Looking ahead, it’s important we ask ourselves how we can support our community in delivering excellent advice innovatively. How will practitioners provide advice to more Australians? What will reduce the friction in an engagement model that is currently fragmented?

I don’t believe it’s just better use of technology. It’s not that simple. Without a doubt, smarter systems and use of digital tools is important. It’s become a way of life. However, quantum leaps come from courage and I believe we’ve yet to be courageous enough. As an industry, we need to step away from the need to control information and empower people with
a principal resource, their data. Most importantly, find a way to liberate it so they can make meaningful
financial decisions.

In June 2011, W. David Stephenson, renowned futurist and ‘internet of things’ thought leader,
published the book Data Dynamite: How liberating information will transform our world. He believes
liberating data can have a transformative effect on lives and outlines why in a 13-point manifesto.
I’m a believer, and there are two points in the manifesto that particularly resonate:

Make the public and employees trusted partners in using and generating data: We have become a society that gives data away freely (unless you’re living under a rock) without truly understanding what it’s used for or how it can benefit us. When we need it back (Have you ever tried identifying yourself to a telco?) those entrusted with it make it almost impossible to access. If we want to empower others to take personal responsibility, we need to give access
to valuable, meaningful data to help society create better lives and be better educated. In our profession, we have extraordinary amounts of data on our clients, customers and staff. Imagine the social good we could do if we shared some of the behavioural and financial data and insights we hold, both collectively (anonymised of course) and individually? If you’re not convinced about the transformative possibilities, have a look at the work Flowminder does in public health with anonymised data.

Encourage rapid spread of liberated data’s benefits through open-source and crowdsourced applications:
The smartphone and similar technology have exponentially increased the spread of data liberation. Access to apps, widgets, tools and open-architecture solutions has enabled consumers to share, like, post and comment
about anything that matters (and many things that don’t). We have access to the way people
behave almost every minute of the day. With this information, we can provide insights and
resources to help accelerate better decision-making and amplify positive behaviour. Done
well, it will become a virtuous circle. These tools and resources will assist the small-business
owners we serve and their clients. And that’s good for Australia’s socioeconomic success.

Our industry needs both the emotional intelligence and courage to become more transparent (and I’m
not talking about disclosures). The success of everyone’s future depends on it. If we approach the
next decade and “only 2-in-10 Australians actively seek advice” is still a headline, we’ve failed as a
profession. My personal burning desire is to see a consumer-led movement encouraging families,
friends and communities to take responsibility for their financial wellbeing. Then we’ll know we’ve
been successful as a profession – because we’ll have paid it forward.

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