When Simonne Gnessen founded Wise Monkey Financial Coaching in 2002 she was clear in her mind what she wanted to achieve. Stepping away from her role as a traditional fee-based financial adviser, she wanted to create a new type of service focused on a collaborative approach that empowers clients in money matters. Her three part mission statement has stood the test of time.
“The first part involves demystifying the world of finance,” she explains. “Whether that be drawing pictures or explaining the difference between pensions and ISAs through metaphors.”
“Dissecting the emotions, stress and anxiety that surround our relationship with money” is also an important focus of her work. Feeling that most advisers avoid tackling the complicated relationship between an individual’s financial state and their mental health, her company’s programme is designed to educate clients with a view to building their confidence.
Finally, Wise Monkey’s coaches try to “help people achieve what is most profoundly important to them in their lives.” Sessions include a questionnaire that tables a number of big questions, including ‘how will you know you got everything you wanted?’ The aim is to fully understand the client’s needs before arming them with the knowledge and focus to achieve their end goal.
Having experienced life as a pension consultant, financial actuary and financial adviser before setting up Wise Monkey, Simonne was keen for her company not to indulge in the same bad habits that she felt hampered her industry. “The industry in 2002 was commission based,” she explains, “even now most advisers are working under a model which is not a million miles away from commission. You’re being rewarded on the number of assets you manage.”
She was also frustrated that many financial advisers would cherry-pick wealthy clients and serve them with big consultation fees while ignoring those with smaller savings.
“Most would turn away someone with £30,000 and a pension, most advisers aren’t interested in that type of client. So I set myself apart from the traditional and put myself in an unregulated environment.”
She adds, “I wanted to be able to make it affordable for more people and also to reach people who wouldn’t normally seek financial advice; people who got themselves into a muddle financially and didn’t have the resources to work with a financial adviser but still needed help and guidance.”
Wise Monkey charges £240 for a two-hour session (£260 for couples) and does not work on commission. It actively encourages anyone to approach them regardless of income. On her price structure, she says financial coaching should be “like going to the hairdressers; you just pay for what you need.”
Ultimately, Simonne wants clients to feel comfortable expressing their vulnerability. Only by doing that and getting them to open up about what they really want is she able to guide them on the opportunities at their feet. “That’s why I moved away from the traditional side of things, to focus on the emotional,” she says.