Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.
Throughout this period of challenges and change for the profession, FPA Board member, Delma Newton CFP® says no member will be left behind, as the profession pushes ahead towards the next 10 years.
Delma Newton might live in Brisbane, but growing up in the NSW Northern Rivers town of Nimbin, this lady bleeds ‘blue’ when it comes to her footy – that’s ‘rugby league’ in Brissie.
“I may live in Queensland now, but I was born and bred NSW, and have never changed allegiance,” she defiantly says. “And to add a little bit of heat to the fire, when it comes to the National Rugby League competition, I follow the Manly Sea Eagles. That’s the team you either love or hate, and I love them.”
The girl from Nimbin – perhaps Australia’s most famous hippie destination and alternative lifestyle capital – is full of little surprises, none more so than her decision, five years ago, to nominate for the FPA Board. In hindsight, she says it was one of her better decisions.
“I previously served on the FPA Brisbane Chapter committee for about 10 years, including a five year stint as Chapter Chair. I then decided to take some time off to concentrate on my business, but it wasn’t long before I was encouraged by my colleagues to join the FPA Board.”
And with a pedigree in financial planning spanning 25 years, Delma was well qualified for the Board, having experienced firsthand the highs and lows of running her own planning business – Total Portfolio Management.
The CFP® practitioner was appointed to the FPA Board in November 2014, a decision she does not regret.
“Nominating for the Board wasn’t a hard decision for me to make,” she says. “I am a firm believer in the importance of giving back to your community and helping others. It’s the way I was brought up. So, joining the Board was my way of giving back to my profession.
“And I also believe that if you want to make change, then there’s no point whinging about it. Instead, it’s about jumping in, having a go and doing something about it. And that’s what I’m doing.”
A typical month
As part of her Board responsibilities, Delma current chairs the Regional Chapter Committee and is also a member of the Audit and Risk Management Committee. She admits that as part of her responsibilities, no one month ever looks the same.
“In addition to running my own business and looking after my clients, I also spend time helping out the Chapter Chairs with their queries and with any problems they may be having. It’s a tough gig being a Chapter Chair, but it’s also rewarding, so anything I can do to help them, is something I’m only too willing to do.”
Following each Board meeting, Delma shares relevant information to the representatives on the Regional Chapter Committee, which is then disseminated to the Chapter Chairs and members. This helps keep practitioners updated with what’s happening at the Board level.
“And, of course, I need to keep on top of the Board papers, so that means plenty of time reading, as well keeping an eye out for any issues that may affect our members or consumers. There’s a constant need to stay on top of things.”
With so much happening within the profession, Delma can scarcely believe we are on the doorstep of a new decade. But she concedes there are still many issues ahead for the profession that continue to keep her awake at night – both as a business owner and CFP® practitioner. Top of her list are: the cost of advice, practitioner wellbeing, and the lack of financial planning good news stories in the media.
Cost of advice
Delma says the escalating cost of advice to clients is something that concerns her.
“Despite the intended outcome of all the legislation and regulation to make advice more affordable, it has actually had unintended consequences by adding to the cost of running a planning business, meaning planners are required to do more work just to get an SOA or plan out to a client,” she says.
“This means clients and consumers who really do need our help are being priced out of the market. And that’s terrible, because financial planning shouldn’t just be for people on higher incomes; it should be available to all people who need it and at a reasonable price.”
To help alleviate some of the pressures of running a business, Delma says the FPA has rolled out a range of resources to assist planners better understand, adapt and streamline their systems and processes to recent regulatory requirements. This includes material on the FASEA Code of Ethics and the updating of the FoFA toolkit, which assists members in the transitioning of their business models to fee-for-service.
“As a member association, we are constantly talking to Government and the regulators about policy issues,” Delma says. “The FPA even has a lobbyist in Canberra, who is helping the FPA and members get better access to the decision-makers.”
As a business owner, Delma is also acutely aware of the level of stress planners are currently subjected to as a result of all the recent legislative and regulatory changes.
“In my role as Chair of the Regional Chapter Committee, I have become more aware of the number of planners who are finding it really tough dealing with the fallout from the Royal Commission and changes to the education requirements that they now have to meet,” she says.
To assist practitioner members better cope with these stresses, by enabling them to stay on top of their health and wellness, the FPA has rolled out FPA Wellbeing, which is a free and confidential coaching and support program that has been specifically developed to assist practitioners through this challenging time for the profession.
And to assist members navigate the new FASEA education standards, the FPA has introduced an online education hub – FPA Return to Learn.
“For members who haven’t undertaking formal study for a long time, the resources available at FPA Return to Learn have been designed to help them get back into study, as well as assist them work out what extra subjects or units they need to do,” Delma says.
“The important thing to remember is no member will be left behind. We’re all in this together and the FPA will help all members deal with these changes, as we move together towards a new decade.”
A definite bugbear of Delma’s is the lack of good news stories about financial planning in the media. Unfortunately, it’s the old cliché of bad news sells, but this need not be the case, she says.
“We turn on the TV and there might be another media report of a ‘rogue planner’, who may, in fact, not even be a planner but the media calls them a financial planner, and then the whole profession gets dragged down once again. That annoys me a lot.”
According to Delma, to help address this negativity, the FPA is using its e-newsletter, FPA Express, to highlight practitioner members who have appeared in the media (both traditional and social) with their good news stories about the benefits of financial planning.
“I want to encourage more members to share their good news about financial planning,” Delma says. “This can be as simple as posting something to LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. I want more planners to be proactive about promoting ‘good news’ stories of how they’ve helped their clients to a much wider audience.”
Delma believes that if 11,000 FPA practitioner members posted just two good news stories on LinkedIn each year, with an average click rate of 100, that could be 2.2 million views annually on LinkedIn alone.
“Social media is such an easy, effective and powerful way to share our good news stories, and it’s not hard to do. I would love more members to get involved with doing this. Just think of the reach financial planning could have through the networks of our members alone. The possibilities are truly enormous.”
With five years under her belt as a Board member, what have been some of Delma’s highlights, and with one year remaining on her term, is there any unfinished business?
“A definite highlight was working on the FPA Professionals Congress for three years as Congress Chair. Working with a highly motivated team, and helping them pull together something as massive as Congress, was incredibly rewarding. It was also satisfying to help raise the education standards of Congress, by lifting the ethics content from one hour to three hours. That was important to do,” she says.
Delma adds that it has also been a highlight to work with the Chapter Chairs on a day-to-day basis, and seeing firsthand the wonderful things they are doing within their communities.
“It’s reaffirming to see just how amazing our profession is at the coalface and in the incredible ways our members are making a difference in the lives of their clients.”
And what unfinished business is left for the girl from Nimbin?
For Delma, her first priority is helping members through the new FASEA requirements as easily as possible, which she concedes will be ongoing after her tenure on the Board expires. And her second priority is to encourage more planners to share their good news stories about financial planning to consumers.
“I joined the Board wanting to get the good news stories about our profession out to the wider community. So, I am intent on encouraging more FPA members to share their remarkable and inspirational good news stories. It’s up to each and everyone of us to share our good news stories. If not, then who will?”