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Rich Life Experience is what Differentiates Financial Planners

Daehong Kwon, CFP, Koreaby Daehong Kwon, CFP

If we look at colleagues and financial planners around us, we find that they are all very distinct people. They are different from each other in terms of age, profession, school they attended, hometown, and the environments in which they grew up. While schools, big business companies and some special professional communities are made up of relatively similar people, the financial planner community is characterized by many unique members. On top of that, we work for a diverse clientele.

As such, it would be no exaggeration to say that we are living in “a plaza of diversity.” Our varying backgrounds may oftentimes cause a disagreement among colleagues but upholding mutual respect and supporting diversity within the workplace would be wise and benefit both financial planners and clients.

Diverse Skills Amongst Colleagues

When, for instance, our client wants to plan a trip, we could seek advice from a colleague who used to be a travel agent. He or she could refer us to a professional in that field, who might even provide us with a discount offer for our client. Another colleague who was a curator, in the past, could make a good tour guide on a gallery trip, while a computer salesman-turned financial planner could still be proud of his ability to help get computer components for a cheaper price. In some rare cases, I have even witnessed a financial planner who was a trouble-maker and object of mockery in school sharing empathy with a VIP client’s child who was a headache to everybody, resolving the child’s problem and receiving gratitude from the client. This would be a case hardly found in other professions. In short, experiences such as:

  • being indebted from a series of business failures,
  • awful memories of domestic violence, and
  • untold secrets and nightmares about a past

can, oftentimes, help share special communion with clients.

In other words, utilizing the knowledge learned and the experience and the network acquired before becoming a financial planner, can create a remarkable effect. I believe that even the experience of failures and painful memories, that clients want to forget, can provide good ‘contents’ in financial planning and help lay out a bridge between the financial planner and the clients.

How to Become a Financial Planner

In Korea, an increasing number of people with experience in financial communities, are switching their jobs to become financial planners. Yet, more and more people pursuing the financial planning career are coming from backgrounds that have no direct relevance to financial planning. If one thought of a financial planner as being just a product salesperson or financial professional, it wouldn’t take long before they could practice as a financial planner. It would be fairly possible. All that would be required would be

  1. an education from a financial firm that included products, market situations and other financial knowledge
  2. intensive training on marketing and sales
  3. and a license.

However, just as it takes more than ten years before one makes a good doctor, a financial planner needs to do a lot of learning and accumulate a great deal of experience in order to be able to cultivate his or her own professional path. In addition to this, if he or she grafts past knowledge and experience, it can create a greater synergy in their practice. While having a professional license and knowledge on financial theories may be important, varied experiences that the planner has undergone will prove priceless and invaluable.

There is an old Korean saying that “Even a grub knows how to crawl.” It is equivalent to “Willows are weak, yet they bind other wood.” In other words, any humble man has his own trade that others don’t have, which we can learn from. So, let us collaborate our turning points, failures, regrets, successes etc. to make our own distinct ‘keywords’ or ‘story’. If we can interconnect these to our on-the-job practice, providing a more distinct financial planning service will become much more feasible and easier.

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