the power of compound investing shouldn’t be underestimated. If you saved £5 a day into a pension for your child for 10 years and then forgot about it – this pot would be worth over £1m by the time they reach retirement.
This relates to the rule of 72; markets have historically grown by an annualised rate of 7%. Therefore, applying this rule, the money you save should effectively double every 10 years (72/7).
In short, it is never too early to start saving or investing. A little saved now is much more effective than a lot saved later.
Finally, do you have any finance book recommendations?
Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economic by Richard Thaler.
Thaler writes about Behavioural Economics with a deep dive into the intersection of psychology and economics.
It’s a great book to understand our common biases and develop “nudges” to help make more informed and rational choices. It also humanises finance in a way that, I think, applies to a lot of us.
We’re all prone to being irrational and emotional when faced with important decisions. For example, we’ve probably all been faced with the ‘sunk cost fallacy’. This is where, rather than being objective when deciding whether to sell an investment that has performed badly, mental accounting causes us to factor in the money already invested. This is likely to sway us to retain the investment, even if that is not the best objective decision.
As you can probably tell, I’m a riot at dinner parties!
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.