Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.
Stevie-Jade Turner CFP® views herself as a ‘new school’ planner. She talks about her approach to planning and the future of advice.
There’s nothing ‘old school’ about Stevie-Jade Turner CFP®, who definitely sees herself as one of the ‘new school’ of planners coming through the advice ranks.
“When I first joined the industry 10 years ago, everybody told me that financial planning was a sales role and I would be selling products. But I never agreed with that view. Instead, I saw myself as more of a consultant,” she says.
“And I’m meeting more and more planners who also feel the same way. They see themselves as consultants, working with their clients holistically, rather than selling them a product. So, it has been heartening to see such a significant shift in the cultural mindset of planners away from sales to advice.”
Stevie-Jade has been involved in the financial services industry since August 2009, having spent three years prior to that completing a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Accounting and Financial Planning from Curtin University.
She served her apprenticeship as a paraplanner and Associate Adviser at Perth-based Wealth Management Partners, where she had the opportunity to take part in the MLC Adviser Scholarship Program, fast-tracking her path to providing advice, which culminated in October 2014, when she successfully completed the CFP® Certification Program.
Today, the 29-year-old works as a Senior Financial Planner in the Melbourne office of Specialist Financial Solutions – a boutique advisory business with offices in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.
Reflecting back on her 10-year journey in the profession, Stevie-Jade doesn’t shy away from it being a constant learning process, requiring her to evolve her approach to planning.
“Initially, I was very technical in my approach to financial planning,” she says. “If I saw a solution to a client’s problem, I instantly thought it was too obvious. You could say I was suffering from ‘imposter syndrome’, where I was doubting my own ability and technical competency because the solutions to client problems just seemed so obvious. But over time, I recognised I knew much more than I credited myself for and realised I was providing far more value to clients than I ever thought I did.”
Stevie-Jade credits that realisation to her time spent working at Westpac, where she coached planners. Prior to joining Specialist Financial Solutions in 2015, Stevie-Jade spent time coaching planners at Westpac for two years, where she was responsible for coaching over 120 planners individually in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, as well as inducting over 150 planners nationwide in Westpac’s Sydney inductions.
She says this unique experience of educating her peers added an additional layer of “purpose” to her advice process, which centres on educating and empowering those seeking her advice.
“The greatest skill you can have as a planner is being able to convert and translate your technical knowledge and expertise into plain English. By doing so, you allow other people to benefit from what you know.”
The CFP® practitioner’s approach to planning is all about simplifying the process, which she does by putting herself in the client’s shoes to help her better engage with them.
“The translation part of the planning process has to be there, otherwise, clients will just stare blankly back at you. So, I put myself in my client’s position by trying to understand their financial objectives and aspirations, as well as their values and capacity to adapt to change.”
Stevie-Jade believes this approach of stepping into her client’s shoes enables her to better understand their situation and capacity for change.
“Clients are going through a process of change when they work with you. If you can recognise not just what someone wants but how they feel about what they want, and how they feel about anything new in their life, then you are able to better adapt your strategies for them and make the whole planning process more enjoyable for the client,” she says.
“So, my approach to planning is all about: how can I make this as easy as possible for the client to benefit from working with me. By doing that, clients are able to feel more confident and in control of their financial futures.”
However, Stevie-Jade concedes that to be a successful planner requires more than just technical aptitude. Success, she says, also requires emotional intelligence and empathy.
“You have to be able to read the signals your clients are giving you. This includes recognising when you’ve given them too much information to digest that they become overwhelmed by it. Or perhaps it’s a perception a client has towards money or their financial goals. Financial planning is about emotion and good planners recognise that.”
Adapting to change
While Stevie-Jade is happy to step into her client’s shoes to better understand them and their capacity for change, how is she adapting to her own change within the profession?
She concedes that the new FASEA standards, Royal Commission recommendations and changing business models are all particularly challenging for planners. But she deals with change in a measured and orderly manner.
“I’m all about listening, researching and not acting rashly. Only then, when I’m properly informed, do I make the necessary changes that are right for me and my clients.”
As a ‘new school’ planner, Stevie-Jade understands that ‘old school’ business models that worked in the past will need to change or risk disappearing altogether. She believes the key to this is embracing technology and innovation to streamline processes and improve business efficiency.
As a Millennial, Stevie-Jade is well-versed with technology and social media, which she uses as a way of adapting to change. She is constantly looking for tools and ways to improve her efficiency and simplify her processes, using AstuteWheel and MyProsperity as examples of fintech helping with her client engagement.
“I also like the FPA’s Match My Planner online service that helps to connect Australians looking for a financial planner. I jumped straight onto Match My Planner when it was launched earlier this year and had a number of people come back to me for a chat.”
And while Stevie-Jade has yet to convert any of these leads to clients, she is confident this is only a matter of time. “While I haven’t got them to the point of actually meeting with me face-to-face, I am engaging with them online through email. My feeling is that these consumers are dipping their toe in the water to see what financial planning is all about, but they’re not quite ready to commit to the process yet. Hopefully, when they feel ready, they know I’ll be there to help them begin their journey.”
She also feels an important element of coping with change is taking the time to look after your health and wellness, which for her, means separating work from weekends.
“I try to leave work at work, but I admit this is super hard to do and I’m not very good at it. I really do try and keep work and weekends apart, otherwise, you fall into the trap of doing work all the time. So, finding that right balance is critical.”
In the wake of the Royal Commission, much has been said about the need for the profession to rebuild trust with clients and consumers that has eroded over recent years due to industry misconduct. But for Stevie-Jade, this hasn’t been an issue with her client base.
“I have been very open with my clients about the Royal Commission and for those clients who I have an existing relationship with, they haven’t been concerned by all the media noise,” she says. “However, in contrast, when I meet with new clients, they are definitely aware of the Royal Commission and ask all the right questions, like whether I’m independent and how I am remunerated. They are quite savvy.
“I build trust with these new clients by acknowledging the Royal Commission’s review and encouraging them to ask questions. It’s about being openly transparent and respectful with all my clients.”
Stevie-Jade also refers back to tools and resources, like Match My Planner, which she believes can be used by practitioners as a conduit for re-engaging with consumers who are seeking professional advice.
“If a consumer doesn’t know someone who can refer them to a planner, then how do they go about finding the right type of planner for their circumstances? So, in that respect, Match My Planner is a great example of a tool that can be independently used by consumers to find a planner offering the type of advice and services they are after.
“It’s a terrific tool that connects consumers with planners, which begins the whole conversation around financial planning.”
2020 and beyond
As the profession heads into a new decade, what type of future does Stevie-Jade see for financial planning over the next 5-10 years? The first thing she envisages is a growth in the different types of remuneration models for planners and practices to accommodate different client needs.
“This could be more contractual-based arrangements, hourly-based arrangements or pay-as-you-need-advice type arrangements. I definitely think we will see the rise of more adaptable models for clients to suit what they are wanting from an advice relationship.”
And what about the actual planning process itself? How will planners future-proof their businesses?
“It’s a good question,” she says. “I think we’ll see a growth in advice businesses moving into more specialist niches. Similar to law, where you have lawyers specialising in family law, commercial law or estate law, I think you’ll see more planners and practices specialising in areas like estate planning, divorce, aged care and personal insurance. As advice specialists, that’s all they’ll do.”
Stevie-Jade believes this rise in advice specialists will also be an opportunity for planners to work more closely together.
“Last year, I met a planner who was an investment specialist. She worked with high-net-worth clients and didn’t have an interest in insurance. But she identified an opportunity where we could work together, with me helping her clients with their insurance needs.
“We ended up working together on one of her clients. I believe that’s where the opportunity lies when you have that type of niche specialisation in the profession.”
As a ‘new school planner’, Stevie-Jade might be onto something. And as the profession deals with unprecedented change, she encourages any ‘old school planners’ to embrace technology and the challenges ahead by repositioning themselves for higher client-centric advice. As she says: “Our clients are counting on it.”
Name: Stevie-Jade Turner CFP® Position: Senior Financial Planner Practice: Specialist Financial Solutions Years as a planner: 10 years CFP® designation: October 2014