The director of Australian financial services for CoreData, Sean Allen, says the 2016 licensee of the year winners share some common characteristics.
“There was one consistent across the winners: a commitment to improving the productivity and efficiency of their advises and practices, whilst ensuring that these gains also created a stronger and enduring client experience,” he says.
“The overall winners for 2016 were also able to articulate a strong narrative for the future success of their practices, which obviously resonated with their advisers.
“What differentiated the winners was that their advisers bought into the overall licensee vision, direction and business plan.”
Allen (pictured, right) says the heads of the winning licensees also demonstrated “strong and committed leadership and vision – sometimes being innovative enough to go against the industry norms”.
The aim of the CoreData research and the licensee awards is to help licensees support financial planning practices in delivering great advice and enduring experience for their clients.
“We do this to enable licensee businesses to raise the bar; to look for and search out where businesses are getting it right, where businesses are able to engage their practices with a growth strategy; and where those practices are able to improve the overall client experience with advice,” Allen says.
“A number of businesses last year engaged us around their strategic growth plans off the back of the 2015 research. We were able to partner with these licensees and assist them in prioritising the key areas of focus to support their growth ambitions.”
Awards were announced on Monday at the Professional Planner Dealer Group Summit in three categories – independently owned, institutionally affiliated and institutionally branded – and from these categories the overall Licensee of the year was named.
And the winners are…
Independently Owned Licensee of the Year (joint winner) – Fortnum Financial Advisers
(Finalist: Dover Financial Advisers.)
Joel Taylor, managing director of Fortnum Financial Advisers, attributes the group’s third consecutive win to its advisers who had a tireless commitment to providing quality professional advice.
Taylor says Fortnum’s value proposition stands out in a crowded marketplace because it championed independent-ownership, innovation and collaboration.
“Our success is a direct reflection of the success of our underlying practices,” he says.
“We don’t rely on product margin subsidises to be profitable, which means we’re able to be truly client-focused. We have an open APL and provide a range of flexible services designed to help our practices grow.”
Taylor says Fortnum aims to position itself at the gate for advisers who are considering getting their own AFSL but want to belong to a collaborative group of like-minded professionals and leverage the buying power and scale of a larger group.
He says successful dealer groups in the future will use technology heavily to deliver a more consistent, enjoyable client experience. They would also be client-focused, not product-driven.
“The economic models that underpin the majority of dealer groups need to evolve. Advisers will be increasingly prepared to pay a fair and reasonable fee for dealer services, and allow a margin for profit, so their licensee can provide additional services that will help them grow and deliver improved client outcomes,” he says.
Independently Owned Licensee of the Year (joint winner) – GPS Wealth
(Finalist: Dover Financial Advisers.)
Grahame Evans, managing director of GPS Wealth, says taking out the top gong for consecutive years reflects the group’s commitment to helping advisers to deliver quality, professional advice; and its hands-on approach to helping advisers grow their businesses.
“In every area of advice, we’re developing solutions to deal with the issues advisers are facing,” he says.
“A key strength of our value proposition is that we strive to get advisers in front of new clients but that’s not where it ends. We give them the systems and processes, training and coaching to effectively engage with clients and build successful, long-term relationships.”
Evans describes GPS Wealth as a “client engagement specialist”.
“The client is the focus of everything we do and as a result, we ensure that our advisers have all the support they need to help the client,” he says.
Evans says the dealer group of the future will be one that can survive, and indeed thrive, if the licensing component was taken out of the equation.
“Dealer groups need a proposition that’s so strong and so compelling that advisers will pay for it even if the regulator removed the requirement for advisers to be authorised by an AFSL,” he says.
“Also advice will increasing move away from having an investment focus towards a psychology focus, so licensees will need to help advisers gain a deeper understanding of clients’ needs.”
Institutionally Affiliated Licensee of the Year – Financial Services Partners (FSP)
(Finalists: Financial Wisdom, Securitor.)
Jason Gapps, national manager of Financial Services Partners, says success involves remembering to “have fun” and not take themselves too seriously.
“Let me start by acknowledging the man most instrumental in the achievement of this award, and most deserving of collecting this award for FSP, who unfortunately cannot be here today: Matt Brown,” Gapps says.
“Many of you know Brownie – he is the consummate professional: smart, articulate and he has a great way of keeping the complicated simple.
“The FSP practice development manager team also deserves a mention. Most have been with the business for four years or more and, from a network of 120 advisers three years ago to 180 advisers now, they have done a great job of helping the business find more of the right advisers and retain our existing clients, whilst growing the productivity and profitability of most of our practices year-on-year.
“The FSP advisers are a fabulous group to work with: in the main they have been positive throughout challenging business and industry times. They hold us to account as their business partner, both individually and via their advisory board, and are appreciative of the work and services provided to them from FSP and the wider ANZ Wealth group.
“Thank you also to our business partners within the broader ANZ group.”
Gapps says decision-making within the group and the factors that drive the business are based on four pillars:
- The profit and loss strength of both businesses: advisers’ practices and FSP as a licensee
- The efficiency and productivity of the FSP practices
- The combined safety of licensee and practices, and
- The community and culture of both groups as business partners
Brown, the chief executive officer of FSP and Millenium3, says all healthy relationships “must be built on transparency and honesty”.
“That is certainly our approach with advisers,” he says.
“We focus on the fundamentals that drive success, no matter what [the] business model an adviser follows, nor whatever the world around comes up with – that is, practices focusing on the right number of the right clients, being as efficient and productive as possible, and managing risks head on.
“These things drive our strategy and initiatives, adviser profit-and-loss strength and growth, efficiency and productivity, and keeping safe.
“And of course remembering that life is too short, and to not take ourselves too seriously. Fun is important.”
Brown says that Financial Services Partners believes “clients are the central factor”.
“We believe the most effective approach is to understand your target market, understand their needs, become an expert in those things, and be part of their world,” he says.
Institutionally Branded Licensee of the Year – ANZ Financial Planning
(Finalists: AMP Financial Planning, Commonwealth Financial Planning.)
Keiran Forde, head of ANZ Financial Planning, says a technology solution which provides real time customer feedback via SMS and emails has gained exceptional results.
“We have a dedicated team which has worked extremely hard to deliver the best solutions and services we can to our ANZ customers,” Forde says.
“That said, we are only part way through a program of work to simplify the process of advice and deliver a much better experience for our staff and our customers.
“One of the key things we have done in the business is to introduce ‘real time customer feedback’ which is a technology solution using SMS and emails that automates and consolidates responses into a live portal. This gives our planners and practice managers instant feedback on what our customers think about them and the ANZFP experience.”
Forde says some of the feedback to this approach has been outstanding and “while some has been confronting, the key thing is that our planners and our business support areas are learning and modifying their approach and processes based on customer feedback”.
“I think that’s making a material difference to the way we are engaging with customers and I’m delighted with the way it is going,” he says.
“We’ve had over 6500 responses in the past 12 months.”
Forde says all banks are working to improve the quality of advice provided to customers.
“The better and faster we can do that, the more customers will be attracted to the services we provide,” he says.
“What we do is extremely important and it is incumbent on us to demonstrate we are listening to our customers and responding positively. I think it’s great that CoreData and Professional Planner are supporting and encouraging licensee improvement by running the research and creating these awards. That’s ultimately good for our industry and good for our customers.”
How the awards are determined
Responses were received from CoreData’s database of advisers, and through responses from readers of Professional Planner online.
• 668 financial planners
For a licensee to qualify for the CoreData Licensee of the Year Awards, a minimum of 20 of the licensee’s authorised representatives had to provide completed, usable survey responses. Those responses were vetted to ensure they were genuine, and to avoid manipulation of the research.
CoreData conducted extensive statistical analysis of the results to ensure they are both accurate and robust. Based on the findings, CoreData determined awards in three categories:
• Institutionally Branded Licensee of the Year
The top licensee across these categories was declared as the Overall Winner of the Licensee of the Year.