Financial planning

Got a stash of cash and nowhere to put it? Then you need advice from James Thomas, the regional director at Acuma Independent Financial Advice. The money man gives us his top tips on finding the right financial advisor


The best person to manage your finances is yourself. But a financial advisor can help with your financial planning process – from working out where you are now and where you want to be in the future to implementing a plan to get you there.

First, decide what kind of financial advisor you require. A financial controller is a type of financial advisor who works on behalf of a company and its assets. An independent financial advisor is generally someone who is qualified and employed by a licenced and regulated company for that sole purpose.

You need some finances to be able to manage them, and the amount you have will determine the advice that you receive. If you have nothing, we will guide you on how to improve your situation and reach your goals. If you already have $10 million, say, you will require different advice about maintaining and growing your funds.

A good financial advisor can save you time and money. He or she will be up to date with the financial services industry and will be able to review and analyse your financial situation. They can also regularly monitor your personal circumstances.

A good independent financial advisor should deal with three generic principals. These are:

  • what would happen if you died before you have financial security
  • what would happen if you lived too long and your money runs out
  • what would happen if you get sick in the meantime

Defining what you need is crucial, and a good financial advisor will be able to establish what your needs are and refer you to other specialists if you need further assistance.

Choosing an advisor

In the same way that you would establish the validity of a doctor, check the professional status of your chosen financial advisor – they should be working for a licenced operation and be personally qualified to give you an opinion.

Review the available companies and see what licence they have. Once you have selected a company, go and meet the advisor in their office. This will allow you to get a feel of the company, how big it is, and how professional and established it is.

While these points are not essential to the quality of advice that you may receive, it will help put your mind at rest – and you can feel confident that you are dealing with a well-established company that will be around in the future.

When you get to the meeting, ask the advisor what qualifications they have and where and when they were obtained. There are a number of qualifications that an advisor can have and these can be obtained from the advisor’s home country.

Another important issue is experience. How long has the advisor been practising, and where? How long have they been in the Middle East? How much experience do they have in the region?

When the financial review gets under way, look at what issues are discussed. How are these presented to you? Like all industries, financial advice has lots of technical jargon that should be explained to you in an easy to understand manner. Do you understand all areas that are mentioned?

Another important issue is the records that the advisor takes. This is not essential, but if there is a dedicated document to record your information you will be able to refer back to it in the future to see why certain conclusions were reached.

Some financial advisors may recommend products. Are these recommendations given in writing? Will you be given a letter explaining why these particular products were recommended and what issue they should address? Again this should give you peace of mind about why the recommendations are being made, and you will be able to refer back to the documents in the future.

Finally, what is the review process? A good advisor will review their clients’ situation at least twice a year to make sure that their records are up to date and that your circumstances haven’t changed.

To summarise: everyone’s circumstances are different, and it is your financial advisor’s job to review and analyse your situation and present to you their findings in a clear and professional manner. To identify your needs and requirements request a review with a qualified financial consultant – one who works for a licenced company and who provides
a one-to-one service.

At the end of the day, trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, back off and get a second opinion to avoid potentially expensive mistakes. Do not feel pressured into signing up for something that you are unsure about.

Our contributor:
James Thomas, the regional director at Acuma Independent Financial Advice, 04 503 4740
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