There is no perfect time to start your own planning business, but some scenarios are more conducive to taking that leap of faith than others.
For Matt Boxer, that time came after many years working for a large planning business in Brisbane and, crucially, right before a mortgage and children came along.
“Not having to think about a mortgage and children allowed me to go down to one income, my partner’s, for the first year,” Boxer says. “Because I wasn’t bringing any clients over with me, I knew that the first year of the business would not be about making money.
“But I also knew it would give me a better job in the long term. And if, for whatever reason, it didn’t work out, then at least I wouldn’t lose a house.”
Boxer concedes that an easier route would have been to buy a profitable business, guaranteeing him a rolodex of existing clients. In fact, he considered buying his father’s planning business, which focused largely on the selection of managed funds. But while that would have given him a greater degree of financial security in the short-term, he was keen to start from scratch.
“I really wanted to build from the ground up,” he says. “When you buy a business, you get involved in a lot of the pre-existing problems, whether it be someone else’s poor advice or a bad client relationship.”
Starting from scratch also helps foster a sense of trust between adviser and client.
“This way, I have had a strong relationship with clients from day one; whereas, if they’re clients you have inherited, then they don’t know you as well and you don’t know them,” Boxer says. “You need to have trust that goes both ways. You need to trust that they won’t throw it all in at the first sign of the market retreating by 1 per cent and they need to trust that you’re making decisions based on what is best for them.”
In his previous role, Boxer was encouraged to establish a bond with clients, but he was then discouraged to see them passed along to servicing advisers.
“The only time you got involved with those clients again was when something went wrong,” he says. “I wanted to keep seeing those clients though.”
He was also frustrated by the bureaucracy of a big organisation. While Boxer understands that systems need a process of approval, he felt hamstrung by the mechanics of ticking boxes and seeking sign-offs on changes.
“There were so many fingers in the pie,” he reflects. “Changes weren’t happening quickly and it meant I was unable to tailor my services to each client.”
These days, he is free to commit himself fully to delivering strategic advice, which he’s pleased to see is becoming increasingly popular.
“Clients come in thinking that planning is about choosing the best super account or the right insurance products, but then we talk about their values related to money or very specific goals they would like to achieve and they realise it’s different from what they thought,” Boxer says. “Then the next time they go to a barbecue and they tell someone about their positive experience with a planner, they’re changing perceptions of the industry. So gradually I think that is how the idea of what a planner is and does changes.”
Boxer knew he wouldn’t miss the departmental mechanics of a big company, but a telling encounter after he left reinforced his decision to go it alone.
“I bumped into my old colleagues at an industry event and I asked them how a certain problem they had was resolved, and they told me that they think they had almost fixed it,” he says. “That was a good 18 months later.”
Name of firm: GPA Financial Planning
Name of licensee (if not self-licensed): Henderson Matusch
Time in the industry: 12 years. One year in client services and 11 as an adviser.
Academic qualifications: Bachelor of Business (Management); advanced diploma of financial services (financial planning), diploma of financial services (Finance/Mortgage Broking Management).
Accreditations: Association of Financial Planners, Cdec, tax (financial) adviser
Professional association memberships: Financial Planning Association of Australia