Hannah: Well, thanks for joining us today, Kate.
Kate: Hannah, it’s awesome to be here.
Hannah: Yes. Well I think I met you first at a NextGen gathering, oh my gosh, six, seven, eight years ago.
Kate: I know. I can’t even remember. I was trying to think about it. Was it the one in Dallas or we were in Moline? Is that a place?
Hannah: Yeah, we were, both of them.
Hannah: At that time you were looking to, or had just recently started your own firm. What was the name of it again?
Kate: It was Belmore Financial.
Hannah: How long did you run Belmore Financial for?
Kate: So, I feel like time kind of all flows together. I’m going to say four years.
Hannah: To give our listeners a little spoiler for what’s coming up, you ended up shutting that down and going to work for the FPSB, the Financial Planning Standards Board.
Kate: Yeah. So FPSB, Financial Planning Standards Board, actually spun out of CFP Board back in 2004, and so CFP Board owns and operates the CFP certification we’re all familiar with in the U.S. And FPSB owns and oversees the CFP marks everywhere outside the U.S. So I got to work in like 30 countries. I traveled all over and learned so much.
Hannah: So you shut down your practice to go work for FPSB, right?
Kate: In a way. So when I started, I started Belmore Financial in early 2013 and I’m so glad. So that that would have been the year I went to NextGen because when I started, I couldn’t find anyone in the country doing what I was doing. So I started one of the very first completely virtual, fee-only retainer model practices. And it was awesome that shortly thereafter that’s when I met Mary Beth Storjohann, Eric Roberge, Sophia Bera. And you know, a year later XYPN came about. So I started, and I was like, I’m just kind of this lone wolf out there. And I finally got to find my people.
Kate: And I did that for a while, but because I was one of the first in that small group of great planners, I became kind of outspoken about what I saw as the future of financial planning. And thankfully that got me mentioned in the media quite a bit. I love public speaking. So I was speaking domestically and internationally, and I started consulting for multinational firms, working directly with other advisors around the world. I ended up meeting the CEO of FPSB when I was actually giving a keynote presentation in South Africa.
Kate: So I started consulting with them, and I kind of just had my hands in a few too many buckets, but because my passion was really helping to propel this profession forward and grow the profession in a way that’s really doing the absolute best thing for clients around the world, I sort of got an offer I couldn’t refuse to work enough FPSB.
Kate: Traveling has always been my thing. I had already been to 30, 35 countries before I took the job. So they said I could keep my practice, but it turns out trying to build the global professional financial planning took up plenty enough time. So that’s why I ultimately wound down more.
Hannah: So let’s talk a little bit about FPSB. So you said it was a spin off of the CFP Board. What is their vision statement or mission statement for their association?
Kate: So I left and took a few months off. So I feel like my brain is not… even though I’ve said that mission statement a thousand times, but it’s really about building the global profession of financial planning. So currently, and one thing that most CFP professionals in the U.S. don’t realize is there are actually more CFP professionals outside the U.S. than there is in the U.S. Even though the U.S. is growing in amazing ways and having over 85,000 CFP professionals now, there are also CFP professionals in 26 other countries around the world.
Kate: So there are about 185,000 CFP professionals worldwide now. That’s including places like Brazil, Columbia, South Africa, all throughout Europe, all throughout Australasia. So it’s currently, like I said, at 26 countries worldwide, with a goal of growing globally to 250,000 CFP professionals in 40 countries worldwide.
Kate: And with that number that includes the U.S. and CFP Board has always been a great contributor to the global profession. The fact that CFP certification started in the U.S., financial planning is definitely the most mature in the U.S., a lot of people look to the U.S. to see what’s going on, what’s happening, how are they doing it?
Hannah: So we start the CFP Board in the U.S. Were they immediately working on international standards?
Kate: No, not internationally. So it ended up being, Australia was the second country that sort of started doing very similar to the U.S. looking around and kind of realizing there’s got to be a better way to work with clients in a more holistic way. And when they learned about CFP certification in the U.S., rather than trying to recreate the wheel, they look to the U.S. and they contacted them and they said, “Hey, can we license this certification program?”
Kate: So that was in the early 1990s and then shortly thereafter, Japan came along and so the story goes. So when FPSB spun out in 2004, there were actually CFP certification programs already in existence in 16 different countries. But there wasn’t really that sort of consistency in standards and process across the board.
Kate: So the first number of years of FPSB’s existence was really trying to bring it all together and create that consistency. So we’re all familiar with the four E’s, so education, experience, exam, and ethics. And so that’s generally been consistent around the world. But if you just think about how any business practices across 16 countries with 16 different cultures, languages, regulatory schemes, taxes, investments, insurance, you name it, it’s definitely a challenge really getting that global consistency now across 26 or 27 countries and growing.
Hannah: The CFP Board in the U.S. is very much… I mean they brand themselves as being the gold standard. Is that the same in all these other countries? Like is it viewed as that, like the high standard for financial planning?
Kate: It is. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s, I think, what CFP Board has gone through with the consumer awareness campaign that has been so successful over the last, what are we on a decade now, that’s something that other countries are looking to emulate as well. Because ,while consumer awareness has increased in the U.S. I think a lot of us would agree there is still quite a ways to go.
Kate: So one of the interesting things is because there’s been such a long history in the U.S. and people have been so used to working with brokers and those that only do AUM or maybe sell insurance, when you look at more of the developing countries and especially those just developing and just introducing financial advice and financial planning, I think they have an opportunity and some of them already are to kind of leapfrog over what has happened in the U.S. in the last 50 years.
Kate: Like any good business owner, you’d kind of look around and go, “Okay, what can I learn from what other people have done, and how can we jump forward, and rather than learning those same lessons ourselves, how can we sort of get to the end and be doing something similar?”
Kate: So that’s happening a bit. But you know, financial planning is still everywhere in the world, an incredibly young profession. But I think it’s evolving a lot, and a lot of the themes that we’re seeing happening in the U.S., especially around retainer models and moving away from product and really towards advice, those are happening a lot more rapidly in other countries. Sometimes it’s really done from a regulatory perspective. I would say the U.S. from… I mean I don’t think any of us enjoy the regulation or compliance we have to go through, but in a lot of ways it’s actually pretty far behind a number of other countries.
Hannah: Well that’s always such an interesting angle is this regulatory. We just had an episode, it’s actually the last one of last year, where we talked to a gentleman about the regulatory changes that are happening in Australia, and how dramatically that’s impacting financial planning and what that looks like. I mean regulation seems like one of the biggest differences between the countries.
Kate: It is. Yeah. So, I’d encourage people to go back and listen to that episode because just hearing what they went through with the Royal Commission in Australia, it’s intense. On the first episode of my new podcast, The Innovating Advice Show, I actually had on the head of XY Adviser. So it’s a little bit like an XYPN in Australia, and we talked a lot about the outcomes of what’s called the Royal Commission.
Kate: One of the things he said is it actually costs like 30 to $50,000 to start a practice in Australia, and so much of that is due to regulation. But on the flip side, the community down there is so resilient and especially the younger advisers, that XY generation, are so passionate about the future of the profession. And they understand that while there are more hoops to jump through, a lot of them have to do additional education, take additional exams now. They’re really looking with a long view towards what this profession can be and already is. So they’re resilient. They’re excited about it. I almost fell out of my chair when he said how much it costs, but good for them.
Hannah: Yeah. Well it was interesting. I mean they expect a third of their financial advisors to leave in the next five years because of the regulation. It was shocking how much of an impact that that had.
Kate: It is. Yeah, they’ve already gone from about 25,000 down to 20,000 advisors, and there probably will be more. And, and look, my heart is completely with those people that have been in the profession for a couple of decades. I mean they had commissions just completely wiped out from under them. And even though I’ve never worked on a commission basis, you feel for them. That’s the practice that they always had and to think, “Hey, I’ve done this for 20, 30 years, now I have to go back to school, now I have to do additional things. And my main source of revenue was taken away from me,” I got to admit I would probably leave the profession as well. And so that’s why it’s so important, and I love the work that XY Adviser is doing in building that community in Australia because then that just sort of creates a bigger emphasis on attracting and retaining the next generation of planners.
Hannah: So regulation is a big impact. How does culture impact financial planning?
Kate: I think culture is one of the more interesting aspects of it. You know, it can be from who clients and consumers in a country we’ll take advice from, whether it’s a male or a female or older or younger, that can vary around the world, and sometimes it’s around culture of, “Hey, we don’t need our money managed.” Or if you get into a socialist country, they’ve got enough social nets that they don’t really yet have a need for true financial planning.
Kate: But I think that’s where the conversations over the next couple of years are going to get even more interesting is the continual bridge between traditional financial planning and life planning. And the fact that we still talk about those two as two separate things, I think they’re merging together pretty quickly. When you dive into the life planning side, and really focus on just using your money as a tool to create the life you want, that’s something that impacts every person on this planet regardless of their culture or socioeconomic status or what social safety nets they may have in their country.
Hannah: Yeah, we talk about that a lot here on this podcast is to be a profession, one of the hallmarks of a profession is that it impacts every single person in their life, which is what money does. So it’s really interesting, especially, you talked about more socialistic countries, it’s just a whole different way of thinking about what the options are. You’re not probably having to do as much retirement planning-
Hannah: … if they have a lot of those nets.
Kate: Yeah, it’s still there. But you know, people are still going to want to plan for vacations and make sure they aren’t spending more than they make and trying to figure out what their goals are. And I think one of the things I kept thinking about during the Great Recession and especially in the U.S., as pensions were changing, is thinking about socialist countries and the fact that that could change at some point.
Kate: And so making sure that every culture in the world has this mentality of understanding how to save for themselves and how to make sure that they are in control of their financial life. I think that is important and is going to continue to be important in all corners of the globe.
Hannah: So your podcast is called Innovating Advice. I’m really curious of what are you seeing financial planners or how are you seeing financial planners innovate around the world right now?
Kate: I would say, I recorded just before this, actually a couple of hours ago, an episode with Andre Novaes of LifeFP in Brazil. And I don’t know if listeners are familiar with his story, but it’s amazing. He’s down in Brazil, kind of more of a developing country. It’s a huge country, but in terms of the consumer awareness of financial planning, it’s pretty low, and that’s consistent around the world.
Kate: But he started a practice back in 2007 that was working with clients virtually and really on that monthly retainer model with no AUM. And he now works with almost 5,000 families. He’s built a practice with like 60 financial planners. The majority of them hold CFP certification, and he charges, it comes out to about 5% of a client’s net monthly income. And I just love historics. You’re like, okay Brazil, back in 2007, there was nowhere to look in the world for anybody that was doing that.
Kate: So getting those stories of people that are around the world, they’re kind of looking around and saying, “I believe that there should be something else, or I believe that there is more that can be done in this profession.” And it’s the exact thoughts that I had when I started Belmore Financial in 2013. I looked around, I couldn’t find anything that existed, and I was like, “Okay.”
Kate: I had to create it and knowing that feeling and knowing that that’s happening more and more, really in all corners of the globe, is so cool to see and how technology is allowing that to happen more often and being able to share stories, which is what The Innovating Advice Show was all about is really sharing these stories of what people are doing, how they got to where they got to, to help inspire and motivate and provide really clear calls to action to people that could be somewhere in Africa or Russia or anywhere in the world, and listening and going, “Okay, I’ve, I’ve been thinking about this. I also feel like there’s something more. Somebody has to be a catalyst. Why not me?”
Hannah: In the U.S., we have fee and commission, where you get commission off the product. Is that standard across the world?
Kate: It is becoming less standard, which kind of gets to what I was saying about the U.S. being a bit behind on regulation. I think we can probably all agree the fact that Dodd Frank was done in what, 2009, and we still don’t have a final answer on fiduciary and not a lot of quick moving action around that. The fact that we have such major institutions that fight against stuff like the fiduciary standard, that doesn’t exist as much around the world. You’ve, you’ve got that information in the podcast from the Royal Commission, and in the U.K. and South Africa, they had something called RDR, which is the Retail Distribution Review, which basically took out commissions.
Kate: And so that’s something that we’re seeing around the world. One of the things that I didn’t know, I mean I just never thought about it before I worked at FPSB, was that the heads of the regulators of every country in the world get together for annual conferences. So the head of the SEC, FINRA, ASIC in Australia, the FCA in the U.K., you name it. I was privileged to go to a couple of those conferences and you realize, “Oh, all the regulators are talking to each other.”
Kate: So it’s possible that the SEC, FINRA, whatnot, could be looking around going, “Okay, there is this global shift towards getting rid of commissions or changing the structure of commissions.” And that’s why I think it’s so important that advisors, regardless of what sort of fee structure you’re in or whether you work for a small practice or a bank, understand what could happen if those regulatory changes came to the U.S., and are aware, and I think listening to a podcast like this is perfect, are aware of, “Okay, what’s my plan B?” My husband always jokes about no matter what is going on in life, always have a plan B. And I think about that a lot with advisors as well.
Hannah: Are you seeing the trend then going to more of this assets under management or like a monthly retainer, or are there other business models that we haven’t seen in the U.S. that are out there?
Kate: I would say the biggest trend is towards the monthly retainer, which is nice to see, and that’s still, I think pretty split between those that charge a separate AUM fee versus those that have AUM fee included. Or like I did in my practice, I only advised on investing the assets, but there was no fee for that anywhere. I walked clients through how they could execute those trades and take control of their portfolio.
Kate: But from what I’m seeing, yeah, I’d say the retainer model is the most common because I think the nice thing about that is especially with our generation, it’s really around the desire to build that relationship with the clients. I think all over we’re moving away from these transactional situations, and again, it’s towards that life planning. It’s towards really focusing more on your dreams, your goals, your desire, and not so much on just stocks, investments, and graphs and charts.
Hannah: I know you’ve said that U.S. is very much viewed as the leader in this space. And one of the things when I look at just where we’ve come in 50 years, one of the absolute most impressive things to me is our university programs. How we have so many. There’s over like 250 CFP Board registered programs. It’s just insane to me how many universities are now teaching financial planning. Is that a trend internationally or is that only in the U.S.?
Kate: I’d say especially when it gets up to like the PhD level, I haven’t seen that happening anywhere else. One of the big things is, depending on when the CFP certification program started in a country, a lot of the… not a lot, maybe half or so, of what would be the equivalent of CFP Board. So the country level certification organization, a number of them, they do the education part. That was necessary because you’re not going to have universities that understand at all. But that’s about half and half. There are a number of them where they do have all of the CFP certification education through universities. Often it’ll go through sort of their business programs. But I’m not seeing it really at the master’s or PhD level yet.
Hannah: One of the things that we’re struggling with is clear career paths and how people enter into the profession. How is that around the world? What are you seeing around the world related to that?
Kate: Not to bring up Andre again, but that’s another thing that I loved about his story. I told him I want to have him on another episode just to talk about how he has built up his practice to have 60 financial planners and managing 5,000 families. That’s not something that I’ve seen anywhere else in the world, including in the U.S. So, thinking about, okay, he’s got this perfect practice. He’s all-in on continual education. He’s got his own Life Academy for training financial planners in Brazil, just really dedicated to constantly bettering the profession.
Kate: And that’s admittedly the practice that I wanted to build when I first started out. I ended up going down a different path, but I think that’s so key is to have those practices that do want to build. I think we’re seeing a lot, and I think I kind of ended up the same way, of advisers our age, a lot of them that I talk to don’t actually have a desire to build a big practice. That’s perfectly fine. They get their clients, they sort of figure out what their capacity is, and build a really great life, which is awesome because that’s also what they’re helping their clients work towards. So it’s good to kind of say, “Hey, I’m actually living what I am coaching and advising you on.”
Kate: But it’s still a lot of times more along the go into a bank and start out or go into a larger firm. I don’t know that I’m seeing as much. I know in the U.S., I think the biggest entry for CFP professionals now is through call centers.
Hannah: Yeah. Isn’t that crazy?
Kate: Yeah, I mean it makes a lot of sense, and I can see how it can be a good way of starting out. It’s kind of like that rapid fire way of learning, which I loved before I started Belmore. I actually specialized in going into companies and talking with employees one-on-one. I would schedule 30 minute sessions, so I could meet with like 16 different employees in one day. I had no idea what was coming at me. They would ask about trust and estate planning and insurance employee benefits, college savings, you name it. And I was like wow, that’s a really good way to make sure that your mind is staying active is to get those rapid fire questions.
Hannah: It is such a great training ground to really learn the ins and outs.
Kate: Yeah, it would be great if there were more ways of doing that. And I think again, like when I look at what I’m building with The Innovating Advice Show, I think I have not even begun to scratch the surface or nick the surface. I’m so excited to see what I end up discovering is happening around the world because as many people as I know, as many cool things as I’ve seen, I just have a feeling there is so, so much more, not only going on right now, but that is yet to come. Whether that’s on the technology side, it’s on how people are building practices, how they are creating those pathways for people entering the profession. I think the 2020s, I think we’re just going to see tons of great things happening in this profession all over the world.
Hannah: You know, it’s always struck me about financial planning is I’m like good ideas spread.
Kate: Having technology podcasts I think are a great platform. I talk with some people and they’re like, “Oh, only people in the U.S. or developing markets listen to podcasts.” No, they’re listening all over the world.
Hannah: Yeah, I have stats that show that, yep.
Kate: Right? They’re listening in from everywhere. So the fact that we can get these stories out there and motivate people in a way that we really couldn’t even five or 10 years ago, the platform wasn’t that big or YouTube, you name it, but getting information out to people and being able to connect people is another big thing. Even how lonely I felt when I started my practice. I was in Seattle, there are tons of advisors in Seattle, but before I met everyone at FPA NexGen, I felt like I was alone on an island.
Kate: And now, there’s so many people out there, and I would say, I do feel like it’s a lot of our generation, the XY generation that is so, so willing to share. You can reach out to people, happy to hop on 10, 20, 30 minute conversation. The collaboration that’s happening is so encouraging for the growth of the profession.
Hannah: The more our profession grows, the more people are helped and that’s really what’s important. We just had somebody on the podcast recently who talked about his whole goal is like to help and heal. If we can do that for people, the more we can grow our profession, the more the larger impact we can have in the U.S. and in the world in general.
Kate: And I honestly can’t imagine we’re going to see in our lifetime where we actually have enough, I’m going to call them true financial planners to be able to help everyone in the world that is even open to helping. Once we continue to get the positive message out there to clients that it’s not about selling products or collecting assets under management, the actual power of financial planning, people are going to be reaching out, and needing and wanting that everywhere.
Hannah: So you’ve talked a couple times about developing countries, and so I’m curious the themes that you’ve seen from developing countries to developed countries and is that planning process, how does that change within it or maybe it doesn’t at all?
Kate: It does a little bit. I would say the biggest thematic changes are in developed countries, say U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, they’ve got the process there, they’ve got all of the education that you need, they’ve got training, they’ve got a community built up. In a lot of cases, they’ve got technology that can help. And when you go more to the developed countries, and it doesn’t even have to be economically developing, just when we think about the financial planning profession, there aren’t all of those resources available.
Kate: So for example, I spoke at a conference in the mountains in Bulgaria a couple of years ago, and there were, I don’t know, 75, what do they call them? Like financial consultants. So basically they all wanted to be financial planners, and it was like a weekend long time. So I got to talk with people throughout the weekend, and they were all like, “How can I do this? I want to do this.”
Kate: But again, that’s where you need someone to take the reins and be the innovator in that country to figure out what does it look like, how does it fit in with the regulatory scheme, and that that can be one of the challenging things. Even when I started my practice, I was in Seattle, the state of Washington had no idea what to do with me because they’d never encountered someone that was just charging a monthly fee by credit card. So that was even challenging back then.
Kate: And if you think about countries where they don’t have a regulatory scheme that would necessarily prevent it, but it also doesn’t encourage it, if that makes sense. So that’s where it can be a little more challenging. But that’s where I think as the world, I don’t have to know that it can get much smaller honestly. Traveling the way I have, the world is pretty small.
Kate: If you think about the practice of financial planning, I don’t know, I’d say 70% of it is global. The only things that really change are what can you invest in, how does your insurance work, how do your taxes work, your estate planning, and then what are your employee or government benefits? But that’s more like on the technical side. It’s really I think the actual practice of financial planning is and can be pretty darn consistent around the world.
Hannah: With your global perspective that you’ve gained, what do you see as the future of financial planning?
Kate: Really continuing down this life life planning perspective. I’m curious to see what continues to happen with all of the… I don’t like the term robo-advisors, like digital investment platforms, because too many of them aren’t really providing advice. But I think it’ll be curious to see what happens with that because in a lot of developing countries, that’s where people are starting to become introduced to maybe even the concept of financial advice. That’s where I think we’re really seeing a lot more of this leapfrogging happen.
Kate: I was in Poland a couple of years ago, and that was such an interesting perspective on leapfrogging. They never had landlines. So you know, home telephones never existed in Poland. They went straight from no phones to everybody having mobile phones.
Kate: So if you think about that in terms of what that could mean for other areas of technology, what I call FP tech, financial planning technology, it’s tremendous. And so many of these places that we wouldn’t necessarily think of that are doing incredible things with technology. Kenya is a huge one, might not be the first place that comes to mind. In Israel, they’ve got a massive fintech environment there. Poland, they’ve got a ton of fintechs popping up there.
Kate: I know a lot of those are still focused on cryptocurrencies and Bitcoins, and just mobile payment processing, but I think we’re going to see an uptick in getting more into the cashflow, the projections, and starting to introduce some of the great technology that we see exist for financial planners in the U.S. and a few other developing countries.
Hannah: Well, thank you so much for joining us, Kate, and everybody listening, be sure to check out her podcast Innovating Advice. It’ll be live by the time this airs?
Kate: It will be yes, launched with six episodes on Tuesday, February 25th, and there will be new episodes at least every Tuesday and Thursday. And I’ve already got a few bonus episodes lined up. I have a whole week long special lined up that Hannah, you are going to be a part of.
Hannah: I’m excited.
Kate: Awesome. Thank you so much, Hannah. This is great.