Finance Monthly

Chris Bearfoot

Award Winner

Chris Bearfoot

White Horse Financial Services

Personalised Financial Planning and Client-Centric Success

We're delighted to have Chris Bearfoot, the founder of White Horse Financial Services, with us today to discuss the evolution of his company and his unique approach to financial planning. Founded in 2008, White Horse Financial Services has become renowned for its client-centric approach, emphasizing personalised financial advice and long-term relationship building.


Chris, you first started White Horse Financial Services in 2008, what were your goals for the company and how have you achieved and gone beyond these with your success today?

From the outset, I wanted to be able to bring a personal approach to financial planning. Having worked for firms large and small, it always struck me as if it was the business owners' interests that were being put first rather than those of the most important people, the clients. I have been able to build a practice that relies on my clients trusting me and my having a close understanding of what they want to achieve with their finances and me being there over the long-term to see it through.

I'm now at the stage where I've been approached to take over other advisers' businesses as I am seen as a safe pair of hands to look after their clients when the advisers retire.

I guess as I'm still enjoying what I do for a living, and my clients still trust and rely on me, I must be doing something right!

You believe heavily in putting the client first and getting to know each one individually, how do you think this helps you as a company to deliver quality financial advice?

This is easy; if I don't understand why someone is investing and I mean really understand what their objectives and goals are then how can I properly advise and be confident that the advice I've provided is fit-for-purpose? And proper understanding doesn't develop overnight. Statements such as "I want to have a comfortable retirement" or "I don't want to take too much risk" are far too generic.

What does a good retirement mean? Travel? If so, Where? When, With whom? Round-the-world cruise or motorhome around Europe for 3 months at a time? All will have an impact on the money needed to support the choices.

And because life is never straightforward, knowing what someone's plans are and being on hand over the long-term means that I can keep my advice relevant.

What are some of the main mistakes people tend to make with later life finances and can you share with us what your top pieces of advice would be for our readers?

Often, people don't talk to their families and loved ones about death, inheritance or what to do if something were to happen to them. And they don't want to talk to an adviser either as, for many in this country, both money and death are taboo subjects. Leaving it until a problem actually arises can mean a loss of opportunities to plan and take advantage of ways to reduce tax, for example. And particularly with the rise in numbers of blended families, the items at the top of anyone's checklist ought to be a professionally drawn-up Will and both types of Lasting Powers of Attorney Ð one for Property & Finance and the other for Health & Welfare.
So my advice is: Don't put it off.

With your extensive experience in financial planning, what is it about later life planning that interests you so much and what made you seek a career in it to begin with?

As many of my clients aged, so did their needs change. I have helped them move from the world of having to work through pre-retirement periods where, perhaps, working a few days a week has been possible and then to full retirement. So much of the financial services world seems to be focused on people in earlier life stages Ð those with mortgages or needing life insurance or regular savings and the older clients are often treated less well. I once had a manager who, when I had carried out a review meeting with an older couple to make sure all was going according to plan, told me to "move on and find someone new to sell to". I took his advice, in a way. I did move on, but I went somewhere where this attitude wasn't the norm.

At the same time, I found that there was a lot of misinformation around the subject of care-fee planning. Despite holding the necessary regulatory qualifications for some years, there's no substitute for personal experience and I navigated the care system as first my father and then later my mother needed care. For most advisors, this sort of enquiry is just an occasional occurrence and I strongly believe that it is crucial that this type of advice is delivered by someone more expert in the field who is able to deliver advice and information in a way that is clear, correct and empathetic to the situation that the families are experiencing.

What are your plans for 2024 and what do you hope to achieve?

A couple of years ago, I reached Chartered Financial Planner status, often referred to by the profession as being the "gold standard", having been involved in a pilot scheme for the Personal Finance Society's Advising Vulnerable Clients module. I also received full Accredited Adviser status from the Society of Later Life Advisers as evidence that not only did I know my subject matter, but that I had the right set of skills to deliver the advice and had a supportive structure around me to ensure this was continued. I'd like to build on these and continue working with others in the legal and financial professions to improve access to good quality information and advice for clients and their families on later life matters.

And at the other end of the age range, to continue my volunteering work delivering Financial Literacy education sessions in schools.

Finally, what does this award mean to you personally?

I take this as a recognition that Later Life Advice is an area that deserves to be celebrated as a specialism in its own right and that it might perhaps encourage others to consider it as a career option.

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