During the AFA's Genxt Connect Tour 2016, three members of the advice industry shared how they have developed and grown as advisers and business owners
Facilitator: Nick Hakes, general manager of member services, partnerships and campus, AFA: In Kylie's home town of Mildura, the impact that she has had on the local community has been very immense. And she does it in a way that is so simple – she asks her clients to be vulnerable, to share the trade-offs they have to make to understand her advice strategy and she does it really effectively, which is a clear reason why she is the Rising Star [award winner] for 2015.
Kylie George, financial adviser, Harvest Wealth: A natural progression for adding value for all those you come into contact with is to do what's right; respect others; and perform with excellence – this is where I come from as an adviser. Everything I do is based around these three values.
Some people believe that networking starts and finishes in networking groups. I believe networking is something we do every day, in every conversation and in every interaction we have – it is about relationships, both with our clients and with others. My rules for networking are basic, but they really do work: being an example to others; treat others the way you want to be treated; set the level of professionalism or casual vibe you think is needed for each interaction; be yourself; show your human side; display the behaviour you seek in return; and give knowledge unconditionally – this is a bit of a tricky one. We are taught to sell our services, but when we are making a new connection, sometimes you just have to help with no strings attached. It is about giving value rather than taking it. I am regularly told by my clients that they love that I am so passionate about what I do. It is the human element that builds trust, and when people do trust you it is when they refer.
I don't believe what we do just stops at financial advice. It is more than just that, it is more than just money – we are life advisers. How do I give this extra value? One way is by conducting strategy appointments and the use of live projections. This helps me engage with my clients, and since doing these I haven't had a statement of advice that hasn't gone ahead. If I have to pick one area that my clients say that is beneficial for them, it's this – they love the projections, they love seeing the difference the little tweaks make, like spending more or less in retirement, knowing how long the money will last for, or that they can retire early.
NH: The next adviser story you are about to hear is a very different one. In a previous life, he came from a corporate background and he was a lawyer. His challenge was fundamentally different. See, he had to build an advice business from the ground up, he did so in his home state of Tasmania and the way in which he did it was through the power of education [which is] why Charles Badenach won the  Excellence in Education Award.
Charles Badenach, principal, Main Street Financial Solutions: I will give you some insight into some of the things that we have actually done and what we have found has worked during that journey. I am going to go into two areas – one is corporate and social responsibility, and [the other] is how we have embraced technology and [how we] really use that to leverage as a small business.
With corporate and social responsibility, I have always been a big fan of engaging with the vulnerable in the community to really try and provide value to them. As an example, I approached a migrant resource centre and said I want to develop a financial literacy program for new migrants coming into Tasmania. Then we approached the federal government, so that's now actually funded. So, what has happened is I have donated my time and they get the money. Every time we do it, it raises $10,000 to $15,000 for the centre. As an extension of that, we developed an e-book which covers some very simple topics. But for someone new to the country it is really powerful. And, we sent that e-book around to over 500 community centres around Australia. So, I am working locally, but engaging nationally. I then set up a YouTube channel – I call it Mr Simple Finance – and if you look at it, it is pretty basic stuff. While I didn't get a financial return from that, I got a social return. It is a really powerful thing to be able to help those that are most vulnerable within the community. As a consequence of that, it has opened up a whole lot of opportunities that I didn't think existed before.
The second thing that we have done is we have really embraced technology. Technology enables us to compete like never before. It works 24/7 and for 365 days a year. What we have tried to do is create compelling content that people can like and share. I will give you some examples of that. What we've done is we have actually gotten a list of client testimonies so on our YouTube Channel you will actually see a playlist of client testimonies. So, someone will ring up and say, what type of people do you help? I will then say I will send you our YouTube playlist and you can look at that and see the type of people that we help and then if you have any questions after you have looked at that, then you can come back to me and I will give you their phone number.
NH: Now the third adviser story. Ryan Watson started a career as a financial adviser and about two and a half years ago had an interesting turn. He stopped being a financial adviser and is now the CEO of his advice business in Melbourne. So his experience is not on talking to clients one-on-one; his perspective is from the business performance.
Ryan Watson, chief executive, Tribeca Financial: The three key areas that I want to focus on today are culture, the client and business. First of all, the culture piece. As Nick mentioned, two and a half years ago I stepped out of the advice piece and stepped into the CEO role. What I had to do – as opposed to being a jack of all trades – was I really needed to change my role to being a captain and a coach. I really needed to learn what being a leader was all about to create the firm that I wanted to.
How I started that journey – I was introduced to a man by the name of Brian Fitzpatrick from Headspace Coaching [who] was introduced to me through the AFA community. Brian and I catch up on a fortnightly basis, and what he has allowed me to do is really focus on taking time out of my business and focus on the person that I want to be, the leader I want to be and the firm I want to create. [In one challenge,] he said to me to be a good leader will take about 10,000 hours, and as you could probably tell, I have a long way to go on that journey.
Another important thing for us in terms of culture and the research we have done, there is a gentleman by the name of Mike Henderson and he says that culture is about eight times more important than strategy and that is something that has really resonated with me as well.
The thing for us in terms of the business and creating this culture is really around the value piece as well. We hear the values piece talked about a lot and we have these big organisations and their values, but how do we really demonstrate it?
An initiative we have had internally is we run a focus meeting that we run on a fortnightly basis. What we do – it is half an hour – is we stand up and each team member goes over an example over the past fortnight of where a team member has demonstrated these values. We have found it is something that is really powerful and has really gotten these values right into our DNA.
The second part is the client. So, we thought we had good client engagement, but we want great client engagement and we really wanted to demonstrate value. The way we sought to do that, we have engaged an external consultant who has really helped us.
We have looked at our advice and broken it down into three pillars – cash flow, investment and contingency(with contingency including estate planning and risk insurance). What we have done is created a manual and it allows everyone who works within our firm to understand the way we go about it and how we give advice. In addition to that – and on the theme of demonstrating value – once again, clients are benchmarked against cash flow, investment and contingency.
The other part relating to the business is we have a board of advice. In the first meeting we had, the challenge to me was what is the 10-year vision of the business and where are we heading?
If I didn't know where we were going, how could the people that worked with me know where we were going.
So what I did was I went away, developed a 10-year vision, three-year goals and the one-year game plan, and that has really straightened up our business. And that means that everyone that works with me knows exactly where we are going as well and what their career path is – because we have people who are employed on the younger side as well.
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