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The next generation of planners are seeking workplace flexibility, mentoring, purpose and fulfilment in what they are doing. Jayson Forrest talks to three young CFP® professionals about how they view the future of advice.
Like so many uni students, Emily Lanciana CFP® was at a loss when she completed her Bachelor of Commerce degree. What to do now? It was a chance meeting with a careers coach and a couple of brainstorming sessions later, that sent Emily on the path of financial planning, and she still says it was one of the best decisions she ever made.
“We figured out all of the things I’m good at and particularly passionate about, which all pointed towards financial planning,” Emily says. “So, I went back to uni and did an additional year where I majored in financial planning.
“I’ve always been motivated to help people. It’s very rewarding to see clients achieve their goals and share their journey with them. It’s the perfect career for me.”
At the age of 28, Emily represents the new breed of planners coming through the profession – tertiary educated, mentored and highly motivated. She views all the changes with higher education requirements and professional standards as being “positive” for the profession, by making financial planners more accountable with the best interest duty.
“These higher standards are encouraging practitioners to focus on the best interests of the client, which is a positive outcome for our profession.”
Future of advice
As a young professional working as a financial planner at Apt Wealth Partners, Emily has a very positive outlook on the future of advice. She sees planners moving away from just numbers and investments, to take on a more behavioural finance aspect with their clients.
“Planners will increasingly spend more time understanding the psyche and personality of their clients, and helping them set and achieve goals. The future of advice will be about better educating our clients and helping them make smarter decisions about their money, enabling them to live better lives.”
Emily sees her role with her clients as that of a chief financial officer (CFO), where she provides clients with the pros and cons of all of the options available to them, and then assists them in making the right decisions.
“At the end of the day, it’s the client’s money and they are entitled to make their decision with how they want to use that money. But by better understanding the psyche and personality of our clients, and applying behavioural finance, we can guide them towards making the right decisions.”
As a Millennial, Emily is no stranger to technology and is buoyed by the opportunities technology has for the profession. She believes the evolution of social media is encouraging more planners and advice businesses to market their services and expertise.
“There is such a saturation of online content that is freely available to people that as a profession, we need to be more proactive in marketing ourselves as advice specialists,” she says.
But on the flip side, Emily also believes technological disruption to the profession, such as online and automated advice services, will also be a challenge for planners, requiring planners to adapt to change.
“We need to embrace technology and use it,” Emily says. “That means being adaptive to change and quick to use technology. Advice businesses can evolve and learn from technological disruption, which should be viewed as a positive and a definite opportunity for financial planning.”
“I love doing pro bono,” says Emily. “I do a lot of work with the Cancer Council Pro Bono program. It’s the most rewarding work that I’ve ever done. It’s a wonderful way of giving back and helping those clients who ordinarily wouldn’t have access to financial planning.
“That’s why I want financial planning to be more available to people who don’t have access to it but who desperately need it.”
As a young professional, Emily has workplace flexibility at the top of her list and expects that from a career in financial planning. Thankfully, it’s something Apt Wealth Partners supports as a business.
“I work for a firm that is innovative, so when it comes to things like pro bono, technology adoption and workplace flexibility, we have it,” she says. “Job fulfilment, technology and workplace flexibility are all key areas that Millennials are looking for with an employer. So, these are all areas that businesses need to address, if they’re going to be successful in attracting the next generation of planners.”
Age is no barrier
For Emily, age is no barrier when it comes to working with clients across all generations. The key, she says, is establishing a respectful relationship.
With Apt’s main clientele comprising of retirees, Emily confides that she was initially nervous working with older clients but as it turned out, this concern was unwarranted.
“My retiree clients are like any of my other clients. If you correctly establish a respectful relationship from the beginning based on having their best interests at heart, I don’t think age ever becomes an issue.”
However, she adds that at Apt Wealth Partners, she predominantly works with Millennial clients, where she heads up a lower cost offering for this generation. The offering covers superannuation, insurance and loans, but at a reduced scale.
More to do
Although Emily has been a financial planner for seven years, she believes there is more the profession can do for the next generation of practitioners coming through the ranks. And top of her list is rebuilding trust with consumers.
“As a profession, there is more we can do to reduce the stigma around financial advice that surfaced from the Royal Commission. There are so many positive stories around financial advice and through the great work planners do with their clients everyday. We need to do a better job of sharing these stories to rebuild trust with consumers.”
And finally, she adds: “Financial planning is all about improving the lives of our clients. But financial planning should be for all Australians, not just those who can afford it. As a profession, we need to work harder on making advice accessible for everybody, and that’s where technology can help, by allowing us to develop the resources and tools that all Australians can use to improve their financial wellbeing.
It was almost by accident that Simon Hepson CFP® fell into financial planning. As a student finishing his studies in finance, he was fortunate to pick up some casual work in an advice business. It was here that Simon discovered he had a talent for helping people better understand complex financial matters.
“Numbers, rules and regulations, and then creating strategies out of these, has always made sense to me and it’s something I enjoy doing. So, it didn’t take me long to realise that a career in financial planning was the perfect fit for me,” says Simon.
It’s hard for the 30-year-old practitioner at Brisbane-based Tupicoffs to conceal his pride at being an independent financial planner, and his excitement about the future ahead for financial planning.
“It’s great seeing the young generation of planners come through the ranks, gaining their qualifications and experience. They will become tomorrow’s business leaders, who will shape the industry in the future,” he says.
“We’re already seeing a lot of growth and improvement in the industry, and I think we’ll see a lot more of that as the younger generation comes through. This generation doesn’t have a sales background, they are highly educated and their approach to planning hasn’t been set in a particular way. As professionals, we’re heading into a very exciting time, where we will be helping more Australians with their advice needs.”
A positive outlook
While Simon concedes the industry is currently transitioning through a tough time, with new education requirements and higher professional standards impacting many planners, he remains optimistic about the future of advice because, as he says, “at the end of the day, it will still be about people and client relationships”.
“Technology will improve the way we work and allow different ways of delivering our services. This includes greater workplace flexibility and even the hours we work.
“Technology will improve a planner’s ability to get their work done at a higher quality level, by improving the data we collect and then streaming that through the hard mechanics of advice creation. By removing this grunt work, planners will be able to spend more time focusing on the more subtle needs of their clients, like ensuring they really understand their wider objectives and motivations.”
Another opportunity Simon sees on the horizon is the industry finally becoming a fully fledged and recognised profession.
“Personally, I don’t think we can call our industry a profession just yet,” he says. “Only when we collectively build our reputation based on education, ethics and trust, can we emerge as a profession. But it’s heartening to see this change starting now.”
Challenge and purpose
Forget work bonuses or a pay rise, what Simon wants most from a career in financial planning is to be challenged. So, it’s a good thing he picked the right career!
“I want daily challenges that enable me to work out how best to help people. It means that I’m keeping sharp, engaged and interested in what I’m doing, and that’s what younger planners want. They want purpose in what they’re doing.
“I don’t want to have multiple careers. I want to stay in financial planning for the long-term. So, it’s important to have variety in what I’m doing. As a planner, my ultimate reward is seeing my clients succeed over the years. Seeing the strategies I put down on paper actually implemented and then improving the lives of my clients is incredibly amazing. That’s my reward for the work I do. It’s absolute gold!”
And the 30-year-old is not fenced-in when it comes to servicing clients. While his client base is predominantly pre-retirees and retirees, he says the team at Tupicoffs is happy to provide services to anyone who they can provide value to.
“My client base is generally comprised of people aged over 45 who are mostly business owners or retired business owners. And interestingly, quite a few of our clients who have received advice in the past have come to us specifically because they want independent advice.”
A need to help ourselves
As the challenge ramps up for businesses to replace planners who are either retiring or exiting the industry, Simon believes the key to attracting and retaining the young generation of planners is to provide them with mentoring and to be open to workplace flexibility.
“Being mentored and working one-on-one with an experienced planner, like Neil Kendall CFP®, has helped me enormously with my career,” says Simon. “I’m still being mentored and use this opportunity to not only learn and improve as a professional, but to bounce around ideas.
“And young planners are very interested in flexibility around work arrangements, particularly in fitting work around family and life outside of the office. Not all want a traditional 9-5 Monday-to-Friday job, and that’s where technology can help. Each person will be different but some common themes I’ve seen are: working remotely one day a week, or working longer hours for three or four days a week.”
But in most cases, Simon believes we just have to help ourselves. That means continuing to improve education standards, which ultimately raises the quality of advice provided to clients.
“That will help the industry in the long run, especially with attracting and retaining younger planners. They want to work in a profession with high professional and education standards.”
Don’t forget your wellbeing
Importantly, Simon adds that during these unprecedented times weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s particularly important that all planners look after their health and emotional wellbeing. He says this is especially so for younger practitioners, who have never experienced conditions like these before.
“With increasing unemployment, social distancing and self-isolation, and erratic financial markets, it’s a very stressful time for practitioners, their clients and their families. We need to be there to support each other through these difficult times,” he says. “And the best way to do that is by looking after your mental health.”
Thankfully, Simon not only has a supportive workplace, but he is also able to turn to his wife each day, which helps to keep him emotionally grounded.
“And then there’s my two dogs. They constantly demand attention, which is a great way for me to destress and refocus on my family after work. And that’s something we all need now; an outlet that supports our emotional and mental wellbeing.”
There’s not much that dampens Jessie Hinds’ CFP® spirit. Although, like the rest of the nation, she might be in self-isolation waiting out the COVID-19 coronavirus, she remains excited about the future of advice.
“With all the changes that have recently occurred in financial planning, like new education and higher professional standards, I think the industry is at a real turning point and is heading in the right direction to be recognised as a true profession,” she says.
Jessie, who is a strategy adviser at Elston, believes people suffer considerable stress and anxiety when it comes to managing their money. But having a trusted relationship with a planner helps to control that stress.
“My hope is that all these recent changes to our profession, including higher professional standards and education, will help more consumers feel at ease with making that first contact with a planner,” she says. “Because we know that those consumers who do come and see us, quickly recognise the value of good financial advice.”
A brave new world
The 30-year-old professional is very upbeat about the future of advice, believing that planners are in the “perfect position” to move from the old world of “selling investment returns”, to the new world of service-based, holistic planning.
“I believe planners will increasingly operate as a client’s CFO, where they will educate clients about what can be achieved over the long-term,” Jessie says. “As part of that CFO role, I think we will see more planners acting collaboratively with other aligned professionals, like lawyers and accountants, to help with specialised areas that we don’t have the necessary skillset for. And by doing so, deliver a more co-ordinated outcome for clients.”
Not surprisingly, along with changes to higher education and professional standards, this Millennial also views technology as a definite opportunity for the profession. However, while technology is enabling consumers to take greater control of their finances, Jessie concedes it’s also creating unnecessary ‘noise’ for consumers to navigate through.
“With technology comes increased availability of information, which can distract clients from their long-term plans. Often clients let their emotions take over their rational decision-making. So, more than ever, the relationship between planners and their clients is so important to help clients dial down the ‘noise’ and help them sail through the uncertainties.
“By doing so, we can help them feel less stressed and anxious about what’s happening in their lives.”
As a Millennial, Jessie feels younger planners tend to adopt technology faster and have a greater thirst to apply technological advances in the workplace, compared to some of the older generations. And while that’s not a criticism, she believes embracing technology will be the key for businesses thriving in the future.
“Approximately 84 per cent of people consider a Google review as highly as a personal recommendation. When you think about it, people, like me, will always read Google reviews before making a booking or paying for a service. Therefore, I think this rapidly changing world will benefit those planners who adopt technology into their practices, whether that be to obtain new clients or better service existing clients.”
In fact, Elston has successfully implemented a service with clients that uses video conferencing and software, such as DocuSign, to better service the needs of clients.
“Some clients will always prefer to come into the office for a meeting or have us meet them at their house, but I think using technology to provide clients with options is a great way of showing your clients that you are there to service them and meet their needs.”
Making a difference
With eight years under her belt as a planner, Jessie says it’s not hard getting out of bed each morning when you know you are making a difference in the lives of your clients.
“Whatever you do, it has to have meaning,” says Jessie. “At the end of the day, our profession revolves around helping clients. So, when my career is said and done, I want to look back and know that I have made a genuine difference by helping people to live better lives.”
The Brisbane-based planner primarily looks after pre-retirees or retired clients. Age has never been an issue for Jessie, who says she really enjoys working with older generations of clients.
“I put a lot of importance on understanding my clients, their backgrounds, their family dynamic and the values they hold close to their hearts. I think once you understand that, you are in a good position to be able to relate to them and then adapt your approach to working with them.”
She adds that Elston does have a dedicated service aimed at the younger generation of clients, which is more cost-effective and tailored to this cohort of individuals. Although Jessie isn’t directly involved with servicing these younger clients, she does confirm that other Millennial practitioners within the business do look after them – a service, she says, is “for Millennials by Millennials”.
Although Jessie views herself as being firmly embedded as a planner, she does believe more can be done to help newer planners entering the profession. Top of her list is workplace flexibility and mentoring.
She says workplace flexibility is one of those advantages that occurs when technology is properly adopted and implemented by a business.
“Giving your workforce the ability to work from home, can ensure businesses run smoothly when the unprecedented occurs. Planners who have the technology available to work from home can still service their clients through events like the current COVID-19 pandemic.”
One thing Jessie is incredibly grateful for is the mentoring she has received since starting in this profession 10 years ago. And while there has been a substantial increase in young planners entering the profession in recent years, she believes practical mentoring for this new generation of planners will be hugely beneficial for their professional development.
“I think young people need to recognise that there is a broad skillset required to be a modern planner, and that skillset demands a lot more than just technical excellence.
“The best way the profession can assist these younger practitioners is helping to put an ‘old head on young shoulders’, which can be done though mentoring and promoting talent, irrespective of age or gender.”
It’s sound advice from someone who is certainly wise beyond her years.