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Hood Sweeney has an unwavering vision about how it operates, as it sets out its vision for the next five years. The firm’s Director and Head of Financial, Tony Michaels and Director, Adrian Zoppa CFP®, talk about what it means to be an FPA Professional Practice.
Q: Hood Sweeney has a long track-record of being a successful financial planning business. What do you attribute your success to?
We do have a successful business here at Hood Sweeney Securities, which we can primarily attribute to the team. Over the years, we have worked closely together, and we continue to grow and develop as a team.
Hood Sweeney Securities has quadrupled in numbers during the past decade and that’s testament to our growing client base and the focus we maintain on delivering value and a high level of engagement for our clients.
We also attribute our success to the level of commitment we have in financial planning, and across the entire Hood Sweeney business, to client service. Many businesses talk about being client first, but we really are, being 100 per cent focused on how we can best serve our clients. We get to know them as friends, peers and collaborators. We take a journey together through their lives, goals and financial milestones.
We also have a very clear, unwavering vision about how we operate – from the way we serve clients, to our investment processes and value propositions. We know where we are headed as an FPA Professional Practice, and how to lead our team and our clients on this shared journey.
Q: In what ways are you doing things differently at Hood Sweeney?
Hood Sweeney is a truly integrated business. Over four decades, Hood Sweeney has grown to provide support across seven diverse but connected service lines:
* Financial Planning;
* Accounting and Business Advisory
* Consulting and Performance Coaching;
* Technology Services;
* Branding and Marketing; and
* People and Culture Consulting.
Complementing our service lines are our centres of excellence or specialist areas across a variety of segments. These include: agribusiness, wine, food and hospitality, health and not-for-profit businesses. These align with the areas of focus for South Australia and for the State Government.
Certainly, in the area of financial planning, we’ve always attempted to be thought-leaders and innovators. We want to ensure we are at the forefront of providing value to our clients. That comes from all aspects of our business – from our strategic advice to clients, investment advice, through to the life-risk offering we provide.
We use the word ‘holistic’, and while this term can be overused, we do look to understand our clients’ total position and provide advice based on that.
We get to know our clients and drill down into the true reason behind the money. What do they want to achieve? What’s important to them? It’s more than just ‘how much is enough’. It’s about knowing where they want to go and taking that journey with them.
Ongoing professional development is also paramount. We want our financial planning team to be externally focused and to develop a deep understanding of the market. We encourage staff to read widely and become involved with the FPA and other professional forums in their professional development, ensuring that both technical and soft skills are maintained and improved.
We have career plans in place for staff to develop, including mentoring and other professional programs, such as our internal Accelerate leadership program. We also host regular Masters of Investing events to expose clients and staff to other thought-leaders in the finance industry, and to provide education in areas that our clients and staff may not otherwise have access to.
Q: How are you building an effective culture at Hood Sweeney for your staff and clients?
Hood Sweeney’s philosophy is to build an environment and culture where teams can achieve their personal aspirations and goals. This is achieved through a multi-faceted employee value proposition that focuses on providing inspiring leadership and mentoring, clear career pathways, a positive workplace environment, recognition for effort and leading/best practice systems.
In line with this ethos, Hood Sweeney has built a ‘People and Culture’ framework to support and enable the business, and practitioners, to service their clients effectively. This framework has structured approaches for managing the entire employee life cycle – from recruitment, on-boarding, development and retention. We continually seek feedback from staff on how we can evolve and create a better workplace environment.
Our strong commitment to delivering quality services to clients is balanced with an equal determination to provide a fun and social environment, where team members feel connected to our vision and strategy.
We invest heavily in health and wellbeing, as well as social activities, to ensure that our team members feel supported and capable of managing the constant pressures of daily work and life.
We are committed to providing flexible workplace solutions, as long as the client experience can be maintained. We’ve found that by providing this flexibility to our team, it has increased productivity, as they feel better able to manage the competing demands of life and can focus on their work when they are in work mode.
Q: How are you delivering on your vision of enhancing the future of your clients, your team and your community through a shared journey?
It’s a good question. We recently updated our vision to 2025, in line with our belief that we need to regularly review and refresh our direction, and grow in line with changing needs and expectations of our clients and the industry.
Our five-year vision is to be the pre-eminent integrated services firm for family businesses and professionals in our areas of industry specialisation.
With our integrated services offering and a commitment to technology, our aim is to work collaboratively across the firm, sharing expertise and skills to add value and provide exceptional service to every client.
We actively seek client feedback and build that into our strategic direction, and reflect that in our client value proposition.
Our focus in financial planning is on business owners and professionals, and understanding their journey and helping them to meet their goals.
Q: Why did you decide to become an FPA Professional Practice? What does this brand mean to you and your practice?
Hood Sweeney became an FPA Professional Practice in 2011. Being an FPA Professional Practice binds us to a set of guidelines and ethics to help manage our practice, which contributes to our overall professionalism. It enables interaction with other professional practices in the FPA network, where we can collaborate and assist each other on shared issues.
For example, last year we hosted a workshop of other FPA Professional Practices, where we shared some common goals and issues facing our respective practices. This sort of professional transfer of experiences and networking is essential in keeping in touch with activity in our profession.
Q: Over the next 5-10 years, what do you see as being the three key challenges ahead for your business and the profession?
The three key challenges would have to be: regulation, technology and people. They’re all ongoing challenges and opportunities.
Regulation: Increasingly, the focus is going to be on delivering value and transparent service to clients, amid a more stringent and complex regulatory environment. We believe this will create opportunities for the right professional practices.
We want to remain ahead of the regulation-curve, by being completely transparent with our clients around fees, guidelines and restrictions.
Technology: Advancing technology also presents a challenge and an opportunity. Our goal is to use technology, particularly new systems, to provide greater operational efficiency, so we can offer more cost-effective services to our clients.
Improving the accessibility of information for clients and real-time data through technology, will also help improve the overall client experience and empower their decision-making.
People: And finally, the challenge is to continue to nurture a team that is highly professional and highly skilled. That’s an ongoing challenge because we believe that the strength of the team at Hood Sweeney Securities is our point of difference, so conversely, it becomes a weakness if it stops running well.
Undoubtedly, navigating the changing workplace expectations of our team and marrying these with changing client expectations, should provide some grey hairs in the coming years!
Tony Michaels is Director and Head of Financial Planning at Hood Sweeney, and Adrian Zoppa CFP® is Co-director of Financial Planning at Hood Sweeney.
PRACTICE: Hood Sweeney Securities
ESTABLISHED: 1976 (the financial planning part of the business was established in 2001)
LICENSEE: Hood Sweeney Securities
NO. OF STAFF: 134 (26 in Financial Planning)
NO. OF PRACTITIONERS: 10
NO. OF CFP® PRACTITIONERS: 7
PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE SINCE: 8 February, 2011
The FPA Professional Practice program
The FPA Professional Practice program has been specifically designed to recognise financial planning practices that go above and beyond, by adhering to the highest professional standards to deliver best practice financial advice in the local community.
The benefits of becoming an FPA Professional Practice are many. They include:
As an FPA Professional Practice, your financial planning practice will become a role model, and employer of choice, within your local professional community. Your demonstration of the highest professional and ethical standards, through commitment to the FPA Code of Professional Practice
and CFP® Certification, will bring your practice the recognition and respect it deserves. The use of FPA Professional Practice branding in your office, on your website and on your business stationery, will set your business apart
2. New client opportunities
As part of the FPA Professional Practice program, the FPA has implemented a series of national referral programs designed to connect Australians with your practice’s financial planners.
3. Professional standards
By becoming an FPA Professional Practice, the quality of your business will be instantly recognisable. That’s because at least 75 per cent of your practitioners are FPA members and a minimum of 50 per cent have achieved CFP® Professional status (or will become CFP® Professionals by 30 June 2024).
4. Practice management support
FPA Professional Practices gain exclusive access to the FPA Connect, Share and Learn workshops with your peer business principals, as well as practice management tools and discounts.
The FPA Professional Practice program is open to:
* Self-licensed financial planning practices;
* local branches of employed financial planners; and
* practices under a dealer group AFSL that have been operating for at least one year.
The eligibility to become an FPA Professional Practice is:
* 75 per cent of your financial planners must be FPA members in the following categories: CFP® professional, Financial Planner AFP® or Associate.
* 50 per cent of your financial planners are already CFP® professionals (or will become CFP® Professionals by 30 June 2024). There must be at least one CFP® professional in the practice to be appointed the Relationship Manager.
* Your practice commits to upholding the FPA Code of Professional Practice.
For more information, click here or call 1300 337 301.
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