Neil Younger says the worst of the crisis has passed and it’s time to look to the future. Simon Hoyle reports.
Last year, in Darwin, the Securitor national conference was understandably a slightly introspective affair. With the industry emerging from the worst financial downturn in living memory, and with advisers under considerable pressure from clients, the key word was “survival”. This year, in Adelaide, the outlook will be different. While we’re not yet completely out of the woods, and business has not returned to the heady, pre-GFC days, the managing director of Securitor, Neil Younger, says it’s time to refocus on business growth and innovation. Hence the title of the 2010 conference, “Beyond Boundaries”, and its three underlying themes: participation, innovation and implementation.
“When we considered the theme of this convention we said, what is relevant for advisers in terms of where they are at, and what they are thinking,” Younger says. “With the changes we’ve seen in the environment, they have got to start to think differently, beyond the constraints of how they thought in the past. Think outside the square, as it were, or not be limited in their thinking by some of the traditional boundaries that they put in place.” For example, financial planning firms have not traditionally been highly corporatised structures. Perhaps they should be, Younger says, and planners might need to be “moving faster down that track”. “This convention is about how you continue to improve quality, and at the same time continue to grow a business,” Younger says. “We do not want to spend a lot of time at this convention talking about the past.
“There are three sub-themes which will run as an undertone. The first is ‘participate’. What are advisers actively going to do as they look at their client bases, market opportunities, to improve. They have got to get involved. “Second, ‘innovate’. That’s looking at the same opportunities, but differently. What are some of the different ideas that we can help them with? “And third, ‘implement’. That’s the practical take-out. [We aim to provide] some really tangible take-outs. “We’re not talking about just activity plans, but actions that drive real changes.” Issues such as risk control and quality assurance programs may be appropriate, as firms embark on a new cycle of growth and “re-evaluate their advice propositions”, Younger says. He says the conference aims to “disturb some of their thinking, but not with the doom and gloom of the past”. Younger says it was natural for advisers to become inward looking, and to focus on servicing existing clients.
“I think they were doing it tough,” he says. “They were feeling the effects of that interaction with their clients, and the pressure that their clients felt they were under.” “Where the business is, and the market cycle we have come out of, we’ve seen the business defend its territory really well,” Younger says. “Retention rates at a client level have been high.” Younger says Securitor expects 300 delegates to attend the convention, up on last year’s figure. If Darwin was an appropriate venue for a conference focused on “survival of the fittest”, then Adelaide, the self-styled “garden city”, seems appropriate for a conference focused on growth and regeneration. “Now there’s renewed optimism,” Younger says. “We’ve come out [of the GFC] in good shape and now we’re really well poised for growth. “It’s like Spring is upon us, and we have a business to grow.”