Aaron Zelman of MediBroker speaks to ifa’s Rachael Micallef about carving his own niche in the risk advice game
ASK AARON ZELMAN what his motto is and he’ll cite the Leyland Brothers. Not television, or muddy red Jeeps; rather, it’s the image of travelling cross-continent to answer questions that aligns with his vision of advice.
“I spend a lot of time on planes – there is a big focus here on seeing clients wherever they are, including regional locations,” Mr Zelman says.
“So, the Leyland Brothers who travelled all over the countryside is kind of my motto.”
It’s an unusually proactive approach, but what this young entrepreneur is really trying to do with his risk advisory practice, MediBroker, is carve out his own, independent piece of the industry pie.
In a financial world in which consolidation is growing more and more common, it’s something Mr Zelman believes is becoming increasingly important.
“Where an institution has an interest in a business, a higher than average percentage of business goes towards that product provider or that institution,” Mr Zelman says.
“That’s just the trend and I want to buck that trend … because as a consumer, I wouldn’t want my advisers to be influenced in that way.
“I think it gives my clients great comfort when I tell them there is no institutional ownership influencing my advice at all.”
MediBroker, an advisory firm for doctors, embodies the same ‘outside the box’ thinking that Mr Zelman says has punctuated his career in financial services; an industry he was drawn to after securing a graduate position at the ANZ bank in 2001.
While he started in financial planning, Mr Zelman says it was his personal connection to risk insurance that ended up making the decision for him.
“The real catalyst for me was that I have diabetes, so I really struggled to get insurance myself,” he says.
“The more I struggled, the more I wanted to learn about insurance and solve those same problems for others.
“I moved on to the private bank at ANZ and, again, the risk insurance side of things was the most appealing to me out of everything.
“At the time, I did a Masters in financial planning and CFP qualifications and although I found it interesting, I just loved risk,” he adds.
Mr Zelman spent four years at ANZ before moving to a firm within the Apogee dealer group, where he worked for eight years. The possibility of doing things ‘his way’, however, was never far from his mind.
In 2012, he started his own business, LifeScope Advice, and recently refined the focus of his practice further, through its rebranding as MediBroker.
“It’s not quite ‘now or never’, but the timing was right,” Mr Zelman says. “I really just wanted to do things my way. I’ve got a young family, so I thought if I don’t do it now, when will I do it?”
MediBroker’s unique focus has been developed over the past seven years, and is based on Mr Zelman’s work with medical practices and his realisation of how often doctors walked through the doors of the advice business for which he was working.
“Doctors are exposed to unique risk … I’ve made a real point to learn that and find solutions to problems that doctors don’t even realise they have,” Mr Zelman says.
“The primary thing is that many of them are procedure-orientated,” he explains. “They are reliant on their health, their physical dexterity, the use of their hands, their cognitive abilities. They are very vulnerable to poor health, especially if they are self- employed.
“And if you dig deeper, a lot of polices don’t deal with issues as well as they might. With issues such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C, getting paid out in those events is often a really grey area.”
But it’s not just the niche focus of his practice that sets Mr Zelman apart.
In an industry within which innovation is key, Mr Zelman is making his own way through the social media landscape, including via the LinkedIn group Australian Risk Advisers.
The group started as a ‘hobby’, something Mr Zelman gets “a real personal buzz out of”, but now it has more than 2,000 members and has even spawned a personal development day.
He uses these same social media strategies in MediBroker to increase the level of client engagement.
“I’ll have client meetings and … rather than send them an email with a summary of everything we’ve discussed, I’m taking it to the next level and developing a video presentation,” Mr Zelman says.
It’s a summary of everything we’ve discussed, and I use diagrams to personalise the presentation and send it to the client.
“It speeds up the advice process, it speeds up trust and I get to where I need to be in the client process much quicker.”
In fact, Mr Zelman is so focused on this client engagement that he didn’t buy a client book when starting his own practice; rather, he is looking forward to building it up himself.
“I had a client meeting last week and I just didn’t feel the [prospective client] was appropriate,” he says.
“When you buy a book of clients, who knows how your relationship will be with them? When I meet a new client, I hope that I would actually be with them throughout our lives. We’ll be working together when they’re in their 60s and I’m in my 60s.”
Mr Zelman hopes he can continue to be selective with his services and focus on building long-term relationships with the clients with whom he chooses to work.
“That’s my real goal – that the business is referral-worthy,” he says. “If there are too many people for me to service in the firm, then we can continue to be really selective.
“I guess in 10 years’ time, I’d love to have clients who continue to be satisfied with the service – so satisfied that they’re happy to refer other people. That’s when I’d say I’ve achieved true success.” «
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