Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Two days at the glamorous and luxury destination of the Hilton Metropole hotel at the NEC in Birmingham doesn’t sound like most people’s choice of a few days away, but that’s where I found myself last at the end of last month.

Not really in Birmingham, but on the outskirts.  Near the airport but not much else.  I wasn’t there to sightsee though, but to attend a two-day financial planning conference run by our professional body the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments (CISI).

The event aims to provide you with opportunities to update your technical knowledge, learn new ways to communicate effectively and hear about the potential new challenges that are coming both for financial planning firms and their clients.

Four of us attended from Bloomsbury, including Michael, who was attending his first CISI conference.  For me, I had the added bonus of spending time with my sister, another first-timer having just set up her own firm.

The conference format means that it starts early on a Monday and therefore for most delegates, this means travelling to the venue on Sunday.  Not ideal as this takes up family time, but it is worth making the sacrifice to avoid a horrendously early start on a Monday and all the associated start of the week travel chaos.

Conferences such as this one are an important part of what we do and are regularly attended by the planning team at Bloomsbury, as we have an ongoing commitment to continuing professional development.  Not only are the sessions and speakers interesting learning opportunities, but we also gain a lot by networking with other attendees.  These may be planners in other firms, consultants specialising in different areas or representatives of larger organisations such as fund management firms or insurance companies (it’s also a great opportunity to restock on free umbrellas, pens, note pads, water bottles and adapter plugs.  It’s always a good idea to leave space in your suitcase!).

The conference programme this year included a selection of keynote speakers from around the world, including Australia and the USA, and they spoke about a range of topics from working with vulnerable clients to the regulatory landscape and challenges in other countries. 

Brain Portnoy, from the USA, gave an excellent talk on how money fits into a fulfilled life and the difference between being rich and being wealthy.  This resonated with what we believe at Bloomsbury – that true wealth is about more than money, and I will definitely be reading his book ‘The Geometry of Wealth: How to shape a life of money and meaning’.  

In between these speakers are breakout sessions that focus on three streams; client issues, technical learning and practice management.  This allows delegates to choose what interests them or areas that they need to update and improve their knowledge of.

I chose a mixture of both and spent time refreshing my technical knowledge around pensions and later life planning but also learning how other planning firms help their clients to determine their goals and objectives.  In one session, the speaker explained and demonstrated the power of sketches as a tool to convey important topics and guidance.  At Bloomsbury we always try to simplify our documents and where possible we include a visual element however, actually drawing a simple explanation of what can be a complicated topic is an excellent idea.  It looks like I will be practising my freehand drawing skills and I now wish I had focused on Art at school more than I did!

It was also interesting to hear the views about the speakers and programme from the two first-timers.  It’s easy to be clouded by past conferences or to judge this year’s programme against the past, so it was good to get a fresh perspective.

Overall the conference was an excellent two days of learning, catching up and discussing new ideas or challenges.  It also provides a further opportunity for the planning team to spend time together and for one person in particular to practice his navigation skills when getting lost between the train station and the hotel. 

Ensuring the planning team is given the time and ability to attend these types of events is crucial as it ensures everyone has the opportunity to develop and stay up to date.  Ultimately, this is passed on to our clients in the service we provide and at the end of the day, being the best that we can be is the ultimate goal.