A Monetary Planning CEO Discusses Funding Methods & Extra

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HOWARD CLARK-BURTON has worked in the financial planning industry for around 35 years, starting in the UK, and in Hong Kong from 1997. He’s currently the CEO of BMP Wealth, which formed here in 2018 and provides clients with investment strategies, cash flow analysis and more financial advice.

What have been some key factors in the company’s approach since you launched?

One thing for us from the start has been to embrace technology. Initially, companies like ours would have servers everywhere in the office; these days, it’s all in the cloud. In the old days, you might need three times as many administrators as now; today, the programs and algorithms automatically run cash flows for you, or they look at clients’ suitability reports and start producing templates much more quickly.

financial planning and investment strategies

By massively increasing our efficiency in this way, it lowers our costs – and that was another driver for us. We felt that the products available in the offshore markets – the “old school” stuff – were quite expensive. In advanced markets such as the UK, the US and Australia, on the other hand, there’s a drive to the bottom in terms of fees and where the value lies for clients.

There’s a classic quote, “How close to the wall are you?” Think of the wall as the market where your investment strategies are happening; you might make 10 percent growth in a year in that market, but further away from the wall is lots of space for middlemen: product providers, salespeople, dealers, stockbrokers. And each one takes a bit of money out – so, someone might have a portfolio that generates 10 percent, but they might end up only getting three or four percent.

Our idea was to shorten that distance and get closer to the wall – to reduce the fees for service that were having no impact on the client value. The 10 percent can then result in something closer to an eight percent return to the client, so it’s a much better deal.

What does your team look like?

We’ve always wanted BMP to have an emphasis on service culture. The old model for a company of this kind was to get as many financial advisors on board as possible. Instead, we have a greatly reduced number of advisors – our head count is quite small; only about 10 people – but the emphasis is on quality. And you can read all about the team on our website, from our chartered financial planner Jeanette, to Ian, our investment strategies manager, who has close to 40 years’ experience.

We’ve also got financial backing from two different sources of money, which is critical – one helps us focus on tactical weekly management and the other allows us to focus on much longer term strategic management. These two investors are really good for us and for what we want to achieve for clients.

What’s your financial planning philosophy?

It really focuses on what matters to clients – the rest of it we do in the background on behalf of them. But the key thing is to make sure that there’s enough money for a client for the rest of their lives, living the lifestyle of their choice. That’s our financial planning philosophy: we sit down with you, find out where you are today an you can see the numbers change – and with recent inflation woes this has required some honest conversations with clients around affordability; for example, maybe you need to consider retiring a little later or doing a little less; how much do you want to leave your heirs one day, and how much do you want to enjoy in retirement?

cash flow analysis

The technology helps us to provide a roadmap for the client with all our recommendations documented clearly, and with full disclosure of fees, and the client then decides what they want to do.

And that’s just the start – we then join the client on their ongoing financial journey, including through big life changes, from divorce to losing loved ones. All these things can have a considerable impact on finances.

We really wear three hats: the financial advisor hat, where we’re looking at all the products and investment strategies; the financial planner hat, where we deal with cash-flow analysis and future plans; and the coaching hat, where we help people get through challenges. In the old days, it was all just the one hat – that of financial advisor, with a very sales-driven approach. It’s very different now.

What are the most common reasons clients come to you for financial assistance?

People don’t really have “going to a financial advisor” as part of their thought process until they have a need. And that need might arise because they are just arriving in Hong Kong, or getting married or starting a family; perhaps they’ve decided to leave HK, or they may have just inherited a big lump sum and are wondering what to do with it.

Other times, a person will know one of our existing clients who tells them that we’re doing a good job and suggests talking to us. That person then goes to our website and they see our approach laid out very clearly, including the aforementioned individual profiles of the whole team, and they get in touch.

We never go out and try to just get a client for the sake of having another client. Again, it’s a journey and a two-way process – we need to work together. But it generally begins with a need on the part of the client.

When it comes to financial planning, what characteristics are important in an advisor?

I would say integrity, experience and knowledge (and, of course, personality!). It comes back to the three hats I mentioned: financial advisor, financial planner and life coach. Those three roles reflect integrity, experience and knowledge respectively.

I read a book many years ago that said a good financial advisor is worth his weight in gold – the problem is there are so many not-so-good financial advisors who are like dirt surrounding the nugget of gold. The challenge clients have is to find those nuggets. They can be hard to find, but they are there – and we’re not the only ones; there are others around.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence in this industry. I’ve previously worked for companies that are sales driven, where you look at a client and determine how much commission is on the table. In a service-driven environment like ours, you look at the clients to see if they are achieving their financial goals – all of the things I’ve been talking about here. Our clients know that someone will call them up, not to sell them something but actually to advise them and work through challenges. It’s a big difference.

In January, BMP Wealth won an International Adviser award for Excellence in Investment Planning for 2023 (covering all of East Asia). This marks the second consecutive win for the company in the category, and their fourth International Adviser award in three years.

BMP Wealth is at 5/F, Dina House, Ruttonjee Centre, 3-11 Duddell Street, Central.
3975 2878 | info@bmpwealth.com
bmpwealth.com


This article about gaining professional advice about investment strategies, financial planning and cash flow analysis first appeared in the Winter 2023/2024 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!



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