The ethos of Total Wealth Planning Group is all about putting the client first when advising, communicating and planning finances. These values are upheld and demonstrated by senior management and work their way through to all the team members. With that and the regulatory obligations in mind, it is no wonder that leaders in the TWP Group are all striving ahead with their further study and self-development. I caught up with Stuart Budgen BA Hons Dip PFS, Compliance Director of Total Wealth Planning for a chat on the significance of study and self-development.
As he is so focused and driven in his career and on growing the company, I was curious to learn whether Stuart had planned on a career in finance, and therefore fascinated to learn that his Degree from UCL is in Contemporary East Europe Studies. His favourite subject at school was History and an acute awareness of and interest in the fall of the Berlin Wall drove him to the intimate course at the prestigious London Uni. Just 18 other under grads on the same course made for involved and engaged learning. After graduating Stuart went to work with his father for Co-operative Insurance at his insistence, and then remained in the financial world, carving his own path into financial planning and wealth management. Stuart continues to learn his craft and leads by example, encouraging others in the team to do the same and to be the best they can. By always having the values of ethical practice and putting the client first at the forefront of their minds, continued study and self-development are key, meaning that TWP can attest to being in the top echelon of financial planning.
During my conversation with Stuart, I learned that the FSA requires all advisors to undertake 35 hours of relevant CPD per year. Therefore, it goes without saying that Stuart believes in further study and encourages it within the team. I was interested to hear the statistics of financial advisors who don’t undertake more than the bare minimum qualification. Of the 25,000 financial advisors in the country, only 5000 are chartered, which is the highest level of qualification that one can gain. Meaning that a good many more are getting by on the Diploma that they first qualified with, equivalent of an A-Level. Stuart works hard to push himself and the team to get to chartered level in order that they can use the extra knowledge that they have gained during their studies to add to the professionalism of the company. By offering a wide range of advice, services and products, TWP offer the best service to the client.
Neil Howchin and Martin Harvey, both senior team members at TWP, are also on their way to chartered level, in fact they are one step ahead of Stuart, I managed to elicit from him! He spoke of distractions of other courses and exams, and I think he’ll be making up those hours soon! Stuart says he will be chartered by the end of the year and that he’s already begun thinking about becoming a Fellow of the CII, and I don’t mean just a jolly good one. “Why”, I asked him, “do you always need to go that bit further”? Stuart always comes back to wanting to offer unsurpassed service to clients in order that TWP is the best in the business.
As with most conversations that take place in TWP, the global team element is not far from the tip of ones’ tongue. With half the senior team living and working in Australia, it is only natural that themes and trends from the other side of the world make their way to Surrey before too long. Stuart explained to me how the FCA wants all financial advisers in the UK to be chartered, in line with similar regulations being introduced in Australia in 2019 and how in fact principles will be brought in to ensure this. These regulations will create a supply and demand situation where there will be a shortage of financial advisers. Certainly, TWP will not suffer during this shortage, indeed thanks to their global vision and strategy they are ahead of the game and will be best placed to meet future demands. So, as well as encouraging study and self-development to be compliant, it keeps them at the top of their game whilst ensuring the best service to clients, everyone’s happy.
As with any discussion that takes the direction of future proofing, we began to chat about artificial intelligence, and its impact on the field of financial advice. Stuart is sure that AI will increasingly take over the lower level tasks, case in point is i2day, an internet-based system where one can get advice on and take out an ISA to suit your need, without ever talking to a human being! I think that with all the emphasis that TWP put on the customer experience, that removing an advisor from the chain would be a disadvantage and so I’m heartened that study and self -development is actively encouraged and rewarded in TWP to ensure that the customer interactions that remain are of exceptional quality and value.
I picked up on Stuart’s thirst for development and improvement and asked him what new skills he would like to acquire. Stuart it seems, is a surf bum in the making! He has achieved lots of success in the water, from sailing to snorkelling to diving and now, during a recent trip back to the South West of England with the family, he attempted surfing. He admitted that he has a long way to go, and whilst ever tenacious, I think that he might well be a Fellow before he’s a surf bum!
As family had popped into the conversation I chatted to Stuart about his free time and family life, and of course posed the question that is on everyone’s lips at the moment. “Who does he think will win Strictly”!? He immediately shows his colours as a Faye fan, although his wife is rooting for Ashley and his daughter is a Stacey fan. So not much synergy or harmony in the Budgen household on a Saturday night! Once again the whole topic of self-development came around as Stuart mused “I’d really rather like to learn to dance, I’ve always quite fancied a tango!” So it seems that study is as significant to Stuart in his personal life as it is in his professional life.