Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.
When it comes to improving the physical and emotional wellbeing of clients, the team at the Announcer Group lead by example. Tony Lu CFP® talks about the importance of promoting good health as part of the financial planning process.
There are five guiding principles that underpin the philosophy of the Announcer Group: Dream it, Organise it, Protect it, Grow it, Enjoy it. And they’re not hard to miss, boldly emblazoned on the meeting walls of the Sydney-based practice.
But principles alone don’t make a successful business. You’ve got to live and aspire to them. And that’s one of the first things that hits you when you walk into the business. It’s clearly evident that Announcer places great stock in community involvement and team building, with framed staff sports jerseys adorning the walls of the office.
It’s clearly evident that the business – comprising a fully integrated service covering financial planning, property, mortgage lending, tax and accounting, business advisory, and legal – is committed to building a culture based on teamwork, with many of its health and wellbeing initiatives driven by the managing director and founder, Andrew Rocks.
“It’s part of our DNA,” says Tony Lu CFP® – a senior adviser at the Announcer Group. “Andrew is passionate about the health and wellbeing of staff and clients, which is all based around clear shared values.”
As part of the practice’s approach to ‘living’ its philosophy, staff at Announcer enjoy a flexible workplace, which includes the option of taking a two-hour lunch beak to work on their own personal fitness or participate in one of the practice’s team sports, that includes soccer or volleyball.
“We even have an arrangement with Red Nose – Saving Little Lives, whereby for each goal scored by our team in soccer, $100 is donated to the charity,” Tony says.
This approach to the physical fitness and health of staff, also underscores the importance Announcer places on the physical and emotional wellbeing of its clients; something Tony is acutely aware of.
“As a planner, helping people manage their finances and build their wealth, is only part of the equation. We’re role models to our clients, so we need to lead by example,” says the 36-year-old.
“I explain to clients that there’s no point in building their wealth if they don’t take care of their health. At Announcer, that’s something we take very seriously, and it shows through in our own personal commitment to health and wellbeing.”
A proactive approach to health
As part of the practice’s holistic approach to planning is a range of health and wellness programs that clients can participate in. This includes first aid courses and a complimentary DEXA scan for all new clients. The DEXA scan provides clients with an individualised body composition reading, that includes measurement of weight, bone density, muscle mass and body fat.
“This scan makes clients more aware of their overall health and fitness,” Tony says. “Once a client has completed one of these assessments, they meet with a consultant who discusses their lifestyle goals and objectives. An exercise and nutrition program is then mapped out to help the individual achieve those goals.”
Tony says the DEXA scans are something that can be built on. He has already done six scans, which he says is a good way to keep him focused on his health objectives.
The practice also actively promotes other wellness programs, like the AIA Vitality program, as a means of encouraging both clients and staff to take a more proactive interest in their personal health and wellbeing – and being rewarded for doing so.
Tony admits to being an active participant in the AIA Vitality program. He says programs, like AIA Vitality, are an ideal opportunity for planners to engage with clients on topics other than portfolio performance and investment markets, enabling them to build much deeper relationships with their clients.
“One of the first things I ask clients when I catch up with them is how many points have they accrued from using the program. It’s a great way to open up a conversation,” Tony says. “We love encouraging our clients to focus on their health and emotional wellbeing, and we use this program to have open and honest conversations with them. Our clients really appreciate this.”
Tony believes the DEXA scans and the AIA Vitality program are great examples of alternative ways planners can engage with clients, particularly when discussing health issues with them, while introducing insurance into the conversation.
However, while Tony concedes that it may sound strange for a planner to talk to a client about their health and wellbeing, which traditionally has been the domain of a GP or a nutritionist, he believes it to be an essential part of the financial planning process.
It’s a view that Tony’s client, Louisa Cheng, agrees with.
“Actually, I don’t find it strange at all,” she says. “As a client, I know Announcer has a strong focus on fitness and health, which is something I like. I appreciate the emphasis Tony is placing on my personal health. I realise now that in order for my husband and I to enjoy our wealth in our later years, we have to be fit and healthy.”
At 41 years of age, and with two young children aged six and four, Louisa is profoundly aware of the importance of remaining fit and active. It’s that understanding that underpins Tony’s approach to Louisa’s wealth creation plan.
“We’re all living longer these days, so it’s not surprising we’re becoming more aware of our health. So, for me, longevity means I need to start thinking about how I’m going to financially support myself, and my children, while living an active lifestyle for longer,” Louisa says.
“And as a parent with young children, you have to be fit and healthy just to keep up with them,” she jokes. “But as I look towards the future, I think about my parents’ generation. They’ve worked hard all their lives but they haven’t lived the healthiest lifestyle. And now that they’re retired, their bodies aren’t able to enjoy their retirement.
“I don’t want to be in that position. I don’t just want to be able to afford my lifestyle; I want to enjoy life with my kids, which includes travel and hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, and not be restricted by preventable health issues.”
Another conversation starter
Tony sees value in health and wellbeing initiatives, like the AIA Vitality program, as a means of introducing the topic of insurance into the client conversation during the planning process.
“When you incentivise people to take greater care of their health and wellbeing, through programs that reward them with reduced insurance premiums, flight discounts, movie tickets and shopping vouchers, it really improves the engagement of clients,” Tony says.
“Let’s face it, insurance premiums are something nobody wants to pay. The only time you want to pay a premium is the day before you make a claim! But receiving some of these rewards from programs like AIA Vitality, can be financially significant. Not only are clients protecting their own financial needs through the policy, they can also reduce the cost of their premiums and receive a variety of other rewards, which all help to reduce the overall cost to clients.
“It’s a much easier type of conversation to have with your clients, while introducing them to insurance, instead of just talking through the cost of the premiums.”
It’s a view not lost on Louisa.
“I actually found the AIA Vitality program to be very beneficial,” she says. “From an insurance perspective, we are paying a lower premium. But importantly, it has encouraged me to stay healthy and remain focused on my fitness. And as an added bonus, by participating in the program, I can watch my points accumulate and receive my vouchers, which is a wonderful reward and incentive for me.”
Last year, Louisa and her husband were able to accumulate $300 worth of shopping vouchers, which paid for their children’s Christmas presents, while also receiving a substantial reduction off their holiday flights to Thailand.
“It’s not a bad way of reaping the rewards for looking after my health,” says Louisa. “I’m constantly on my app, checking that I’ve reached my designated points tally, to enable me to get my shopping voucher for that week. To be able to take $5 off your weekly shopping bill is great. It all adds up over the course of a year.”
A successful approach
When measuring the success of Announcer’s approach to health and wellness, Tony says the results speak for themselves.
“The team at Announcer has embraced the health and wellbeing program. In addition to the various sorting competitions we participate in, we also have a ‘steps’ competition, which creates healthy internal competition,” he says.
“And from a client relationship perspective, our approach to health and wellness is enabling us to have much deeper conversations with our clients.”
As for Louisa, she is typical of most Australians – she has the desire to live a healthy lifestyle but often the motivation is missing. That’s why she is an ardent believer in signing up to apps or programs that can assist her with staying the course.
“If you need something to motivate you, then do your research and find that app or program that will make you get up and get moving. They really do work in getting you off the couch and getting your heart pumping. I encourage people to find out what motivates them to live a more active and healthier lifestyle, and then go for it!”
Tony agrees: “Health and wellness programs are another tool that practitioners can use to engage with their clients and get them motivated. It’s also important that planners lead by example and be a role model to their clients. It’s one thing to say something, but it’s another thing to actually do it,” he says.
“Our jobs, as planners, is to coach and mentor our clients. We need to lead by example. You can’t advise your clients to get their health in order, if you don’t get your own health in order and believe in what you’re saying. It just doesn’t work.
“So, why not use health and wellness programs to build deeper conversations and relationships with clients? It’s an opportunity to build a like-minded community, which only enhances the client-planner relationship.
“And as I tell my clients: There’s no point being wealthy if you’re not healthy. That’s something you can’t put a price on.”
Name: Tony Lu CFP®
Position: Senior Adviser
Practice: Announcer Group
Licensee: Infocus Securities
Years as a planner: 13 years
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