Jim Stackpool: Australia
About 12 months ago we featured an Aussie, Jim Stackpool of Certainty Advice Group, as our ‘Guest Blogger From Around The World’. So I thought I’d get Jim to kick us off again with something provocative. He hasn’t let me down.
This article is about a life. Yours.
by Jim Stackpool
As a financial advice firm working to solve the thorny issues of your new clients, which advice path do you take? Do you roll up your sleeves and tackle the pressing issues presented by your client straight away?
Or do you take the road less travelled? One financial adviser stood at that fork in the road, looked her hard-won clients in the eye, and delivered her advice.
“I really just want to get past the next few years of significant financial re-building since I left my former partner. Then I’ll be ready to explore other options. That’s just my reality at present. OK?”
The new client meeting was stalling.
He was an oil and gas executive who was used to days of back-to-back project negotiation meetings. He’d come into this meeting with clear objectives.
The adviser sighed. She reflected on how long it had taken since the original referral to firm up this meeting date and time.
It had taken equal determination for her to persuade him that all initial meetings required him to bring his partner in life as well.
The client’s partner was equally busy, and being less involved in their joint financial aspects, he’d queried why a visit to a financial planner was something he needed to be there for.
The adviser silently drew breath. She knew what she had to say next.
She’d trained herself for these types of ‘tough’ conversations.
She knew when the advice got tough, the words she was about to say and the manner in which she said them would have a significant impact on her potential to engage this couple as advice clients – and more importantly, seriously help them improve their situation.
Taking the Road Less Travelled
At times like this, she could have taken some ‘easy’ options:
She knows some industry peers who would make a practical start, to ‘start small’. She could have allowed her busy prospect to take the lead in seeking advice on effective tax and estate structuring: some tax work, estate work, some new insurances and possibly some finance.
Despite the easy road opening up in front of her, this wasn’t an option. Feeling like she was taking the road less travelled, she reminded herself of others in the old industry she wanted to distance herself from.
She also knew her tough advice was why her small but growing group of advice clients paid her.
Pressing on she reminded herself of the values that established her boutique advisory firm.
“I’d like to pause that conversation for just a moment.
You both may not have expected my approach and the questions I ask my advice clients every year.
My role with my clients is to help them best achieve what’s unachieved…while helping them manage the unresolved. This is both short and long term.
It’s fundamental that we, or any good advisory firm, will help you manage your immediate cash flow, tax, and structural issues. And to manage that without any remuneration tied to any specific advice, profit or platform.
However, solving these issues without the context of your longer-term best interests, aspirations and complexities is not, in our opinion, professional advice. We realise that sometimes these discussions about your unique long-term aspirations can themselves be a conversation that you may not be ready for.
We believe these conversations, which many people aren’t prepared for, are fundamental to every advice relationship. This isn’t a pitch for more tax, insurance or estate work.
This is about your life.”
The prospect proceeded.
In 2016, you have a decision to make: What advice model do you want to be famous for?
One you want to deliver? One your clients want you to deliver? Or a bit of of both?
While banks, insurance companies, and similar financial services institutions continue to sing their tunes of being client-focused, the reality of how they are paid is different. They are full of talented business people, marketing, product and distribution people yet no financial advisers capable of the above conversation. They are not providers of professional advice; theirs is a product pitch.
While institutions continue to be rewarded for product or platform opportunities, they may ultimately be better positioned by a return to their origins as providers of excellent financial platforms.
Advisers having dialogues like the one I described above are professionals.
Professionals who are willing to act in their clients’ best interests. Even when clients have their own pre-conceptions from their product-influenced financial experience.
Professionals who don’t do product pitches. People who pitch everything they can at being famous for creating better lives for their clients.
Professionals who align how they are paid by their values. People who provide valuable advice uncontaminated by supplied products, financial platforms, or hours worked.
So what is your 2016 going to look like?
If you’re new to the profession, there are two main choices:
Join a product developer or institution and drive the creation and distribution of world-class products for future financial professionals. Or you could join a professional firm to understand the worth of professional advice for clients seeking greater financial certainty in their lives.
If you’re not new to the industry, your decisions are harder.
You’re in a firm or job probably built in a different era, which is now under re-construction thanks to technology, consumers, regulations, competition, institutional amalgamations, global markets, and your own changing needs.
Use 2016 to experiment with a new advice model, which you’ll run in parallel with your existing propositions. This model will have your advice firm acting as the principal adviser, being paid purely on value of your advice
Like most of our clients who take this path (i.e. balancing old and new advice models), they wonder why they ever doubted the value of their true professional advice. Time and again, their advice clients confirm the worth of having a principal advisory firm ensuring everything is in order to best achieve those goals important to them.
You’ll also learn a new route to build a prosperous and great advice brand.
2016 is going to be great for great advice professionals.