FPA Podcast: Successful Professional Year [CPD]

13 October 2021

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

In this episode of the FPA Podcast we talk with Tim Manwaring, who has recently completed his Professional Year with Eureka Whittaker Macnaught and Greg Cook, who supervised him. We’ll be talking about the process, what you need to do, the skills you need to develop and how to engage with clients. This episode is CPD accredited.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcript below and click here to take the CPD quiz.

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Episode transcript

[START]

Ben Marshan

Hello. Welcome to today’s FPA podcast. We are joined today to talk about the professional year with Tim Manwaring, who has recently completed his PY year with Eureka Whittaker Macnaught. And Greg Cook, who supervised him through his professional year. We’re going to be talking about the process, what you need to do, the skills you need to develop, how to engage with clients. And so, I would like to welcome Tim and Greg to today’s podcast.

Ben Marshan

I might start with you Greg. Do you want to introduce yourself to the listeners?

Greg Cook

Great Ben, good to be here. Oh yeah. My name’s Greg Cook, I run Eureka Whittaker Macnaught. So, I’ve been in the industry and now profession since the early 90s, since the early days to the FPA. We’re a firm that’s based in Sydney and Brisbane. We’ve also got an office in Paramatta and on the central coast of New South Wales. So, we’ve got eight planners at the moment and yeah, I guess the reason for being here is probably more as an accidental tourist rather than anything planned. I supervise the first advisor in Australia to get through the professional year, Harry Baker. And I’ve subsequently supervised Tim Manwaring, whose also with us today.

Ben Marshan

Great. Tim, can you introduce yourself to the listeners?

Tim Manwaring

So, I work as the financial advisor at Eureka Whittaker Macnaught. I completed a double degree in commerce and applied finance at Macquarie University. Post leaving university, picked up a role at one financial planning firm. Started off my graduate diploma of financial planning and then moved over to Greg’s firm about two years ago, from there completed the diploma and then started my professional year under Greg. Earlier in March this year, I completed my professional year and am now a fully-fledged advisor.

Ben Marshan

Congratulations, Tim. That must be very exciting for you and fulfilling to have gone through that journey and come out the other side.

 

Tim Manwaring

I mean, when you look back at the journey, it was decently long in length, but obviously it was a rewarding experience and certainly learnt a lot from Greg in the past two years working under him, both from a professional year point of view, to understanding the soft skills involved in financial advice with clients. On top of that, also getting to learn from Greg the business side of his running a small business and how to grow your career, both through your brand and also getting an understanding of how businesses make profits and how they return those profits to shareholders as well.

Ben Marshan

Well, I think you’ve stumbled onto the right mentor there from that perspective, Tim. Greg, you mentioned that you took the first PY planner through the process in Harry. Why did you decide as a business, to take on that PY responsibility?

Greg Cook

As I say, I’d like to reflect back and think it was part of a brilliant plan and wanted to be the first supervisor, but was more being an accidental tourist. I know in 2018, a lot of firms rushed through new advisors. I think there was a couple thousand that went through then. So as to avoid the extra requirements, including the professional year, Harry Baker, the planner who did complete the first professional year, he was based out of our Brisbane office. And we had a bit of succession going on in our business, especially in the Sydney office. And he’d been client services role, and also for about 12 months as a paraplanner in our business. And it made sense for his career path to come to Sydney, and complete the professional year under my supervision.

Greg Cook

So that happened to be in the January, February of 2019, after the professional year requirement had begun. And we were licensed through Financial Wisdom, which no longer exist. I was part of the Commonwealth Bank, and then midway or the latter part of that year, we transitioned across to Fortnum Private Wealth. So, Harry was also a little bit unique in that the licensee role… Well firstly by definition, it was a new responsibility to every licensee. And so, it actually took a couple of months to get that process properly underway. I think he spent about 15 months doing a 12-month professional year, but that was no fault of his. But it also involved a transition in licensee during that time.

Ben Marshan (4:26)

And do you think that experience of going through client service type roles and paraplanning roles is important in that PY journey? Or do you think it’s possible for somebody to come out of university and move straight into that PY?

Greg Cook

I guess it’s possible for the latter, but I would suggest it will be uncommon. Somebody let’s say, completed three or four years of study in their early 20s, to leap straight into the PY and becoming an adviser out on their own at age 22 or 23, would probably be possible but not common. There’s, as we know, there’s lots of moving parts and in providing financial advice is highly regulated in Australia. And  getting the maturity and learning the skills of dealing with clients, and the implementation of changes, and the creation of advice documents is a very important part of the role. So, I think the traditional role of client services, paraplanning, professional year and then individual advisor, is probably the career path that’s going to continue.

Ben Marshan

And reflecting on your process of coming in Tim, did you find that doing that doing that pre-work in client service type roles and paraplanning roles, helped when you actually got to the PY experience?

Tim Manwaring

A 100%. So, client services gives you a good understanding of the paperwork involved in the financial advice process. I think in university degrees and also the diploma, you get an understanding of financial planning. But until you start doing paraplanning, you don’t really understand the strategies that are involved in year-to-year advice for clients, whether that’s investment related, or strategy related.

Tim (6:09)

From there, you’re in a position where you’ve worked on your skillset and you’re confident in your technical ability, but then you need a mentor in my opinion, to teach you the soft skills of financial advice. So obviously you can be technical, but if you don’t have a good client advisor relationship and those soft skills, you not going to create good value for the client, and they’re not going to probably trust you as much as they need to.

Tim Manwaring

So, I think there’s been a lot of synergies for Greg and I by working together. There is no doubt in our industry, there is some advisors leaving the industry due to the additional regulation and paperwork involved in advice. And by having Greg and I work as a team, if Greg’s also running the business, he couldn’t keep up with all that paperwork as well in a workday. So, it works both ways. I can still do some of that grunt work and make sure that all the file noting is completed, the paraplanning request forms, etc. And then I also get to learn his soft skills and how to talk to clients.

Ben Marshan

Tim, have you had to overcome any reservations or concerns with clients about you going through the PY?

Tim Manwaring (7:40)

I think obviously having a strong mentor alongside you and with Greg’s introductions about my skillset, I think that was very important. So, the client didn’t think I was coming straight out of uni. I had experience in financial planning, I understood the backend of financial advice in terms of strategies and the documents. So, I think a good introduction from the advisors certainly helped.

Tim Manwaring

I think you might get reservations from clients, if you come in too heavy or you try to talk too much in the meeting and having a 50-50 rule where you make sure you’re letting the client talk about their goals and objectives and what’s important to them, instead of trying to go into solution mode straight away with the client. I think that’s really helpful.

 

Ben Marshan

It’s one of those important skills to learn, to not fill the dead space. You’ve got to give the clients time to answer those questions themselves.

Ben Marshan (8:44)

And so, between the two of you, what preparation do you do before you go into the appointment so that you not talking over each other, you’re ready for whatever’s going to be thrown up at the conversation, making sure the client’s comfortable with everything that’s going on?

Greg Cook

Because Tim and I’ve continued to do joint client meetings. Even in the six months now that he’s completed the professional year, because for a number of reasons, we find it an efficient way of working. So, we’ve become a pretty good duo I suppose. So, the preparation is fairly minimal. If it’s a fresh client, potential client to the business and we’re doing a discovery meeting, we’ve got the client, partly complete the fact find prior and we’ve got a process that we follow. If it’s an existing client, then we tend to know what the potential strategies are and the issues prior to the meeting. So often as well as the email exchange, it’s often a five-minute chat prior to the meeting. And at the moment, 99% of those meetings are run via Zoom.

Greg Cook

So, it’s been, as a lot of advisors have found, that format actually makes it reasonably good in terms of controlling the agenda and getting through a structured meeting with a client. I’d also add though, I was actually surprised with Harry and Tim, that most clients, even clients that are retirees or even elderly clients, are actually very accepting of a young advisor. They respect when you spend the first couple of minutes at the meeting introducing the professional year candidate and their qualifications, and why the professional year has been part of taking us from an industry to a profession. It actually can be really explained in a positive manner.

Greg Cook

And most people are actually, they know they were young once and new in a role, and they have a lot of empathy and they respect our business for bringing people through a trade type retiree, they’ve had apprentices, or they’ve been an apprentice. And if it’s a professional person that now was a business owner, one of the greatest bits of satisfaction is being able to look back and knowing that you’ve helped a whole bunch of people on their career path over the years. The other thing I’d add as well, as Tim alluded to, it’s not necessarily the young professional year person has all the technical skills and the gray headed guy or girl in their mid 50s has all the soft skills.

Greg Cook (11:09)

There’s lots of practical technical skills that come out of having given advice for 30 years. And a spouse passes away and handling the death benefits, and the practicalities, and the maturity to go through that. And even pre-retirement and retirement strategies, does a whole bunch of, you’ve got clients at different age brackets and maximizing Centrelink, and so on, that an advisor who also probably studied that or certainly studied that, they haven’t really had much experience in implementing it. And so, there is an element of technical learning from the older advisor as well.

Ben Marshan

And how have you found the clients from your side Tim?

Tim Manwaring

So as Greg said, very responsive. I think having the combination of both of us in the meetings certainly helps, which allows a bit of killing two birds with one stone. So, if you have the advisor talking about a strategy, so Greg, and then I start to talk about the strategy. We can bounce ideas off each other. I think the clients respond to that well, because it looks like two people are thinking about them and considering the strategies, and it’s showing the amount of in-depth knowledge required with the strategies. So, I think I’ve found that pretty rewarding.

Tim Manwaring

And then in terms of getting an understanding of the client, I think having Greg’s knowledge of the clients, so they might’ve been clients with Greg for 20 or 30 years, he understands their personality traits, their history of financial advice, and also their general life experiences they’ve been through. And he can pass that knowledge onto me prior to the meeting. So, I have a bit of an understanding of the client and who they are, which certainly helps compared to if I was going to a meeting by myself and I never really knew the client.

Ben Marshan (12:58)

And so, on a practical basis, you’ve got a couple of quarters that you need to go through and there’s different tasks that you need to do. Can you go through the process? I understand there’s a logbook. How does that side of things work?

Tim Manwaring

So, there’s obviously two main hour requirements. So firstly, there’s the 100 hours of structured learning. And I primarily completed that through Kaplan. And then there was also some licensee, CPD activities throughout the year. And then on top of that, you’ve got the 1500 hours of supervised learning throughout the four quarters.

Tim Manwaring

Some people I guess, might find that a bit confronting saying that 1500 number, however in reality, in most 40-hour work weeks, that’s a year. So, it worked out to be about a year that it took me. And early on in the first two quarters, sitting back a bit more in the meeting and getting a really good understanding of how Greg conducts financial planning meetings, talks about strategies with clients. And again, building my paraplanning skillset and understanding of advice documents.

Tim Manwaring

In addition to that, completing the FASEA exam, which was again, another opportunity to develop your technical skills set.

Ben Marshan

And what process did you go through for recording the activity?

 

Tim Manwaring (14:35)

So managed an Excel spreadsheet for each of the quarters. What I found is, whilst you obviously have to keep an update on individual activities, you complete a lot of the financial planning steps or jobs that you have to do each day, are very similar for each client. So, it might be a file note or a fact-find or a paraplanning request form.

Tim Manwaring

It was more a case of reviewing it at the end of each week, workweek, and making sure you had a good understanding of what you did for each client. But again, the tasks are very similar for each client, which made the record keeping a lot easier.

Ben Marshan

And then what was the, did you have a process at the end of the week? Or the end of two weeks? Or end of the month? Or something where you and Greg got together and talked about the log and what had gone on during the week?

Tim Manwaring

I managed the log primarily myself and then, always updating at least at the end of each week and ideally each day if you could. And then catching up with Greg throughout each month. And then on top of that, catching up with your licensee at the end of each quarter and reflecting on the activities you completed, what you learned in that quarter.

Ben Marshan

And Greg, from the business side, did you have to change much or put different processes in place to manage someone going through a PY?

Greg Cook

No. We were very conscious about the commerciality. So, I spend about 50%, maybe 60% of my time as a planner and the rest in running the business. And so, as Tim alluded to earlier, there’s lots of grunt work for want of a better term, foot soldier work of compiling the filing notes during the meeting and some directly following the meeting. And doing a lot of the prep for the paraplanner. But yeah, we’ve actually punched out about 40 meetings per month. Firstly, my time with Harry and then my time with Tim. But I think that’s way, I’m sure it’s way above average for a single planner. And the reason we’ve been able to do that is, we’ve worked well as a duo. And back to a point Tim made earlier, I think it’s often good, there’s areas that aren’t black and white in terms of strategy and ideas with the client.

Greg Cook

And if Tim and I sort of bouncing ideas off the pros and cons of strategies and so on, in a client meeting, I think that’s a healthy thing. I’m always using the medical analogy; I’ve said to Tim the other day. It’s a little bit like if you’ve got a major health problem and you’re going in for surgery, and you’ve got two medical specialists standing at the end of the bed talking about the pros and cons of different approaches. You don’t want them looking at each other going, gee but we’ve never done one of those before. But you are happy for them to explore the different strategies that can be taken and the outcomes of different approaches and so on.

Ben Marshan (17:53)

I must admit on the odd occasion that I had clients have reservations about my age, I used to remind them that, that old planner that they used to see is probably close to retirement like they are. Whereas I’m young and keen, and willing to work with them through their retirement. Again Greg, from the business side perspective, have Tim and Harry brought new skills, new ways of doing things to your business, that’s had a positive impact on the business?

Greg Cook

Well, one thing we’ve encouraged them to not be minders in terms of clients, to be finders, to use that old expression, that with any business. Especially with an older client profile for various reasons. Clients do come and go and if that’s 4% a year or what have you, then if you’re not putting on more than 4% of new clients, then your business is actually shrinking. So, I know it’s a bit of old school term, but prospecting, being confident about your value proposition and being able to talk about it in your various networks in your personal life is an important skill.

Greg Cook

Now we’ve been able to make it work really well commercially. And there’s probably a simpler, smaller clients that Tim increasingly is going to take care of by himself. But we’re probably going to continue to see clients on a joint basis. Reflecting back on the four quarters as well, I suppose a simple way of thinking about it in Q1 and Q2, a professional year candidate is sitting in on the meeting in a way that a paraplanner or the client services person may have historically sat in on a client meeting.

Greg Cook

And then once they’ve sat and passed the exam, and move into Q3 and then Q4, it’s more of the advisor talking, the supervising advisor talking less and letting the professional year candidate find their feet. And I guess occasionally make a little error here and there, not an error that’s going to impact the client, that you need to let people take their training wheels off and find their own stability in the way they deal with people, and have free conversations with clients. And deal with issues that crop up from time to time with clients.

 

Ben Marshan

Yeah, absolutely. And Tim, you mentioned that you did some study through Kaplan to get your 100 hours up, I know we’ve got a few people going through PY doing the CFP subjects and things. How did you find juggling the study and 1500 hours of work?

Tim Manwaring

I didn’t find it too onerous. I found that it was about setting time aside, whether it be a couple of days each month to set aside for that structured learning. But I think the way the Kaplan provides the portal with the study guide and the multiple-choice question format, I found it was a good, another way to increase my skillset. I think you have enough time within a full year to be able to fit in 25 hours per quarter, as long as you’re on top of things.

 

 

Ben Marshan

And did you find the exam particularly challenging or difficult? Or you found it okay, given you were working and studying, and preparing for it anyway?

Tim Manwaring

Well, I think having the background of the graduate diploma of financial planning and also the practical skills you’re learning throughout the professional year, all that combined to mean that with some good quality study before the exam, you could definitely pass it. And I didn’t find the whole exam process too stressful.

Ben Marshan (21:33)

And have things changed much since you’ve been off the back end of PY and you’re doing things yourself? Or is it more or less still a part of the process and journey?

Tim Manwaring

So, I think I’ve certainly doing more things by myself if needed. So sometimes I might take client meetings without Greg or complete strategy pre-meeting work and get a good idea, starting to feel very across a lot of the key strategies. And then also, trying to develop my skillset personally. So, completing an SMSF accreditation and accreditation in direct shares advice.

Ben Marshan

Yeah absolutely. Is there anything else you want to share Greg, to other businesses that are thinking about bringing on people for PY?

Greg Cook

Well, obviously it’s quite a commitment. I was lucky with both Harry and Tim in that I happen to know them personally and sort of family connection with each of them. And so, my due diligence on their character and capability was there. And so, we were confident to be able to commit the time to put them through the professional year. I’ve heard some advisors say, it’s like that old saying, what if I train them up and they leave? But the counter to that is, what if you don’t and they stay?

Greg Cook

So, I think you’ve got to have enough confidence in your practice that you’re an employer of choice, and that if you can have a pathway in potential future equity for these young, bright people in their mid 20s, that it’s a process well and truly worth going through. I’d also add that Harry actually moved back to the Brisbane office about the time that he completed the professional year.

Greg Cook

And so, whilst he’s got good supervision of general manager of advice, Sally Bell up in our Brisbane office. He’s effectively been on his own in the 18 months or two years since he completed his professional year. So, I guess yeah, we’ve got examples of both, where people are professional year graduates of this going off and started looking after clients by themselves. In Tim’s case, where we’ve looked after far more clients than we could individually, and we’re doing that on a joint basis.

Ben Marshan

And Tim, if you’ve got any tips or tricks, or any encouragement you want to give to young people looking to come into the profession and go through the PY?

Tim Manwaring

Find a good mentor, if possible, but I think as well, be patient with the process. You can’t get everything over overnight. And one of the sayings Greg usually talks about is, people underestimate what they can achieve in the long-term, but overestimate what they can achieve in the short term. So being willing to stay on the path, be patient.

Tim Manwaring

Now looking back at my career so far, I’m finding it very rewarding, helping everyday Australians make their financial goals and objectives. And I think the regulations that have been imposed on our industry for the most part, have been really positive. Moving forward, we’ll be more trusted professionals and we’ll make sure that clients are getting advice, which is in their best interest.

Ben Marshan (24:53)

I think that’s a very well-made point. Tim, we are in this transition from a very prescriptive regulatory environment to a professional based environment, and the transition you’re going through from a PY perspective is one of the important steps in moving us in that direction. And that saying that you said from Greg as well, about overestimating what you can do in a single day, but underestimating what you can do in a year or a career.

Ben Marshan

I think a very good point as well. I’d like to thank Tim and good luck with your career. And well done for getting through the PY year. And Greg, thank you for mentoring people, new planners coming through and making the effort to grow our planner base. I think it’s important that businesses spend the time and effort to do those things, because we are seeing more and more planners leave and we need new generation to come through. So, thank you on behalf of the profession and on behalf of the FPA for making that effort.

Greg Cook

That’s great, my pleasure. Thank you.

Ben Marshan

Thanks Tim, thanks Greg. And members, if you want to talk about this episode, join us in FPA community for any businesses that are looking to bring students through for PYs, we’ve got a lot of resources in FPA learn, and we’re building a portal so that you don’t need to do spreadsheets anymore. You’ll be able to use an actual tool to track through the PY year and have all that recorded automatically. So, lots of great resources from the FPA that we’d love to talk to you about. But thank you for joining us today on the FPA podcast.

[END]

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