When Financial Design for Life’s (FDFL) general manager, Chris Browne, purchased a house last year, he vigilantly inspected the property, compiled his own reports and asked endless questions.
“Unless I was satisfied with all of the answers I was given, I didn’t proceed – and so I found I was no different to 27 year-olds or 34 year-olds,” Browne told ifa.
“Gen X and Ys ask lots of questions, they’re highly educated and they do their research, which most advisers find really frustrating.”
Previously a practice development manager at MLC, Browne set up his business in 2005 at the age of 27, after failing to find any suitable advisers to plan out his financial wealth as he prepared to take on a mortgage and start a family.
“It left a pretty bad taste in my mouth,” Browne says. “I felt the advisers wanted to talk with my parents about their high account balances, rather than with myself. And secondly, their fees were prohibitive, demanding thousands of dollars that we just didn’t have.”
In setting up his practice to specifically service his own age group, he was fortunate to buy a book of clients largely made up of under 40 year-olds.
“I’ve been asked why I bother targeting this market, as people speculate that this generation is hard to service and work with,” Browne says, admitting that they are needier than older clients. “But our team looks at it and thinks ‘they’re not doing anything that we wouldn’t do ourselves’. It also shows that they’re actually engaged in the process through their own research.
Financial Design for Life’s model is unique, as team members were employed with just five years’ experience as a minimum.
“It’s great to go down the path of young advisers but we do have an obligation to our clients, so we couple the youngest of our team with those with more experience,” Browne says.
For advisers hoping to service the Gen X and Gen Y market, Browne says some were not entering the space for the right reasons. “Advisers have come to me saying their business was dying because their clients were entering pension phase and consuming all of their wealth, but I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse to move into this market,” he says.
“You absolutely must want to service these clients. It can’t be a financial decision to grow your business; it’s got to be an emotional one. You know when someone’s doing it to make a buck instead of because they’ve got a passion for helping Gen X and Gen Y.
Financial Design for Life is now focused on achieving organic growth and acquisition plans, as part of its original business strategy.
“We’re looking to [expedite] what I want to achieve,” Browne says. “My second passion, beyond Gen X and Gen Y, is mentoring young advisers. Without the cash flow to actually hire these guys, I can’t do any mentoring. A simple way to inject a bit of cash flow into the business is through acquisition.”
In five years’ time, Browne hopes the company will be the paramount planning practice in Australia servicing the Gen X and Gen Y age groups.
“I always say to my team you’ve got to know your path and you’ve got to be prepared to walk it,” Browne says. “A lot of people build a business plan but do nothing with it or, conversely, they do all this work but they don’t really know where they’re going.”
Chris Browne was featured in series two and three of No More Practice - http://evotv.com.au/nomorepractice
Company name: Financial Design for Life
Dealer group name: Apogee Financial Planning
Location: Docklands, VIC
Total funds under advice: $100m
Number of advisers: 4
Number of clients: 1600
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