Posted by Dave Seager, consulting adviser to Legal Futures Associate SIFA Professional
You may recall in January’s blog that we wrote about the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) guidance for professional competence being extended to ‘firm’ level.
The need for individual lawyers to be the best that they can be, in order to ensure they are acting in their clients’ best interests, will always rely on those individual’s identifying learning and development needs.
However, the regulator obviously believes that a firm’s management and ultimately the COLP, can assist by organising and supervising the identified CPD requirements.
It is our firm and longstanding belief that, because modern-day clients have complex advice needs and problems which cross over the disciplines, professional advisers, such as lawyers, accountants and financial planners should closely collaborate.
As the former executive director of the SRA, Crispin Passmore, suggested at a SIFA Professional event to mark our 25th anniversary in 2017, “clients don’t think in silos, so why do we insist on offering them solutions in silos?”
It is for this very reason that we suggest that SIFA Professional members particularly – but also well-qualified, experienced and true financial planners – can be a true ally and support when it comes to professional competence.
There are so many areas of learning and development which will constantly need to be refreshed in the areas of overlap where the work undertaken by a lawyer will need complementary financial input.
In addition to the actual knowledge that can be shared, it is also vital as a lawyer to be able to recognise at what stage in a process the client they are advising needs to be referred to a carefully chosen third-party financial planning partner. This is particularly the case in the divorce process, when a variety of pension assets, defined contribution or indeed future benefits are involved.
Your financial planning colleagues, like you, have to undertake CPD and so will be well used to designing training in a format covering objectives and learning outcomes, which the SRA wants the lawyers in your teams to record.
The training could be to update you or your teams on the financial tools, wrappers and investments that complements your legal advice or indeed might be on more generic areas that impact both professions.
Below are a wide range of advice specific areas, followed by some more generic or regulatory subjects, that your financial planning colleagues might be happy to cover as part of an ongoing CPD programme.
- The financial aspects of estate planning and where government tax reliefs are available via investment and pension vehicles might complement legal advice;
- The financial aspects of divorce or separation and how and when financial advice will be required;
- The investment of trust assets in line with the Trustee Act 2000; and
- The options available when planning for care in later life for self-funders.
- Vulnerability – how to identify and advise vulnerable clients and the regulators view on this vital subject;
- The use of cash-flow modelling in financial planning and how this can complement your legal advice;
- The difference between true financial planning and transactional financial advice;
- The importance of a client’s attitude to risk, how this is assessed and how it informs the creation of a financial plan; and
- General investment market commentaries and updates.
The above lists are by no means exhaustive and we would encourage you to engage with your teams, identify topics and areas where they would value external input and then speak to the external financial planning partners that you trust and have a cross-referral partnership with.
There will undoubtedly be specifics of the work you undertake in areas we have suggested, where the financial planners would value some education coming the other way too.
The SRA, as we have pointed out, is continually reminding individual lawyers and law firms of the five steps to continued competence. So why not stay ahead of the game and develop a plan to support your lawyers, with the assistance of your trusted financial planning partners?
Your regulator, and the Legal Services Board above it, will not be easing the pressure on professional competence and the former has revealed plans for a paper in the summer outlining the perceived shortcomings, with input from consumer research included.