What do Generic Financial Planners Do?

We launched in 2012, but our roots go back a lot further.

Business Development

We launched in 2012, but our senior team has been ever-present in the UK financial advice market for more than 40 years. You may remember us heading up investments for HSBC, RBS Group, Santander, or what is now Royal London, or perhaps when we headed up one of the UK’s largest adviser networks, Berkeley Independent Advisers, now part of Tenet Group.

Adviser Network Heritage

The Academy of Life Planning originated from Chorley Financial Services, which started as an appointed representative of Sense Network, regulated and registered by the Financial Services Authority. It was launched in April 2012. By being an appointed representative of a vast adviser network, they gained a unique perspective on the industry.

Advice-only Transition

In 2013, we changed our name and transitioned into a generic financial planning service. Over the following six years, we operated under the Academy of Life Planning while also providing financial intermediation through a directly regulated, independent firm. However, by 2019, financial intermediation had become a relatively small aspect of our services. Consequently, we decided to retire our role as intermediaries, allowing us to focus entirely on generic financial planning.


Coach & Trainer

For more than three decades, we have provided coaching and training to tens of thousands of customer-focused financial planners and intermediaries. In 2020, we made coaching and support our primary business by establishing the Academy of Life Planning as a network for Generic Financial Planners.

Academy members deliver remote generic advice, financial education, financial planning, and life planning to clients worldwide, online, via data-sharing applications, real-time messaging, and video telephony systems.


Ten Reasons Why We Are Different:


The service we deliver is different from any other service you will find because:

  1.  We are generic financial planners. That means we do not intermediate between our clients and the providers of financial products. We do not sell, provide, or manage financial products. We have no agency agreements with product providers. We sell plans, not products. There is a wall between planning and product. We do this to preserve market integrity and avoid conflicting interests. The result is a plan you can trust. We believe this is the future for financial planning.
  2.  We are life planners. That means we plan our client's life before looking at the money. We treat our clients as customers, not their money. What is essential is not what you can do for your money but what your money can do for you.
  3.  We are multi-dimensional financial planners. That means we look at wealth in every area of our client's life: mind, body, heart, spirit, and bank account. It is no use being so poor; all you have is money. It is no use being rich at heart and poor at the bank. What you need is wealth in every area of your life. This ensures you live longer and better.
  4.  We use lifetime cash flow forecasts. That means we use our Financial Freedom Forecaster to help our clients look at scenarios that ensure they will not outlive their capital. We make this available 24/7 to our clients via our exclusive wealth app, HapNav.
  5.  We are values-based advisers; For our clients to live values-driven lives. Because every pound our clients spend is a decisive vote for the change they want to see in the world. We work respectfully and sensitively with different values and perspectives. Our approach is people-centric rather than money-centric and respects diversity and the planet.
  6.  We focus on money management and creation. No financial service or product creates wealth; they manage it. They save money you have already made. However, a minority of advisers may falsely claim otherwise. Our clients create wealth through their entrepreneurial spirit and meaningful projects. What goes into our cashflows is not just asset strategies but wealth creation strategies with a business plan for your business.
  7.  We act as fiduciaries. We undertake an oath to put our clients' best interests first.
  8.  We offer a fixed fee service and help you save costs. That means we are paid simply for our work; we cut out all hidden incentives and conflicts of interest and cut out unnecessary intermediaries.
  9.  We help our clients to stay safe and avoid scams. We are like our client's personal financial bodyguards.
  10.  We help our clients to recover lost or stolen assets from past mistakes.



No muddling the financial planning relationship with product sales


As the world plans towards a post-pandemic new normal for life and money, we are your go-to experts for global online life and money planning without muddling the financial planning relationship with product sales.


At the Academy of Life Planning, we provide global generic financial planners and their firms with all the advice, resources, and support they need to run a successful future-ready planning business.


By placing a wall between planning and product, we removed the burden of regulation. The plan can then be delivered affordably and profitably, whilst you free work from anywhere.


Whether you are a consumer or adviser, you can book an hour online consultation with Steve Conley by visiting our SHOP.


Life Plans are Financial Plans for Life.


Since 2012, the Academy of Life Planning Limited has offered comprehensive financial planning services and personal wealth management information direct to hundreds of clients and their planners across various sectors online using video conferencing - with a difference!


Generic: Our clients trust us because we never sell products. There are excellent online investment products - for example, a broadly composed portfolio of stocks - available to you direct - you don't need to lose a chunk of your life savings to a financial intermediary. We cut out the middlemen by offering financial planning, generic advice, and financial education without intermediation.


Multi-dimensional: Personal wealth is not what you have in your bank account. Our service puts the financial architecture in place to support goals in every area of your life; Mind, Body, Heart, Spirit & Bank Account. This helps you to live longer and better.


Values-based: We work respectfully and sensitively with different values and perspectives for you to live a values-driven life. Our approach is people-centric rather than money-centric and respects diversity and the planet. 


Who we are and how we operate.


What is a Fixed-Fee Generic Financial Planner?

A fixed-fee generic financial planner is a highly trained professional committed to working in the best interests of their clients. We serve our clients without muddling the financial planning relationship with retail financial intermediation.


We operate to high standards in the field of financial planning. We undertake a fiduciary oath and observe a code of ethics.


What we do NOT do

  •  Offer financial service products, such as funds, pensions, or bonds.
  •  Undertake financial services activities.
  •  Offer or carry out regulated activities (in the UK, activities specified by the Regulated Activities Order 2001).
  •  Provide financial services, investments, or consumer credit.
  •  Offer loans, car financing deals, or consumer credit.
  •  We are not a bank, credit union, insurance firm, consumer credit firm, investment firm, benchmark administrator, payment service or e-money firm, or an "automated" (product sales) advice and guidance model provider.


Our Fiduciary Oath


"I shall support my client in planning their life before they plan their finances. I shall not conduct any financial intermediation. I shall exercise my best efforts to act in good faith and in my client's best interests. I shall provide written disclosure to my client before and after the engagement of any conflicts of interest which will or reasonably may compromise my impartiality or independence. I, or any party in which I have a financial interest, do not receive any compensation or other remuneration contingent on my client's purchase or sale of a financial product. I will fully disclose in advance any fee or other compensation from another party based on the referral of a client or the client's business."


Following the Fiduciary Oath means we shall:

  1. Always act in good faith and with honesty.
  2. Be proactive in disclosing any conflicts of interest that may impact a client.
  3. Not accept any referral fees or compensation contingent upon purchasing or selling a financial product.


Our Code of Ethics

  1. Objectivity: We strive to be as unbiased as possible in providing our clients with general advice and financial education, and we practice on a fixed-fee basis.
  2. Confidentiality: We shall keep all client data private unless authorisation is received from the client to share it. We shall treat all documents carefully and take care when disposing of them. Relations with clients shall be kept private.
  3. Competence: We shall strive to maintain a high level of knowledge and ability. We shall attain continuing education. We shall not provide advice in areas where we are not capable.
  4. Fairness & Suitability: Dealings and recommendations with clients will always be in the client's best interests. We put our clients first.
  5. Integrity & Honesty: We will always endeavour to take the high road and be mindful of the potential for misunderstanding in everyday human interactions. We will diligently keep actions and reactions so far above board that a thinking client or another professional would not doubt our intentions. In all actions, we are mindful that in addition to serving our clients, we care about building a generic financial planning profession, which reflects this.
  6. Regulatory Compliance: We will strive to maintain conformity with legal regulations.
  7. Full Disclosure: We shall fully describe our compensation method and potential conflicts of interest to clients.
  8. Professionalism: We shall always professionally conduct ourselves. This involves integrity, honest treatment of clients, and treating people with respect.


It is all part of our mission.


Our Mission

To provide fixed-fee generic personal financial plans and planning services for our clients.


Our Values

We live by three important values:

  1. To be the beacon for independent, objective generic financial planning for individuals and families.
  2. To be the champion of financial services delivered in the public interest.
  3. To be the standard-bearer for the emerging profession of generic financial planning.


Our Standards

We meet the following standards and continue to abide by such standards:


1. Fixed-fee generic financial planner

We are compensated solely by the client, with neither ourselves nor any related party receiving compensation contingent on purchasing or selling a financial product. We do not receive commissions, rebates, awards, finder's fees, bonuses or other forms of compensation from others due to a client's implementation of our planning recommendations.


2. Prohibition of specific ownership interests and employment relationships

We, or a party related to us, do not own any interest in or are employed by a financial services industry firm that receives commissions, rebates, awards, or any form of compensation contingent on purchasing or selling a financial product.


3. Compliance with industry regulations

We agree to comply with all statutes, rules, regulations, administrative and judicial rulings, and other authorities applicable to the provision of financial planning or advisory-related services.


4. Prompt notification of certain disciplinary and legal events

We have a continuing obligation to inform our clients, in a prompt manner and in writing, of significant disciplinary and legal events. These events include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Any disciplinary inquiry or proceeding initiated by any civil or criminal authority or regulatory body, including any inquiry or proceeding relating to the firm with which we are associated.
  • Any disciplinary inquiry or proceeding initiated by a credentialing or membership organisation or authority to which we are subject; and
  • Any bankruptcy, receivership, or other types of assignment or arrangement for the benefit or protection of our creditors or about any entity in which we hold an interest of 5% or more.



"Related party" means a business colleague or family member with whom we share income or economic benefits. A related party may include, but is not limited to, a business partner or an officer or Director of our business, a spouse, parent, dependent minor child, an adult child still residing in the home, or other dependents.


"Financial services industry firm" includes any entity or individual that offers any financial service, e.g., securities broker or dealer, investment adviser, asset manager, investment company, banking institution, savings institution, trust company, mortgage bank, credit union, savings and loan association, insurance broker or dealer or agent, real estate broker or agent, commodities broker or dealer or agent.


“Generic Financial Planner” means a Financial Planner who is neither a Financial Adviser (see below - advising on the suitability of particular investments for specific clients) nor a Financial Intermediary. The generic financial planner provides information, guidance, general advice, financial planning, and financial coaching on a fixed-fee basis. The general financial planner is a highly trained professional, operating to high standards and committed to working in the best interests of their clients.


"Related party" means a business colleague or family member with whom we share income or economic benefits. A related party may include, but is not limited to, a business partner or an officer or Director of our business, a spouse, parent, dependent minor child, an adult child still residing in the home, or other dependents. 


"Financial services industry firm" includes any entity or individual that offers any financial service, e.g., securities broker or dealer, investment adviser, asset manager, investment company, banking institution, savings institution, trust company, mortgage bank, credit union, savings and loan association, insurance broker or dealer or agent, real estate broker or agent, commodities broker or dealer or agent.


“Intellectual Property Rights” (IP) means patents, rights to inventions, copyright and neighbouring and related rights, trademarks, business names and domain names, goodwill and the right to sue for passing off or unfair competition, design rights, database rights, rights to use and protect the confidentiality of, confidential information (including know-how and trade secrets) and all other intellectual property rights, in each case whether registered or unregistered and including all applications and rights to apply for and be granted, renewals or extensions of, and rights to claim priority from, such rights and all similar or equivalent rights or forms of protection which subsist or will subsist now or in the future in any part of the world.


“Plan” is typically any diagram or list of steps with details of timing and resources used to achieve an objective to do something. It is commonly understood as a progressive set of intended actions through which one expects to achieve a goal.


“Planning” is the process of producing the plan. It is the process of deciding in detail how to do something before you start to do it. It involves deciding beforehand what is to be done, when it is to be done, how it is to be done and who will do it.


A “Life Plan” is a document containing a person’s current life situation and short-term and long-term life goals, and strategies to achieve those goals.


“Life Planning” is the process of producing a life plan. It is the process of taking a comprehensive look at your life situation and building a specific life plan to reach your goals.


A “Life Planner” will produce your life plan for you. Any firm or individual can provide life plans to retail investors.


“Financial Planning” is taking a comprehensive look at your financial situation and building a specific financial plan to reach your goals. 


A “Financial Plan” is a document containing a person’s current money situation and short-term and long-term monetary goals, and strategies to achieve those goals.


A “Financial Planner” will produce a financial plan for you. Any firm or individual can provide financial plans to retail investors.


“Financial Life Plan” is a plan that combines a life plan and a financial plan. Proper financial planning involves planning your life before planning your finances. You have a plan for life and a plan for the financial architecture to support it.


A “Financial Life Planner” will produce your financial life plan. Any firm or individual can provide financial life plans to retail investors.


“Asset” contains your own economic value and/or future benefit. Strategies to achieve your financial life goals may also involve the creating, maintaining, exchanging, buying, or selling of assets. Assets can be tangible and intangible. Tangible assets include property, pensions, financial, business, and physical assets. Intangible assets include intellectual property, social network, reputation, health, and vitality.


“Financial Assets” are positive cash bank balances, savings, or financial products, such as shares, bonds, funds, some types of insurance, and personal pensions.


“Financial Product” is an instrument in which a person can either: make a financial investment (for example, a share), borrow money (for example, credit cards, loans, or bonds), or save money (for example, term deposits). 


“Regulated Activities” are activities specified by regulations in the UK by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001 (RAO).


“Regulated Financial Products” in the UK are financial products regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You can buy or sell your own regulated financial products with providers directly.


“Unregulated Financial Products” are not regulated by the FCA. In general, unregulated financial products are unsuitable for retail investors. They are designed for institutional and sophisticated private investors. FCA rules prohibit the sale of unregulated financial products to retail investors.


“Financial Intermediary” (or distributor) is the middle person between you and the financial services industry firm. Intermediation is a Regulated Activity. Only a firm authorised by the FCA can distribute regulated financial products to retail investors.


“Financial Adviser” is a person whose job is to provide personalised financial advice to you on a one-to-one basis. Advice and intermediation are not the same things. Most financial advisers are also financial intermediaries. Most financial intermediaries are also financial advisers. It is possible for a financial adviser not to be an intermediary (non-sales adviser) and vice-versa (non-advice distributor or agent). A non-sales adviser would give you advice but then ask you to buy or sell your own financial products. Financial Advice is a Regulated Activity. Only a firm authorised by the FCA can give advice, recommendation, or an opinion, on the buying or selling specific regulated financial products to retail investors.


“General (or Generic) Advice” is a term the FCA uses to refer to advice rather than mere information. Still, it is not regulated because, although it relates to investments, it is not about the merits of buying or selling a particular investment. If a client is advised to buy shares in the oil sector or shares with exposure to a particular country, this would be deemed generic advice because it does not relate to a specific investment and is therefore not regulated. Likewise, providing advice on buying shares rather than debt would be considered generic and is not regulated. General advice can be given to groups of people, as there is no personal recommendation. General advice about financial planning is also not a Regulated Activity. Any firm or individual can provide general advice to retail investors.


“Information” is the knowledge you get about someone or something: facts or details about a subject. Providing information is presenting data in a way that has meaning to the recipient. To turn data into information, it must be processed and organized. 


“Provision of Financial Information” includes giving facts about the performance of investments, the terms and conditions of investment contracts, the price of investments, or a comparison of the benefits and risks of one investment compared to another. The information does not involve regulated advice if the investor is left to exercise their own opinion on the action to take. However, the circumstances in which information is provided can make it regulated advice. For example, if the information is provided on a selected rather than balanced basis so that it influences or persuades, the FCA said this may be regulated advice. If, for instance, share price information is given in circumstances that suggest that the firm is communicating that it is an excellent time to sell, then what appears to be the provision of information may be financial advice. Financial Information can be given to groups of people, as there is no personal recommendation. The provision of Financial Information is not a Regulated Activity unless it is provided to promote a Regulated Activity. Any firm or individual can provide financial information to retail investors.


“Financial Advice” is a one-to-one service that recommends a specific course of action based on consumers’ individual circumstances and goals.  Firms often use the term ‘advice’ to mean a personal recommendation of what you should do. For example, a recommendation to buy or sell a particular investment. The recommendation is personal to you. It is given on a one-to-one basis. It will be based on your own specific circumstances and your financial objectives. It must be suitable advice. Only a firm authorised by the FCA can provide this kind of advice.


“Financial Guidance”’ is a much broader term than ‘advice’ and includes more general information about financial products. It can include information about different investments or general principles for you to consider when investing. It will not recommend a specific course of action to you or give a personal recommendation about how you should invest. Guidance can help you understand the different investment options before deciding how to invest your money. Some people use it to narrow down their options before seeking advice. Guidance can be given to groups of people, as there is no personal recommendation. Any firm or individual can provide financial guidance to retail investors.


“Direct to Consumer” (D2C) is an e-commerce business model where products or services are sold directly to end customers without third-party retailers or wholesalers. It is relatively straightforward and typical for a retail investor to buy or sell low-cost, well-diversified retail investments from direct providers. This is made more accessible through general information, financial information, financial guidance, and financial planning. For the overwhelming majority of retail investors, third-party retailers or wholesalers can be an unnecessary additional expense in the retail investment market that is easily avoided.


“The overwhelming majority of retail investors are best served by readily understood, well-diversified and low-cost investments which are already available from a range of providers.” – Christopher Woolard, CEO FCA Sep 2020.


“Commoditisation” is a process in which a product or a service becomes so common that the consumers cannot differentiate between the different brands offering the product or the service. The critical effect of commoditisation is that it reduces the pricing power of the producer: if products become more alike from a buyer's point of view, they will tend to buy the cheapest. It is a generally accepted view that the retail investment market is commoditised.


“Generic Financial Planners” are financial planners who are not financial advisers or financial intermediaries. You may wish to use the service of a Generic Financial Planner where your assets are not financial assets, for example, a property landlord, a business owner, an occupational pension scheme member, or the owner of physical assets. You may wish to use the services of a generic financial planner where you use D2C platforms for your financial products. You can have the plan without the cost of advice or intermediation. Planning and advice are not the same things. Planning and intermediation are not the same things. Generic financial planners ask you to buy and sell your own financial products and will not advise you in this respect.


Many financial advisers do offer financial planning, but not all of them. Financial planning is not an FCA-regulated activity (unless it is provided to enter a regulated activity, such as advice or intermediation). Generic financial planners are not required to be regulated by the FCA. It is the conduct of Financial Advisers and distributors that the FCA must regulate.


Fixed-fee (or fee-only) is a fee-for-service charging basis. If a financial planner or financial advisor is fee-only, they receive compensation solely from the fees clients pay for their services. In other words, they do not earn commissions or kickbacks for recommending certain products. A fee-only structure reduces potential conflicts of interest, which is why these advisers are often preferable. Fees can be hourly, percentage-based, flat initial one-off charge, flat per session or number of sessions, or based on a simple flat retainer system per month. How fees are structured can affect the outcome.


Ad valorem (percentage-based) fees are a fee for financial assets under a management charging basis. The adviser or intermediary charges a percentage of the financial assets they manage. Percentage-based fees vary based on the value of the products, services, or property on which they are levied. Where fees are percentage-based, a transaction bias is created. The more assets they take under management, the more they are paid. Transaction bias is avoided if the fee is flat, retainer, or hourly based, such as those fees charged by pure financial planners.


“Subscription fee” is a fixed monthly retainer fee, like a gym membership or video streaming service.


“Value Add” is how much value the planner, adviser or intermediary adds compared to the fee they charge.  The service that creates the most value add is Financial Planning.



Our Activities


Here are some of the things generic financial planners do that add value to you.


Saving you time. Cutting through any jargon. Providing a clearer understanding of your choices. Calculating a financial target you can work towards. Validating a target that you’ve come up with yourself. Providing an expert explanation. Keeping you on track and aligned with your real-life goals. Removing the emotional pain or fear about a financial decision. Helping you manage your emotional baggage around money. Saving you tax. Saving you unnecessary charges. Saving you risk. Help you stop working longer than you must. Policing your financial service providers. Being your financial bodyguard. Avoiding scams. Avoid common behavioural biases that affect your decisions when investing. Having an expert on your side, without conflicts of interest. Helping you to live longer and better.


If your adviser claims they’re paid to “beat the market,” it may be time to re-evaluate the relationship. Because you might do better just using a D2C platform and putting your money into low-cost, well-diversified investments. There are plenty of good reasons to pay a financial professional to help you, but beating the market isn’t one of them. The evidence suggests it probably won’t happen. Some studies place the odds of your adviser beating the market after charges as one in twenty. SPIVA U.S. Year-End 2016 Scorecard (spglobal.com)


Please note: Some Financial Advisers or Financial Intermediaries may claim it is advice or intermediation that adds value. However, remember, it is a commoditised market. On closer inspection, you will find that virtually all examples of value-add come under financial planning rather than advice or intermediation. For example, picking stocks or timing markets does not add value. Saving you on charges, taxes, or bad decisions will add value. Take a closer look, and then you decide.


Financial Advisers and Financial Intermediaries struggle to add value for the price they charge in a commoditised market unless they add financial planning services. See How to Fund the Life You Want: What everyone needs to know about savings, pensions and investments, by Robin Powell and Jonathan Hollow.


Generic financial planners operating on a fixed fee, retainer, or hourly fee basis are becoming increasingly popular and necessary in a commoditised retail market and distrusted industry (See Edelman’s Trust Barometer). Mainly because a financial plan often does not involve buying or selling a retail investment product since short-term life goals (like improving your well-being) can’t be met with long-term investments.


A generic financial planner looks at total wealth. In contrast, a Financial Adviser or Financial Intermediary sells retail investments. Retail investments make up only five per cent of the wealth of Brits, source ONS Wealth & Asset Survey, UK. The whole financial picture is twenty times bigger.


The splits between the roles of planning, advice and distribution improve market integrity. It eliminates bias, and you can choose the services that add value.


Nine in ten adviser-distributors are paid on the volume of product they distribute (Ad Valorem fees. Source: FCA). You may request a fixed one-off fee if you require advice or intermediation. Removing financial incentives from the process removes transaction bias and strengthens trust.


If your adviser-distributor suggests their ongoing services, you should be aware that the most popular low-cost, well-diversified investments amongst advisers and consumers direct are auto-rebalancing. This means you buy and hold until your circumstances change. That means the most common investment you end up with from the adviser not only takes care of itself, but it is also the most popular fund you could have bought directly without them tapping into your assets for fees. Again, the value add comes from financial planning. (Source: AJ Bell Dec 2020).


“Financial Coaching” means providing regular one-on-one sessions with you to ‘coach’ performance improvements to meet goals mutually set by the coach and you, usually about achieving financial security. The focus is predominantly on mindset. Coaching is differentiated from counselling because coaches are not “experts." Instead, they provide encouragement and monitoring over advice and do so in a process primarily driven by you. A financial coach works to educate you on the basics of personal finance and build your financial literacy. Financial coaching helps you remove your emotional baggage around money. Financial coaches often charge a flat fee per session or month.  Financial coaching is not a Regulated Activity.


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