Gareth Collier, CFP®| Financial Planner Profile

Blue Chip speaks to Gareth Collier, CFP®, Director at Crue Invest, about his journey as a Certified Financial Planner®.

Gareth Collier, CFP®, Director at Crue Invest

Being in a position to make a positive impact on individuals, their families and businesses is such a joy. 

What inspired you to become a financial planner?

Growing up I had always been good with numeracy and my dad had introduced me to certain finance books from a young age which caught my interest. At that point, I knew I wanted to enter the larger world of business but like most young ambitious people I did not yet have a very clear picture of exactly what I wanted to do. Having completed my undergraduate studies in Financial Management, I tried my hand at a few diverse businesses but was eventually introduced more directly to financial planning by my father-in-law in my mid-20s.  

I immediately enjoyed the combination of direct engagement with individuals and the opportunity to help solve problems, together with the personal freedom to build my own practice. Initially, assisting with the problem-solving of more practical money needs of clients was appealing, but over time my focus and enjoyment has come from exploring clients’ relationship, philosophy with money and the role it plays in their own and their family’s lives.

What prompts clients to come to you? Do you have a niche or distinctive value offering?

Although clients may work primarily with me as their planner, we have intentionally built a diverse practice with a range of specialised skills to provide a comprehensive planning service. Clients are thus enabled to have a relationship with the wider planning practice and not be solely reliant on a single planner. This provides continuity and consistency to clients but also the ability to build an enduring legacy with the practice. We are purposefully creating a planning team across the age spectrum to allow client families to work with the practice across multiple generations. The team then has the insight to understand and best advise clients, their children and grandchildren on the generational of their wealth.

What do you believe is the most important thing you do for clients?

Whilst money, wealth and a healthy balance sheet are important in our modern society, we should not lose sight of the fact that life is finite and therefore finding a good balance between the two is so vital. Life is certainly dynamic and unpredictable, so when we do our planning and structuring, we try to ensure a reasonable amount of flexibility and access where possible to allow for life’s ever-changing seasons.

What are the biggest mistakes that you see clients make?

Where clients have had bad or unsuitable experiences with advisors, products and/or investment vehicles used, there is a common thread that they did not question the advisor to ensure they fully understood and were in agreement with the implemented recommendations. This can often be a case of not wanting to appear ignorant or dismissive of the advice. Whilst a certain level of trust is ultimately needed, clients should be comfortable and encouraged to ask whatever questions they may have, and as often as needed, to be comfortable with their portfolio.

How do you charge for your services?

We work on an assets-under-management fee scale which we apply across a family’s collective assets with the practice. Our belief is that impactful financial planning occurs when a strong, trusting relationship is built over time and is not best done as a transactional engagement. We have then used this fee model to provide for all our planning and fiduciary services as we do not charge for consultations or explicit implementation or planning fees.

What role does technology play in your practice?

Certainly, since the lockdown days of 2020, we have embraced much more technology than ever before. Our priority is client relationships and the fact that our clients are based throughout South Africa, and spread around the world, the ability to have online video calls with ease and frequency certainly facilitates this. Administratively the technological tools are making it ever more efficient to complete and implement the necessary products and compliance which allows a greater proportion of the entire team’s time to be available to work with our clients directly.

How do you utilise social media as a financial planner?

I am certainly no influencer, however, we do use the various platforms to share the content we create and provide on a number of financial and business platforms. Personally, I appreciate the cross-border learning that social media can provide as I follow and listen to a number of podcasts and video channels regarding personal finances and business throughout the world. It is always so interesting to realise that human beings all struggle with very similar issues wherever we are in the world, and it is so valuable to be able to learn from so many different perspectives and voices.

What do you enjoy most about being a financial planner?

Being in a position to make a positive impact on individuals, their families and businesses is such a joy. We try never losing sight of the fact that we are invited into deeply personal spaces of people’s lives and have a duty and responsibility not to allow our own biases or personal opinions to affect the appropriateness of our advice. Some conversations require us to be encouraging and supportive, while others require us to be firm and help redirect certain behaviours or thought patterns. Knowing that the work you do truly makes a difference in not only the lives of your clients but also has a secondary impact on those they go on to participate with in other areas of their lives, is a very fulfilling thought.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a financial planner?

Most directly it is how the term financial planner is so loosely defined and liberally applied. Since anyone, from those with two weeks of product training up to those with commerce degrees, postgraduate qualifications and board certifications, uses the term financial planner, it does create inconsistent experiences and expectations for clients and consumers.  

There is an ever-growing number of people entering and improving within the general industry to turn it into the profession it deserves to be; however, there are still too many large institutional influences that treat our young profession as a glorified sales industry. When your focus and incentives are built around production figures and no attention or recognition is given to the relationships created with clients, the bulk of the interactions will remain centred around what can be earned from a prospective client rather than what can be built with them over time.

What is the biggest change you have seen in financial planning during your career?

Certainly, the compliance and reporting requirements have increased but have also taken a big step forward. Although these can be time-consuming and burdensome to planners and practices, since the resources required to meet the requirements are significant, it is slowly having the impact of weeding out some of the more undesirable practices in the industry at large.

What’s your one wish for the future of the financial planning profession?

That in time it turns into exactly that – a profession. It is certainly heading in that direction, as an example we have seen within our own business the number of school and university students enquiring about job shadows and vacation work opportunities as financial planning becomes more visible as a profession and desirable as a career path. In time, my wish would be that more and more of these like-minded people enter and contribute to expanding this important profession. With the right people with the character and skills to align clients’ best interests with appropriate advice will see us leave behind the sales and production focused industry and settle into an advice-led profession which creates meaning and value to all stakeholders.