What to expect from your first meeting with a financial planner

By David Lamb CFP™ MCSI

If you have decided you want to enlist the services of a lifestyle financial planner, what should you expect from your initial consultation?

The first meeting should be an exploratory session where you and the financial planner get to know each other to determine if they can help you and you can work together. This should be at the planner’s expense; do not pay for this meeting!

If you are a couple you should both attend the meeting (it should be a joint plan for a joint lifestyle) and hold it in the planner’s office. Whether you find it tidy and functional or cluttered and chaotic could give you a fair indication of the standard of service you would expect to receive.

Being issued with an agenda confirming the date, time and location and providing a proposed structure of the meeting would also indicate an efficient and organised planner. Prepare by thinking about what you want to achieve from the meeting and any specific questions you want to ask.

The planner should first explain how they work (the regulatory issues and their processes) and want to know about you, your family, your employment, your lifestyle and your objectives.

They will also ask you a little bit about your financial background, but if they ask too many questions about your money at this first meeting, this could mean that they are more interested in your money than you and want to sell you a financial product. If they do, you should probably look for another financial planner.

Once the planner has discovered a little bit about you, you should find out more about them; ask about their qualifications and experience and what type of clients they have. Are they similar to you?

Ask detailed questions about their processes. Do they use cash flow modelling? What are their fees and how do they measure the value of their service?

Financial planning is usually a long-term process, so working with your financial planner is going to be a long-term relationship. The planner needs to be able to get to know you, your family, your lifestyle, and – later – your money in detail.

Are you comfortable with this? Do you like and trust them? If not, you should look for another financial planner. But if you are happy, you are probably ready to go to the next stage – providing all the relevant data to produce a detailed financial plan.

Next blog: finding out about fees and how the value of service is measured.