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Telling the Financial Planning Story in Taiwan

By Taylor Liao, CFP

The Financial Planning Association of Taiwan (FPAT) joined Financial Planning Standards Board in November 2003, and we have around 600 CFP professionals now. They are mainly from three industries: banks, investments and insurance. Though we have more than 600 certificants, most of them still stay at their same career position. They try to embed the financial planning process in their routine job, and only a few of them have left their original job to become an independent financial planner.

Building Awareness

Since we just started the CFP examination seven years ago, you can imagine that the financial planning profession is quite new here and CFP certification is not well known to public. The CFP professionals have faced a critical situation when they try to perform the role of a financial planner. First, the public has no idea what financial planning is. The planner has to spend a lot of time explaining why the client needs a plan. Second is, clients get used to receiving the so-called financial planning service from several sales channels: banks or insurance companies. Usually, it only takes a few steps to do the needs analysis of retirement, children’s education fund plan…etc. Actually, it’s not real financial planning; it’s mainly for the purpose of selling more products to the client. And they provide this service for free. When a planner contacts a client, the client hardly understands why a financial plan needs so many procedures, why he or she has to tell the planner about assets, liabilities…etc., not to mention to pay the adviser fee to a financial planner. So, even though we have several CFP professionals who have funded independent financial services companies, the company sizes are small and they are struggling to survive now.

Media Coverage Helpful

The situation is not always so pessimistic. We have seen some changes that are favorable to the financial planning profession. There are several magazines: Smart, Business Today and Money, that are trying to promote financial planning now. The magazines are mainly for investors. They usually have articles about investing in stocks, mutual funds, or real estate. Now, they have more articles on financial planning. They have a special column on financial planning and their readers can apply for a free financial planning consultation. The reader will offer their personal or family financial data to the magazine first. After seeking the advice of a CFP professional, the magazine will post the reader’s case in its next issue.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest newspapers, the Economic Daily News, has held several competitions of financial planning this year. The participants interviewed with the volunteer family to collect their information. The participants didn’t know the name and contact information of this family, and they were not allowed to contact with this family to gather further information. After the participants submitted a financial planning report based on this interview, the report was reviewed by a group of people, including CFP certificants and Professors. The winner received a financial award, which was sponsored by the banks and insurance companies. This activity has helped to promote the financial planning profession to the public.

Telling the Financial Planning “Story”

The financial planners themselves also have made encouraging progress; we found that many financial planners still insist on and keep the enthusiasm of this profession, and they are doing quite well. We found a senior planner who started in this profession eight years ago. He has some shared some best practices in preparing written recommendations to clients. As CFP professionals, we are so familiar with the data; we used to talk “data” to our clients. So, naturally, we present a financial planning report of 30 or 40 pages, or even longer. But, this planner made a different presentation. Instead of showing a plan to the client with a lot of numbers, he prepared a a slide presentation using Microsoft PowerPoint to tell her a story. The story was about “Cinderella,” a hardworking 26-year-old girl who wanted to buy a house for her mother. Due to the poverty of her family, she had no bank account. Instead of opening an account in a bank to save money, she put the cash everywhere in her house. The planner used the story of “Cinderella” to tell his client that if she followed the financial process, her dreams would come true. As for the financial data, he just picked some tables from the financial planning report, such as assets and liabilities, cash flow, etc. His presentation took only four slides.

Though he was not a CFP professional, this financial planner was experienced. I learned from him that I should not just pay attention to the data. The client’s goals are most important. When you look at the case of this client, you must ask yourself first: what view point can you provide to the client? How can you help them develop a financial plan to achieve their life goals?. All the data in your report is just to aid the client’s understanding of their financial plan. Do not use too much data to talk with clients; instead, come to a focus on what they want and what they expect for future. We are professional. But, normally we are too rational to drive the client to take action. When we are gathering client’s information, we should talk more about their outlook on life and values; we should be emotional and listen to how our clients talk about themselves. My planner friend received much recognition from his client and the person was willing to refer him to others.

So, while the environment for financial planners may not be all favorable, we are still at work here trying to offer a better service to the client.

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