What was the secret ingredient in your awards entry last year which you think gave you an edge?

I must admit that my motivation for entering the race in 2013 was to test my knowledge and skills against my peers and to be able to use the award as a way of promoting myself and my company.

The motive in 2020 was different.

It has always irritated me that we have never quite achieved parity of esteem with the other professions. Also, it struck me that the South Wales Steelworkers were a prime example of a group of people in vulnerable circumstances that had been exploited rather than being properly supported and advised. This served to dent the reputation of the profession that I am very proud to have worked in for the last 30 years.

Other professions have suffered disasters (e.g., Dr Shipman in medicine) but the difference is that, despite the very negative impact upon the people affected, the general population continue to trust the advice from their GP.

It is for others to judge as to what gave me the edge, but I had a very clear motivation to win the award because I wanted a platform to enable me to play a more significant role on evolving the profession into one that is recognised as a safe pair of hands.

How have you put winning the award to good use (e.g., highlighting it to current and potential clients)

My very first job, after winning the award, was to email Keith Richards setting out my thoughts on how we should embrace the issue of vulnerability and how I can help the profession evolve and eventually achieve parity of esteem. As it happens, I was pushing an open door and Keith immediately took steps to establish the independent Financial Vulnerability Taskforce with me as a founding member of the steering group – result!

Although difficult to quantify, winning the award in 2013 undoubtably raised my profile and enhanced the reputation of my firm, Matrix Capital Chartered Financial Planners. It may not be a coincidence that in 2014, NS&I awarded us an exclusive contract to advise the Premium Bonds £1m Jackpot winners.

What general tips can you offer anyone looking to enter this year?

Make sure you address the issues referred to and the questions posed in the award entry; and personalise your submission. Think about what the judges are looking for and make your submission interesting by perhaps highlighting something unique or different about you or your business.

Remember that all the entries will be good and the ones that are chosen as finalists will all be able to demonstrate the highest standards of professionalism.

Also, do not underestimate the difficulty of the case study stage if that applies to your entry.

Is there one top tip above all others?

If your submission stands out and you have been chosen as a finalist, make sure you prepare for the final stage panel interview.

The judges are looking for the one candidate that stands out from the rest, the one that has gone above and beyond the minimum requirements and someone who will be a strong advocate for the profession.

As we emerge from the pandemic why is now an excellent time to enter the awards?

It is very much a personal view, but many people have re-appraised their lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; and there is a much greater focus on the things that people really value.

We are entering a new chapter in the evolution of the profession and we are uniquely placed because of the trustworthy nature of the relationship that we have with our clients. The foundation of trust is establishing high standards of professionalism.

By entering the awards and being shortlisted, you demonstrate that you operate to the highest standards of professional practice. In the mind of the observer that equates to trust.

As a two-time winner (2013 and 2020) are there any lessons around longevity and staying relevant in a changing market which you could share?

I was a finalist in 2011 and 2012 before eventually winning the Chartered Financial Planner of the Year Award in 2013.

The interesting thing was that when I was not selected in 2011 and 2012, it made me realise that I was not the finished article and there is always more to learn. So, the lesson is to be always open to learning and innovating. If you enter and you do not happen to win the award, then use it as an opportunity to raise the bar.

As you will realise, not every member of the Personal Finance Society takes the time and trouble to enter; the mere fact that you have, sets you apart and you deserve applause.

Give it a go and I wish you well.

Robin Melley FPFS TEP

Chartered Financial Planner

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