It’s not good enough to simply say ‘trust us’. When it comes to choosing a Financial Planner there’s a whole spectrum to choose from and the terms ‘financial planning’ or ‘wealth management’ can be as wide as the universe.
Finding a perfect match can be difficult, sometimes the interests of a Financial Planner aren’t aligned with the interests of the client (put another way, it might be in a Planner’s financial interest to sell products, rather than fulfil a client’s actual needs).
And, it’s very easy to say ‘trust us’ but when it comes down to it and you need to place not only your trust, but your financial future into the hands of a Financial Planner – how do you know that they really do put their client’s interests first, how do they prove they always act with the utmost professionalism and that they have a culture where they strive for continuous improvement?
For us, this meant opening up our business and our processes to independent scrutiny, to ensure we can meet the very highest standards set within our industry – this is our story about how we did this and why it is so important to us that we are an investment fiduciary.
The Centre for Fiduciary Excellence (CEFEX)
In 2019 we became members of CEFEX and certified for Investment Advisor Fiduciary Excellence. This places us globally amongst an elite group of firms, with only a handful of firms achieving this certification in the UK. CEFEX serves as an independent auditor to verify that the advisory firm conforms to all practices and criteria that comprise the global standard of fiduciary excellence.
What is a fiduciary?
The highest legal duty of one party to another – being a fiduciary requires being bound ethically to act in the best interests of others. An investment fiduciary is responsible for the management of the assets of others and is therefore in a special position of confidence, reliance and trust.
The duty of loyalty requires fiduciaries to act in the best interest of those they serve and to avoid or properly manage conflicts of interest and is focused on good judgement and due diligence and includes well documented processes, encompassing numerous obligations. It also means acting with care, skill and prudence.
Global Association of Independent Advisers (GAIA)
After obtaining and maintaining our CEFEX certification, we then set about becoming a member of GAIA. To date, only 127 firms across the globe have achieved this designation.
What is GAIA?
“An international network of independently owned investment advisory firms, whose overriding commitment to fiduciary excellence ensures they always put their clients’ interests first”
Membership of GAIA is strictly limited to fee-based wealth advisors who are not aligned with financial institutions.
GAIA firms share best practices, learning from each other, to best serve clients. All firms are committed to providing clients with objective advice and personal solutions. These include broad global diversification, a structured and proven approach to investing and independent, fiduciary based financial planning and wealth management solutions.
Fiduciary excellence is firmly at the heart of GAIA. The Centre for Fiduciary Standards has defined Financial Planners as someone who serves as an ever-vigilant guardian of the client’s best interests, focussing on the client first, before making a financial recommendation.
When a Financial Planner is a fiduciary, clients can be confident that their Financial Planner will:
- Create clarity around life needs, concerns and opportunities ahead
- Provide high quality, unbiased advice
- Respect the clients concerns about risk, identify efficient ways to reach clients goals and strive to reduce costs
- Be free of personal or commercial conflicts of interest
GAIA’s fiduciary standards rise well above the limited performance reporting requirements governing today’s investment management industry. GAIA standards encompass all aspects of client relationships from the development of their financial and investment plans and written investment policy statements, to review and evaluation of their investment portfolios. This includes the ongoing guidance and monitoring of each step of the client’s financial journey.
Whilst each GAIA member is independently owned and autonomous, our investment philosophies are guided by certain core beliefs:
- Investment markets are highly efficient, and prices generally reflect known information
- Risk and return are closely correlated
- Diversification is essential
- Asset allocation is the most critical decision
- The focus should always be on what can be controlled:
- Asset allocation
- Fees and taxes
- Not forecasting, market timing or stock picking
GAIA beliefs are closely aligned to ours
GAIA believe that open, honest communication is the foundation upon which the entire financial planning and wealth management process should be built and that it’s important we understand our clients’ current circumstances and their long-term goals and objectives.
It’s our responsibility to help our clients understand the ‘why’ behind our guidance and recommendation and to clearly explain subjects like historical capital markets’ behaviour, modern portfolio theory, strategic asset allocation, the benefits of broad global diversification and the importance of controlling costs.
Meeting clients’ expectations
Providing clients with access to world class, institutional funds that are disciplined and diversified our clients can expect that we will:
- Periodically compare client investments to appropriate benchmarks or indexes, peer groups and diligence criteria with regular reporting
- Provide a documented investment strategy to reflect any changes in legislation or the clients’ circumstances
- Treat clients with the utmost respect and professional courtesy
For us this is about setting our own professional standards as high as possible, ensuring clients remain at the very core of our business and that we always act in their best interests. With everyone within our business striving for continuous improvement, our clear investment philosophy and robust processes and controls embedded across our entire business – we believe we can confidently say we really do put our clients’ interests first.
What does it mean to be a GAIA member? Watch Video
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