How I apply coaching in my financial planning practice

Terence Tobin, Founder of Rich Ideas Group speaks about his financial planning journey and how the pricing model has evolved for the benefit of his practice.


When I started as a financial advisor, I never wanted to sell policies. For me it was about advice, guidance, accountability and helping my clients plan for their future. This was 14 years ago and there was no such thing as a fee for advice model or something similar that I could find.

However, there was always this niggle between earning an income and providing valuable assistance and services. Many times, in my first year or two in the industry (later in my career, I dropped the word industry) I had words with the brokerage owner, because I never sold enough and left money on the table he said. For me it was about aligning my clients’ needs to my advice. This is what we should be doing, right?Fast forward a few years, and Retail Distribution Review (RDR) is looming and the industry is going crazy. What will happen to commission? How will we make money? Who is going to pay us?

Let’s look at it this way. When we visit a doctor, we pay our doctor. When we visit the pharmacy, we pay the pharmacist. Why is it different for us? 

I loved this. I could only see opportunities in the post-RDR world. At about this point in time, I attended a massive conference and there were two great presenters from the USA, Kate Holmes and Carl Richards.

Holmes spoke of how we get paid and Richards of the value in advice. This is what I was seeking and this was the start of my journey on reinventing my value proposition, service delivery model and understanding how to get paid for advice (following the six-step process) and not for implementation (when we sell a policy). Let’s look at it this way. When we visit a doctor, we pay our doctor. When we visit the pharmacy, we pay the pharmacist. Why is it different for us? We are experienced, ethical and educated professionals who don’t earn a professional fee. This, in my mind, had to change. At the time, I was working for a corporate and this was not possible. You had to sell policies.

Five years have passed since I left corporate and have phased in my fee for advice and planning service model in my own FSP. What a journey! The continuous learning has been exceptional and beyond my wildest dreams. Ladies and gents, our clients are ready for this, they will pay for our services, but our profession has hidden how we are remunerated. Let’s be clear about it, let’s talk about it, let’s be proud to be professional.

Now, in my mind, you can’t just charge a fee. What are you offering? This was when I started learning about coaching and behavioural finance. I have learned from international experts and local gurus. I have spent hundreds of thousands of rands on programmes, courses, books and podcasts.

Terence Tobin, Rich Ideas Group Founder and family focused financial planner.

For me, it is all about having conversations that matter to clients. Conversations that are not focused on interest rates, present value and future value calculations but rather about their concerns about their future, what will their children do, how to make informed and educated decisions.

Recently, I undertook a behavioural coaching programme, facilitated by Fundhouse and Momentum. It was great. Learning how to frame biases (if you have a brain, you have biases). Learning how not to project my own bias onto my clients, but to help them understand theirs. Elements such as having the client speak about themselves (we really need to keep quiet more than we think we do) and letting the client discover their environment, their relationships, their mind and their body and how it applies to financial planning and their future.

Techniques that coaches use are valuable in the financial planning space. I have found it exceptionally valuable to help a client (through coaching and conversation) to find a solution to their problem. We need to talk about their understanding and relationship with money, how they got to this point, what brought them to us and how they feel we can add value. Be naturally curious, ask questions and keep quiet. The insights for both clients and financial planner are beyond your imagination.

Recently I had a 45-minute check-in consult with a client. We had the usual introductions and then I asked, “What is on your mind?” For the next 40 minutes, he shared so much. I didn’t say a word. I smiled and I nodded but my lips stayed shut. He thanked me for the most amazing conversation (I didn’t say anything) and that he knew now what he needed to do.

Be curious with clients and have conversations about them and their families (not their money). Always be genuine, always listen, always care. Really!

Let me also clarify, I don’t want to be a life coach, I love financial planning but life and money go hand in hand. Money is an emotional topic, often taboo and never spoken of. Make your interactions with your clients a safe space for them to speak, for them to share, never judge, never critique, always listen.

May you have the amazing a-ha moments that I have with my clients and may your practices grow from strength to strength.