Firing Line: Duncan Glassey
Duncan Glassey, founder of Edinburgh-based Wealthflow, talks to Iona Bain about the life planning approach to financial advice and forging long-lasting relationships with his clients
When advisers talk about ‘holistic’ financial planning, they probably do not imagine discussing sex, health or how to lead a more exciting life with their clients.
If Duncan Glassey gets his way, advisers could be holding all manner of frank discussions from next year, helping clients understand what they really want out of life and setting financial goals that help them hold on to their happiness as well as their money.
The Scottish IFA believes the life planning approach, pioneered by American advisory firms, has been particularly eye-opening for his clients, most of whom have recently come into vast wealth and need more than just basic financial tips.
He said: “People who have just come into major wealth, whether it’s share options, divorce settlements or business sales, find it a very daunting situation and it can take some time for them to adjust.
“They really appreciate a broad conversation about their values, what they wanted to be remembered for in life and what they really want to do with their money, rather than just looking at saving tax or making more money. It’s a very subtle difference but it’s been very beneficial to them.”
It seems Mr Glassey’s vision is not just idealistic – it is a compelling business model, with the Scottish IFA overwhelmed by new clients eager to try his guru-like approach and no clients ever leaving the pastoral care of his Edinburgh-based firm, Wealthflow.
Such success has also been built on a fee structure which has been retail distribution review-compliant for the past five years. He said: “The changes we’re being faced with really just align themselves with the model I established five years ago.”
Mr Glassey charges a percentage on the funds recommended to clients that pays for the whole gamut of financial services he offers, from tax advice to insurance.
He said: “I don’t believe that initial upfront costs are the way to go. It’s all about a long-term relationship. We only deal with institutional fund managers who don’t pay commission and have very low, transparent fund structures. But it’s been difficult to find them.”
Mr Glassey believes most of the fund management industry has become bloated with high charges, so he insists on dealing with a select group that he thinks represent value for money.
He added: “For too long IFAs have been independent product salesmen. If you can be independent and unbiased, clients will seek you out and refer you to others.”
Certainly for those who have struck lucky on the Lottery, Mr Glassey has become one of the first men to call, often recommended by solicitors for his conscientious approach to big sums.
He said: “In the 1990s I worked for Ernst & Young which had a franchise for Camelot. My whole vision for holistic advice stems from that direct experience – when dealing with people who suddenly have a million pounds to play with, you have to go beyond the numbers. Ever since my objective has been to provide a service that focused on the client’s values and objectives. What do they actually want their life to look like?”