Financial life planning

16 February 2021

Jayson Forrest

Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.

HPH Solutions has done something that few practices have achieved, by taking out the dual crowns of FPA Professional Practice of the Year and FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award. Rob Pyne CFP® and Zacary Leeson CFP® talk to Jayson Forrest about their success.

FPA Professional Practice: HPH Solutions
Established: 2002
Licensee: HPH Financial Planning
No. of staff: 17
No. of practitioners: 6
No. of CFP® practitioners: 4
FPA Professional Practice since: 5 August 2011

Name: Zacary Leeson CFP®
Age: 30
Educational qualifications: BSc, BCom, DFP
Position: Financial Planner
Practice: HPH Solutions
Licensee: HPH Financial Planning
Years as a financial planner: 7 years
CFP designation: 11 July 2017

It’s no easy feat winning the quinella in the FPA Awards, but that’s exactly what has happened with Perth-based HPH Solutions taking out the coveted title of FPA Professional Practice of the Year, along with the practice’s Zacary Leeson CFP® winning the 2020 FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award.

For a practice to win the dual crown is an achievement that Rob Pyne CFP® – Founder and Managing Director of HPH Solutions – is delighted by, attributing the wins to the focus the practice places on financial life planning and the close engagement it engenders with clients.

“For HPH Solutions to win both awards is a clear indication that we must be doing something right,” says Rob. “It’s an achievement we don’t take lightly and it validates that as a business, we’re heading in the right direction.”

In awarding HPH Solutions the 2020 FPA Professional Practice of the Year Award, the judges commented that the team at HPH Solutions embody the essence of a true FPA Professional Practice, adding that the business clearly demonstrated the valued work it undertakes for its clients.

The judges added: “In taking out the FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award, we also acknowledge the positive impact Zacary Leeson CFP® has had on the lives of his clients, as well as for his inspirational work in the community through his involvement with the charitable organisation, Leading Youth Forward.”

In fact, Zac is no stranger to receiving FPA Awards, having won the FPA Community Service Award (supported by Future2) in 2018 and 2019, for his work with Leading Youth Forward – a not-for-profit group that supports and empowers disadvantaged Perth teenagers in Years 8-10 at high school. Zac has enjoyed a seven year relationship with the charitable organisation, having taken over the role of President of Leading Youth Forward in April 2019.

It’s no coincidence that Zac’s seven year involvement with the charity is also the same length of time the 30-year-old has been a financial planner, having joined HPH Solutions in 2013.

“It’s always a good feeling to give back and help out others who are doing it tough. I’ve been fortunate to use my skills as a financial planner to help disadvantaged youth, which has been a life changing experience for me that I’d recommend for anyone,” Zac says.

Zac is the ideal ambassador for CFP® professionals, epitomising the best qualities that make a CFP® practitioner: educated, client focused, and motivated. They are all qualities that were noted by FPA CEO Dante De Gori CFP® in presenting Zac with his award.

“Zacary exemplifies our FPA membership as a modern professional financial planner who is client dedicated, university educated and an experienced CFP® professional. Zacary’s passion for the value of advice and his confidence shone through in his presentation to the FPA Awards judges. He’s an incredible role model for young financial planners,” said Dante.

Financial Life Planning

Zac is not surprised that HPH Solutions took out the FPA Professional Practice of the Year Award, where he is actively involved in upholding the high standards of working within an FPA Professional Practice. He says the award is peer recognition of the practice’s commitment to the profession and the emphasis it places on the value of advice.

Ask Rob what he credits the success of the business to and he points to the decision made a few years back to dedicate resources to working exclusively on the business, which allowed HPH Solutions to create, plan and execute its own vision of success.

And what does that vision look like?

“It’s a vision that hinges on doing things ‘a little differently’, including our belief that financial planning is closely aligned to the healthcare profession,” Rob reveals.

He explains: “We believe that money is as much about psychology as it is about economics, and so based on research and tools developed by Money Quotient, we have created a comprehensive Financial Life Planning process that we use within the business.”

As part of that process, HPH Solutions uses a number of Financial Life Planning tools to assist its clients to take a broader perspective of their life, which includes using the ‘Wheel of Life’ – a visual coaching tool to assess and understand how balanced a client’s life currently is across a range of nine categories, including: family, health, leisure and finances.

“We use this tool to prompt our clients to look at their life holistically and consider their level of personal satisfaction within each of these nine areas,” says Rob. “We also understand the importance and psychological benefit that clients get from reflecting on their progress over time.  With this in mind, we created a comprehensive client Progress Update Report.”

This report includes a range of categories for clients to reflect on, including:

  • Financial and life satisfaction;
  • Current and future priorities;
  • Personal goal history and HPH’s related advice history;
  • A current ‘subjective’ view of the client’s life in the form of a ‘wellbeing score’;
  • A current ‘objective’ financial status in the form of a Household Balance Sheet;
  • Actual versus projected net wealth; and
  • A next steps action plan.

Technology investment

In support of the practice’s approach to Financial Life Planning, HPH Solutions has made a considerable investment in its technology, which Rob believes was a key factor that the FPA Awards judges considered when appraising the business.

“I believe what separates HPH Solutions from other practices is our investment in technology to actually deliver a comprehensive Financial Life Planning process,” says Rob. “We know what Xplan does well and we have embraced its development of Model Office – with its suite of advice templates, workflow processes and reports – to streamline our plan production process. However, we always viewed Xplan as primarily a modelling and plan production engine, while being very limited as a business management platform.”

So, that’s where Practifi came in. Practifi is a business management platform that allows advice firms to manage their pipeline, automate operations, monitor compliance and build deeper client relationships.

“We began working with Practifi in March 2017 and its ongoing development support has been a game changer for us,” Rob says. “It has been wonderful to work with software – built on Salesforce – and a technical team that has been able to help us execute our ideas and plans in delivering our brand of advice.”

Building technology to support your vision is one thing, but measuring the success of that vision is another thing altogether. That’s why HPH Solutions has introduced metrics across three categories – client satisfaction, employee satisfaction and shareholder satisfaction – to help measure the business’ success.

“These are the three areas in which we measure our own success at HPH Solutions and these metrics help us stay focused on what’s important for us as a business,” says Rob.

Qualities of a CFP® professional

As the 2020 FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award recipient, Zac is at the pinnacle of his profession. So, what does he believe are the three best qualities that make a successful CFP® professional?

“I think the best qualities are client-focused,” he says. “If you want to truly excel as a professional, you genuinely have to like people, be interested in them and enjoy helping them. Only by really knowing your clients are you able to make the best decisions for them.”

Secondly, Zac believes in being an active listener, which is a skill he is working hard on.

“Take the time to have ‘real’ conversations with your clients. These conversations don’t need to be amount numbers; they need to be about the client, including their life, dreams, aspirations and wellbeing. These are the types of conversations that are important to clients, and will better help you to form their plan.”

And what about the third quality that makes a successful CFP® professional?

“You don’t have to know all the answers straight away, but you definitely need to know how to find them,” Zac says. “When you don’t know the answer, be upfront with your client, but reassure them that you will find the answer and get back to them with the right advice.”

And what pointers does he have for any aspiring CFP® professionals?

“Firstly, know your craft. Financial planning is a profession and it needs to be treated and respected as such,” he says.

“Secondly, know your client. This means knowing them better than they know themselves. And thirdly, look to the experience within your firm. I joined HPH Solutions knowing very little, but seven years later, I am one of the more experienced members of the team. However, I am still learning from those within the business who are both younger and older than me. If you want to be at the top of your game, then learning never stops.”

Two sides of the same coin

HPH Solutions first became an FPA Professional Practice on 5 August, 2011. It’s a decision, Rob says, the business does not regret, as it demonstrates the practice’s ongoing commitment to being a positive and productive member of the financial planning community.

While Rob concedes there have been challenges for the business during the two decades of operation, he believes that by adhering to the high professional standards set for being an FPA Professional Practice, it has helped HPH Solutions position itself as a quality business.

“Bound with this commitment to the profession is our adherence to the highest professional standards, so that we represent the best of what financial planning looks like in Australia,” says Rob. “We believe there is no more prominent sign of our dedication to best practice leadership than being an FPA Professional Practice.”

Looking towards the next 5-10 years, Rob doesn’t see the challenges for the profession abating, but with a glass half full approach, he sees opportunities for the profession. One of the most significant opportunities he identifies for practitioners is greater data accessibility, coupled with enhanced connectivity of software, which will allow digital data to be quickly and securely obtained directly from the source.

“I believe this will improve data accuracy and reduce the time and cost of advice delivery, enabling businesses to serve more clients with the resources they have,” he says. “People currently performing administrative tasks will be able to devote more time to client contact and service delivery, which provides more perceived and actual value to the client.”

A second opportunity that Rob points to for the profession is with quantitative strategy modelling software, which will bring “transformational change” to the planner’s role in strategy development.

“The technical aspects of the financial planning role will increasingly be handled by software, which will dramatically speed up the delivery of advice, while also reducing error rates. However, although this will reduce the reliance on a planner’s technical skills, we still believe the planner’s role to interpret and personalise client advice will be irreplaceable.”

Affordable advice

But with opportunities come challenges, and both Rob and Zac agree that the overwhelming challenge facing the profession is driving down the cost of advice to make it more affordable for Australians.

“There’s been a lot of talk over recent years about re-establishing trust in the profession as being the key challenge, but I think we’ve done a good job in putting that challenge to bed. Instead, the cost of advice remains a major issue, but there are opportunities for the profession in addressing this challenge,” Rob says.

One such opportunity of making advice more affordable is limited scoped advice, which appears to be gaining political support.

“As part of the push for ‘limited advice’, we hope a more practical and less expensive version of the SOA also emerges to help lower the cost of advice. Our view is that an SOA should be a living, digital record that simply states: the proposed advice as it relates to the client’s goals; statement of risks; and statement of costs.”

Another opportunity Rob identifies is addressing the public perception that the primary role of a financial planner is to be an asset manager of a client’s investments.

“That perception needs to change,” says Rob. “Clients can access investment portfolio expertise without the ongoing guidance of a practitioner and the opportunity here is to reposition the role of a planner to be that of a trusted confidante and coach, who provides a safe space to talk about life and money issues.

“Low cost, diversified solutions can meet the client’s investment need, thereby allowing planners to repurpose the time they spend discussing investments and asset management, towards more meaningful conversations about what a fulfilling life would look like for the client.”

A relationship on equal footing

The last 12 months have been particularly challenging for financial planners, but Zac says HPH Solutions has taken on the challenges of COVID-19 head-on, acknowledging the strong culture that has been built within the business.

“As a planner, you’re responsible for your client’s financial wellbeing, so stress naturally comes with the job, particularly during these unprecedented times. But there is a great culture at HPH Solutions that allows the team to lean on each other for support during the tough times, while celebrating our successes when they happen.”

And as Zac looks ahead to the next decade, he is reminded of some solid advice that has served him well.

“The best advice given to me was from my mentor, Paul Burton CFP®, who said: ‘The planner/client relationship is not an – I say, you do – scenario. It’s a relationship built on equal footing.’ I love that advice, because you need to know your client well in order to be able to give them the right guidance. That’s because the best financial outcome is not always the best financial plan for the client.”

It’s great advice that has stood the test of time, not just with this award-winning professional, but for the whole team at the 2020 FPA Professional Practice of the Year.

For more information the FPA Professional Practice program, go to: fpa.com.au/professional-practice or call 1300 337 301.

Three tips for business improvement

There’s a lot to like about HPH Solutions’ approach to business success. Rob Pyne CFP® shares three tips that will help any advice firm improve the way it operates.

1. Have a dedicated person managing your business

Having a dedicated person managing your business not only enables practitioners to focus solely on their client work, but the firm has someone committed to the strategy and operational improvement of the business.

2. Appoint a tech expert within your business

Consider hiring or developing a person inside your business, like a paraplanner, who can become an expert in the use of your software technology. That’s because much of the technology in financial planning businesses is under-utilised due to an inadequate understanding of their capabilities.

“We hired an external consultant to train our team and, in the process, one of our team members has further developed his skills to become our software champion, who supports the rest of the team. This has been a massive game changer for us.”

3. Give your team a voice

Everyone working in a business has something to say about improving processes, if given the opportunity. So, give them a voice.

“Your team are learning from their experiences every day and if you create the space and trust for them to ask questions and share their ideas openly in a group setting, you will encourage constructive debate and will collaboratively improve your work practises,” says Rob.

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