Driving into the office recently, the talk back radio host was discussing the lack of leadership in Australian politics. The guest, a former politician, made some general comments, which could just as easily translate to the financial planning profession.
In essence, the discussion was based around decision-making and the ability to make decisions that were supporting the nation. I would refer to this as ‘Best Interest Duty’ – making decisions in the best interest of clients.
The discussion went on to deliberate modern thinking. The ability to evolve and utilise modern ideology and technology to enhance the environment within which you operate.
They continued on to discuss accountability, indicating how leaders must be accountable and accept that accountability. And finally, how essential it was for leaders to be well-informed and achieve results. These results must be achieved within the rules.
I would add leaders need to have the courage of their convictions; to be able to stand up for what they believe in.
To be a leader in financial planning today, will take all of the above and more. We will need to make good decisions and evolve with modern thinking, while being accountable and remaining well-informed to achieve outstanding results.
Being a leader is looking for opportunity in change. Where there is some reticence to accept changes to the way we have always done things, there should be curiosity as to what our businesses, and the way we look after our clients, will look like in this new environment.
Leadership to me is being able to demonstrate to others there is a way through this turmoil and listening to and providing support for those who are finding it difficult.
As a leader, we should remain committed to our cause. We need to remind each other why we decided to follow the path of providing financial advice and understand that this change might end up meaning we have to deliver this differently, but in the end, it is the quality of advice that our clients receive that matters.
We might have to take on education courses, which means looking at how we can work together to get this done. Sure, we have to take an exam, which some struggle to understand the value of. However, these are things we can’t change, so we should embrace the challenge and see the opportunity to maybe even learn something along the way.
There is no doubt these are trying times, but you never know, you might end up with better business processes and you might learn something new. And remember, always go back to why you started in this profession in the first place.
We lead our clients to better outcomes for their lives. Sometimes this challenges them, but we step up, because we are leaders and we help them see the opportunities that await.
In completing my CFP® studies a couple of years ago, one area that stood out in the ethics subject was a discussion around the need to support each other as planners and as an industry.
In the past, perhaps in part due to the product selling origins of our industry, working with clients was a dog-eat-dog world, in which discrediting another planner was just another method of new business prospecting.
From our past and now the present, in the form of the major recommendations of the Royal Commission, I believe every planner in our industry by default becomes a leader on how our industry is viewed by the public into the future through their everyday actions and client interactions.
Being a leader can come in various forms, however, in the context of the current changing landscape, transparency and trust are key leadership traits needed at this time for our industry to move forward and prosper.
Individually, a simple undertaking of asking a client in their first appointment if they have met with another planner before and if not, encourage them to have a second introduction meeting with another planner for another perspective, starts a conversation around the overriding value of advice to them. It also provides transparency in having the best interest of the client in place and encourages further trust in our industry as a whole.
We work in a fantastic industry that’s all about building trust and helping people lead better lives, and, as leaders, we need to look beyond today’s challenges to set a positive tone for the future.
It’s critical that we deal in facts, making decisions based on what is, not what could be. And the facts are great for our industry; there is a growing need for professional advice in our society. Firms that provide trusted advice without conflict have a huge opportunity to shape the financial future of more and more Australians, as the population grows and ages.
It’s also a huge responsibility, and for leaders, it is important to acknowledge that actions speak louder than words; we need to lead our teams ethically and fairly, empowering them to do the same for their clients.
We also need to look at how we can be industry leaders, too. For example, at Apt, we transitioned to our own AFSL to remove advice conflicts and began removing grandfathered commissions some time ago.
It’s also imperative for leaders to continue to have a client-focus, after all, clients are the heart of our businesses. Our directors still take time to sit down with clients, setting a standard for our advice team. By cementing our relationships with our clients, we are creating future advocates for our business.
Our industry is in challenging times, which represents an opportunity for leaders to galvanise action.
In the past, our industry has not been great at looking at the long-term and supporting each other. But in times like these, we need to band together and reinvent ourselves and our businesses. This requires leaders to have a flexible and progressive mindset and attitude to identify and take advantage of the opportunities that arise out of uncertainty.
For example, one of the things we have found is that culturally aligned people and firms are seeking each other out more proactively and effectively. By connecting at this level, we can progress forward with combined efforts and identify potential solutions to problems that you can’t necessarily solve on your own.
I feel like it’s my role as one of the leaders in our business to clearly articulate where we are going as a company and industry, and create these connections, so that we can navigate a path forward together.
What does it mean to be a leader during these challenging times for the profession? Put simply: Leading by example.
As a profession, we all need to lead the way forward and not rely on the few in traditional leadership positions to pave the way forward.
With FASEA’s education and exam requirements, as well as an increased hurdle for new entrants to the profession, being a leader is increasingly important within the industry. It can be as simple as helping your team develop pathways to achieve what they need to, as well as doing it for yourself. To do this well, you need to be well versed in the requirements and options available in meeting the FASEA requirements. Look to providers and your licensee to offer guidance here, as there may be some preferential pricing in place.
Most importantly, I’d suggest that with the current environment, being an agile thinker is critical for leaders. As a planner, there are constant changes we must deal with – from regulatory through to product – as well as different ways of doing business (such as digital solutions). If we are not agile, we risk being left behind.
For your clients, be aware of the landscape as they see it. With large organisations departing the advice scene and constant media scrutiny, there is uncertainty from our clients’ perspective in how long we will be around for, as well as if we will do the right thing by them.
Every planner is a leader from their client’s perspective, so own it and look to talk to these concerns wherever possible. Be open in how you – as a planner – and your business is dealing with the challenges facing the industry. It’s a unique opportunity for deep engagement.
During my studies, I had the opportunity to gain invaluable insight into a variety of leadership theories. As a result, I choose to lead by example with positivity and a consistent, solution-focused attitude – regardless of any challenges facing the industry.
In my opinion, the challenges faced by some members of the industry are largely related to compliance. Endorphin Wealth is confident in its compliance with best industry practice, and we pride ourselves on the regular and comprehensive strategic planning that we undertake.
As part of our solution-focused leadership, we have recently launched our Advice Process Improvement Project; an extensive review and overhaul of every step of the financial planning process within our business. This involves assessing each of our forms of communication to ensure they are compliant, and to also ensure we are delivering the most efficient and customer-focused solutions to our clients from their first interaction with us. Productive use of technology and CRM software allows us to streamline our processes, so we spend less time on administration and more on enriching the financial lives of our clients.
While I am fully aware of and engaged with the outside noise and media attention recently focused on the financial planning industry, Endorphin Wealth is solely committed to our strategic plan and company vision.
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