Sunél's Blog | Conducting wealth: the art of orchestrating your financial life

Sunél Veldtman, | 19 April 2024

I love classical music and often marvel at the genius of Beethoven, Mozart, or Bach. To have written symphonies for more than twenty types of instruments, played by hundreds of musicians for anything up to ninety minutes, indicates brilliance and dedication. To conduct a modern orchestra and make these symphonies come alive, is an entirely different skill set.

The Oscar-nominated film, ‘Maestro,’ which chronicles Leonard Bernstein’s life, depicts the legendary conductor’s ability to lead an orchestra with a vision of what he wants to hear next; of being one step ahead, leading them to an understanding of what should come next to make the music come alive.

The best orchestras consist of the absolute best individual instrumentalists, yet few of those brilliant musicians can conduct, and fewer still will ever compose successfully.

Classical music illustrates how individual skill does not necessarily confer the ability to synthesize different skills into a more complex skill such as composing or conducting. An individual player could be brilliant at their art form yet be unable to conduct an orchestra. A conductor or composer is also not necessarily the best-performing artist. However, a conductor or composer needs to know enough about music and individual instruments to produce a symphony.

In the financial planning world, the same is true. Financial planners, like conductors or composers, must consider all the aspects of clients’ financial and life affairs to craft a plan. The financial planner must also know a broad range of regulations, practices, and study fields ranging from economics, investments, tax, and risk management. By synthesising their knowledge, skill, and experience and applying it to the client’s goals and needs, balance sheet, and income needs, the planner creates the best solutions for the client.

This way of looking at the client’s affairs holistically, while considering all the distinct aspects of financial planning, requires the ability to solve complex problems and a working knowledge of many different financial fields.

However, we often find that tax practitioners, accountants, or other financial professionals will weigh in as to the appropriateness of advice, from their specific perspective. Their perspective may be a valuable input, but it cannot be the only lens. It is like an instrumentalist ignoring the conductor – it will disturb the harmony.

As an example, a tax practitioner may consider a financial product to be appropriate from a tax perspective but it may not provide the ability to withdraw income in retirement. A product specialist can think that a global investment may protect against political risk, but it may not be suitable when investing in a trust. A financial planner must consider the holistic needs of the family to consider solutions.

The legal and fiduciary requirement to marry the complication of the environment to the circumstances of the client, asks the financial planner for a different level of oversight. This ability to handle complexity, and the experience gained over years, is what sets experienced financial planners apart. Experience of many different client scenarios over decades becomes a mental catalogue of workable solutions. In addition, we develop intuition about what will work for the people the solutions are meant for.

As someone who spent my initial years as a product specialist but has spent the last two decades as a financial planner, I can attest to the increasing complexity of our work as planners. Yet may write it off, and devalue this work.

I have seen first-hand, the value that holistic financial planning adds to our clients’ lives over decades.  Perhaps more valuable than the plan itself, is the peace of mind that I see it gives our clients.  They know that their solutions have been well considered and that we have worked through the complexity and put a workable long-term solution in place for them or their family.

Perhaps you need to ask yourself if your financial strategy and plan resemble a lone musician playing a single instrument, or an entire orchestra, conducted with skill, creating a symphony that makes your life come alive?

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Kind regards,