Financial adviser Ash McAuliffe thinks the planning profession is ripe for disruption.

His main beef? The time-consuming legislative hoops planners jump through.

“Everything we do is beholden to legislation rather than the client,” McAuliffe says. “It’s the sheer amount of time that is spent fulfilling certain requirements.”

Not that he is anti-legislation or anti-reform, he just thinks planners should be embracing technology to make their lives easier; for example, he says robo-advice should be incorporated into more practices.

“We should be looking at robo-advice as an efficiency tool,” he says. “It’s like what any smart factory does, you automate the repetitive tasks and focus on the customer.

“I think that is already happening to an extent, but the planners who will be successful in the future will be those who can fully leverage technology and use AI [artificial intelligence] to augment their work. The successful adviser is the one who connects with the client, not the one who can construct the best 40-page SoAs.”

McAuliffe, who works as an industry fellow at RMIT University advising on the financial planning degree, would also like to see a greater separation of licensees and product manufacturers.

“Ideally, licensees won’t be owned by product manufacturers and I think that is where the industry is heading,” he says.

McAuliffe has been a planner for 17 years and is selling his business. He’s not leaving the profession, he’s just making his burgeoning side project his main focus.

About a year ago, he set up Asset Lab, which aims to take a more holistic approach to financial planning. Rather than focusing on clients when they’re pre-retirement, McAuliffe says, Asset Lab offers cashflow and budgeting advice, along with traditional planning services, to singles, families and retirees.

“At the moment, it seems to be, largely, young families,” McAuliffe says. “The typical couples are earning good wages and then they have a child and their income shrinks to one, they’re sleep deprived, and they need some financial advice.

“I’m also reaching out to people who struggle with handling their money, those who may earn six figures and are wondering why they’re broke at the end of the week. About 80 per cent of Australians don’t seek financial advice from a planner and we need to ask why.”

McAuliffe says reaching younger people has always been a challenge for planners, and he addresses this by changing the conversation he has with clients in their 20s.

“If you try to talk to someone in their 20s about their super, it won’t work because for them, that future is really far off,” he explains. “But If I talk to them about managing their money so they can afford a holiday or to buy a house, then that is a different approach.”

He has also developed an app – Little Earners – that parents can download to help teach their kids about finances.

In many ways, McAuliffe isn’t a typical planner. Unlike many of his colleagues who migrated into planning after stints as accountants or bankers, he has been an adviser his entire professional life.

“My dad was a planner and that was an influence on me,” he recalls. “He used to work at Telecom (now Telstra) and even though he was a manager, he didn’t have a lot of freedom and was a bit of a cog in a wheel. He took a redundancy and decided to open his own planning business and he never looked back.

“He became a lot freer and went overseas for the first time. His time was his own. I guess I must have looked at how much he was enjoying himself and decided to do the same thing.”

Name of firm: McAuliffe Wealth Management

Name of licensee (if not self-licensed): Hillross

Time in the industry (previous jobs?): 17 years

Academic qualifications: MBA, master’s degree in commerce

Accreditations: Certified Financial Planner

Professional association memberships: Financial Planning Association of Australia, Association of Financial Advisers, Million Dollar Round Table

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