Many people spend a lifetime building up assets such as their home, bank savings and a selection of investments in mutual funds. They may set themselves broad financial goals but spend very little time organising them in a properly co-ordinated fashion. But Ian Henderson, chief partnerships distribution officer for Prudential, believes that just three or four hours a year spent with one of the company's financial planning managers can result in long-term peace of mind and financial security. The starting point is a professional assessment of the needs and risk profile which an individual or family is happy to adopt. 'The most important aspect is making sure the client's wishes are the priority and to put in place strategies that will provide what he or she wants. The emphasis of the client relationship is always on meeting expectations and objectives by providing options and solutions based on Prudential's experience and extensive range of insurance and investment tools,' Mr Henderson said. The company's financial planners and customer relationship managers receive extensive training to help clients prioritise their financial goals, evaluate needs and review investment strategies. Cynthia Yu, district sales manager for Prudential's partnership distribution department, likened sound financial planning to having a healthy lifestyle. She said the first step was to identify a client's specific objectives. Short-term goals covering the next five years might include getting married or buying a new car; the medium-term plan could be to buy a home and start a fund for the children's college education; further ahead, there should be some provision for retirement and, perhaps, travel. 'Financial planners must be able to explain clearly what a client's options are, help them develop a financial plan, and meet the goals set out in the plan,' Ms Yu said. 'A key responsibility during this process is to determine a client's time horizons and risk tolerance.' When hiring, the company looks for strong interpersonal skills and the ability to interact with a spectrum of clients who have diverse financial requirements. Ms Yu said financial planners and customer relationship managers must be able to make the client feel at ease when talking about different aspects of their financial resources, obligations and expectations. After the initial process of establishing a plan and deciding on investment strategies, review meetings take place at least once a year to check that objectives are being met.