Agitate for the future

Colin Tate


April 13, 2018

I don’t often write as the founder and publisher of Professional Planner and chief executive of parent Conexus Financial; however, today I need to thank and farewell editor Kate Cowling. Kate joined us a little over a year ago, as an experienced journalist and first-time editor. She has done a great job and I sincerely thank her. Kate’s new role at the ABC will allow her to focus solely on journalism. We all wish her well.

An experienced editor, John Hampshire, will be with us as interim editor for the next six weeks, until the arrival of our new head of retail content – Matt Smith.

Matt has been a journalist and editor for 18 years, since I employed him in his first role at IFA. After six years with IFA, the last piece as editor, he spent the next 12 years working with the best business and finance publications in the world, including six years on Wall Street, and several years recently at Fairfax, on publications including BRW, The Australian Financial Review and Smart Money. Matt’s most recent role was within the corporate thought-leadership business of AMP.

Conexus produces three digital publications and two in print, plus about 20 high-level conferences. We have morphed into a financial services communications and education business. The old world of print-only publication is over. We are agnostic about how we serve our audiences. The choice of medium is a matter of how you, our audience, wishes to learn, distil and understand change, and be entertained. It’s about how we can best put you on the front foot with a competitive edge. Our print and digital formats, video and live events all work towards these ends.

Not surprisingly, this model reflects what is viable elsewhere, and whilst we are a debt-free, privately owned company (with myself and staff the majority shareholders), and have been profitable every year of our 13-year existence, we are always looking to what tomorrow offers for our vision, audience and shareholders.

Matt will bring a new vision to the publication, with a digital-first approach. I look forward to welcoming him in May.

Meanwhile, let me highlight a few subjects you should expect us to focus on over the coming year.

We are at the beginning of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. Why do I think it’s a good idea? And why is it so relevant to our financial planning, accounting and private banking readership?

Each of the prominent players in our sector has been called to give evidence, including all four major banks and various subsidiaries, AMP, the Financial Planning Association, the Association of Financial Advisers – the list goes on. This commission will run until at least February 2019. The evidence won’t be pretty. Whilst much good work has been done since the GFC began, the continued slow self-regulation by our industry has made this commission necessary. Not a day goes by without another ripoff of consumers. Almost no part of our industry is immune to poor behaviour. This is clearly not unique to Australia; however, that should not be our benchmark.

If you’re reading this and getting annoyed because you are hardworking, honest and committed to the industry becoming a profession, understand that whilst it’s unrealistic to expect bad elements to disappear completely, those of you doing good, honest work adding value for clients need not worry.

With an institutional asset base in this country of more than $3 trillion, and a super system mandated for every working Australian, we should not be surprised or concerned that, yet again, the demand for higher ethics and standards is here. Once all the vertical integration is gone, when insurers and advice businesses are independent, when fund managers are independent of banks, insurers and advice businesses, our world will be much cleaner, with fewer front-page scandals and government inquiries.

Commission consternation

I recently had an experience that underscores the importance of one particular reform – ending insurance commissions. This form of remuneration still corrupts advice, causes misalignment of business and client interests, and generates confusing business models.

In March, I decided to check on my insurance, which includes cover for life, income protection, and total and permanent disability. I signed up through a private banker nine years ago, who quit weeks later. I had not heard from anyone since. I learned I have been paying advice fees for nine years, about $14,000, but could not find anyone to help me understand what my current policies mean and how appropriate they are for my current circumstances. After speaking with the insurer’s chief executive, it became apparent that I would need to find an independent adviser, who then might get paid only if they could convince me to switch insurers. What a ridiculous, inconvenient and expensive system, and serving whom?

Media’s evolution

Finally, media is changing and being disrupted – this is not news to any of you. However, my view is that business publishers like Conexus can no longer compete in news. Some of our competitors think that when industry salespeople change jobs, it’s news. We don’t care. We know this adds no value to your daily life and work. Some would say new product launches by any of the 9000-plus fund managers in the world is news. We say no. Those firms are welcome to buy ad space. Meanwhile, news about markets and public policy is now available from many sources.

That’s why we think our role is to agitate for the future, explain simply what changes mean to you, provide analysis and opinion from qualified experts, and try to inspire and predict your future world in this uncertain and disrupted time. We will do our best in all these endeavours.

I would be thrilled to hear from you in relation to my comments at my email address below. Meanwhile, thanks for reading, and for your support of Professional Planner.

Colin Tate is chief executive of Conexus Financial.

[email protected]

TOPICS:   Conexus Financial,  Professional Planner,  publishing

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