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In 2020, Barrons and The Australian have expanded their list of the country’s top financial planning professionals to include 100 financial advisers. Amanda Lee CFP® and Jason Featherby CFP® both made the cut and spoke to us about what success as a financial planner means to them.
What does success look like for a financial planner? Perhaps it can be judged by how much money you manage for your clients, how many clients you have or how long they’ve been with you. But if you’re the client, how can you determine the success of your working relationship?
According to Amanda and Jason, a highly individual approach to each client is essential throughout the financial planning journey. “Most clients come to us with an idea of what they might need advice on,” says Jason. “But it takes time to get someone comfortable so we can really understand what might be challenging them or holding them back with their finances. The first two to four meetings are just about asking and answering questions. Things like how they feel about their super, about financial planning in general, what they expect from their future and what their kids expect too.”
“I’ll also tell clients that our service is something they get to design with us,” Jason adds. “We’ll agree on what sort of ongoing support they need and what sort of updates we provide. For some clients they just want to know what have I got, what have I made, what have I spent. Other clients want a broader conversation about how they’re tracking towards their goals.”
Amanda agrees that everyone needs tailored support to feel comfortable that their plan is working out. “There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for financial planning,” she says. “Some people will be making changes to their current finances to get on track. Others are on track but look for expert guidance to make sure they stay on course.”
“But even though every client situation is different, all my relationships with them have one thing in common and that’s the care factor,” adds Amanda. “Whether they have a small amount of wealth or are further along with their assets, their finances are equally important to their lifestyle and wellbeing. I really get to know them as people and when they call I know them instantly from their voice.”
Knowledge and professionalism
Although the care factor certainly matters to the quality of service she delivers, Amanda also acknowledges the importance of her technical knowledge in developing the right strategy for her clients. “When I first started out as a financial planner, it was very much about being an expert and what knowledge I could offer my clients,” she says. “As you become more experienced, it takes less effort to draw on that knowledge, but it’s still vital to bring a high standard of technical competency to every financial plan. Being a CFP® professional and a member of the Financial Planning Association has helped me stay up-to-date on my professional education as well as policy developments.”
Jason agrees the CFP® designation is important for giving clients confidence that they’re being working with a professional with the highest standard of knowledge and ethical conduct. “As a CFP® qualified professional you’ve really demonstrated your ability to work hard, apply yourself and uphold the highest standards of ethics and education,” he says. “You also have a professional body looking over you that has your clients’ best interests at heart.”
Communicating to give clients confidence
For Amanda, giving clients confidence in their future is the essence of what financial planning is all about. “Having a plan gives you a clearer idea of what the future holds,” she says. “In 2020 it’s been natural for my clients to check in for reassurance that their plans haven’t been derailed by the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19. My clients who experienced the GFC back in 2008 have had a few questions but it’s my younger clients who have been needing more answers to give them confidence that their investments and finances are going to be resilient during this downturn.”
Making sure clients feel comfortable reaching out with their questions and concerns is something Jason believes is very important. “In the past I’ve had clients who wait until we have our next formal meeting to raise concerns,” he says. “So I give every client a very clear message that they should get in touch if they ever feel worried about their finances, for any reason. I tell them never to worry over the weekend – it doesn’t matter what time or day of the week it is, they can always call me to talk something over.”
“A successful financial planner is someone that’s a sounding board, counsellor, technical adviser and investment adviser,” Jason adds. “You need to offer clients strategies that are strong from a technical perspective but you also need to be skilled in articulating these strategies so your clients have confidence they will get the outcome they are seeking. And if you don’t listen and care, you won’t really get to understand what their goals are.”