Profile: Cast your lot with the client

Johanna Roberts


November 13, 2017

Our parents’ experience in the workforce can have an indelible effect on our lives, making us either determined to avoid their fate or keen to emulate their success.

In Justin McMillan’s case, it was the former.

“They were approaching retirement age, but they had more they wanted to give,” McMillan says. “They were made redundant because they were seen to have reached the end of the line and their employment just came to an end. I realised there was no such thing as a job for life.”

Watching his parents be cast aside after many years of employment made

McMillan decide he would rather be rejected by a client, his own client, than a boss.

“I would rather go straight to the source and put myself out there,” he says. “I would rather hear it straight from the market. You put your business out there and the market either says ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or sometimes something in between.”

McMillan spent many years gaining experience in other firms before launching his planning business, Smartwealth.

Planning is a profession he has taken to naturally. He says he has always had some sort of “in-built chip” that allows him to sort the wheat from the chaff. Or to put it in planners’ parlance, the macro from the micro.

“I do have that ability to absorb complex information, digest it, and regurgitate it to clients in a straight-forward manner,” he says. “It’s an important part of good planning.”

He considers planning to be chiefly about guiding clients in the right direction, rather than selling them products.

“I liken it to personal training,” he says. “People know what they need to do to lose weight, but they have certain individual blockages they need help with. There are people who come to me and say, ‘No matter how much I earn, I can never save. Others feel that if they have money in their account, they have to do something with it and so they spend it.

“People aren’t taught about money and they’re not comfortable with it.”

McMillan says too many people focus on their neighbours’ goals rather than their own.

“They will want something because someone else has it,” he says. “It’s important to make sure they focus on their objectives, not someone else’s.”

McMillan is also passionate about ensuring the planning profession catches up to clients’ expectations.

“I think the days of clients coming to us with a certain amount of money and asking what to do with it are over,” he says. “That kind of investment information is readily available these days and what we need to do is provide guidance. Clients know 90 per cent of what they need to know, but it’s the 10 per cent they don’t understand that really worries them.”

McMillan says that means planners will have to become more generous with their expertise.

“We can’t act as if we’re the custodians of all the information,” he says. “We should be thought leaders in our field, rather than holding back all of the information for ourselves because it makes us feel important.

“We have to look at what is possible. People in Australia earn decent salaries, yet a lot of people are actually struggling. Planners need to look at what the reason is for that.”

Justin McMillan

Name of firm: Smartwealth

Name of licensee (if not self-licensed): RI Advice

Time in the industry and previous jobs: 18 years, five with Smartwealth, three with RI Advice Subiaco, five with Genesys Wealth Advisers, and five with PKF Accountants

Academic qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in economics from Murdoch University, and an advanced diploma of financial planning from the Western Sydney University

Professional association memberships: FPA


TOPICS:   Justin McMillan,  Smartwealth

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