Three's a company
The three founders of VFS Group tell ifa how they combined their different skillsets to drive cohesion in financial services and meet a growing demand.
Back in 2010, a gap in the financial advice market caught the attention of three very different professionals. For Jack Kouzi, Stefan Urosevic and Danny Moss, this “massive hole” in the industry related to a lack of cohesion in financial services offerings.
“Accountants were doing their thing, financial advisers were doing their thing, brokers were doing their thing and no one was talking to anyone but they were all competing for the same client,” says Mr Urosevic. “No one was really offering a full suite of financial services to individuals.”
So they did something about it, eventually joining forces and launching VFS Group – a selfproclaimed holistic financial services organisation. Mr Urosevic brings his experience in financial advice to the table, while Mr Kouzi utilises his background in economics and online trading. Mr Moss’ passion in investment markets helps build out the firm’s stockbroking offering. “When we came into the industry, it was product orientated, focused on how to put someone in a box. So there was an opportunity there for us to give people access to a broad range of services under the one roof,” said Mr Kouzi.
Mr Moss adds, “The main thing is the opportunity and the skill sets that we’ve brought together. They were very different and very complimentary.”
The real meaning of ‘holistic’
But the partners are not the first to call themselves holistic. In fact, they believe there is a tendency in the advice sector to overuse the word, which is why they refer to their model as using a “start-to-finish fiscal strategy”.
“Being holistic means encompassing all areas of advice under the one roof – we’re talking about tax and accounting advice, SMSF advice, bespoke investment advice,” Mr Kouzi says. “Advisers often use the word holistic, but then people are often put into a managed fund or a broad-based ETF and have no uniqueness to their investments.” But that’s not the case at VFS Group, which invests directly into the market with the help of a research team and investment committee, Mr Kouzi says. “We look at overseas equities, we have an allocation to global markets and understand that Australia is only a small part of the world,” he says. “For us, we take holistic work very seriously and we take it to the very end.”
Noise and change
But filling a gap in the advice market does come with its challenges. The three co-founders say some of the biggest hurdles they’ve faced in operating an advice business have related to industry noise and constant change.
“There is a lot of noise in the industry, there are a lot of people who keep talking about technological disruption and FOFA was obviously something everyone needed to adjust to,” Mr Kouzi says. “For a business like ours – because we’re a lot smaller than the bigger institutions – we’re able to pivot a little bit better.” Nevertheless, their firm remains nimble in a sector that can be “quite lazy”, giving them a competitive advantage. “I think the majority of the industry is really lazy, which has actually worked quite well for us.
It means that with clients stuck in high margin platforms and with archaic products, it becomes easy to show and add value to them and that’s what I think has driven our growth more than anything,” Mr Urosevic says. “There is definitely a younger generation of advisers who are adapting towards what is being needed and we can see that from some of the best companies that are starting to gain momentum.”
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