Elliot Watson knows you need an edge to stand out in financial planning and he is pretty sure few others take his highly personalised approach.
In addition to prioritising ethics, using a fee-for-service model and possessing a strong knowledge of the markets and economics, Watson uses Facebook to deepen connections with his clients.
Yep. The social media giant has 2.23 billion monthly active users; perhaps unsurprisingly, it is a great place to keep in contact with clients.
“Instead of seeing them every 12 months, I basically can see my clients – at least some of them who post regularly – every day,” says the Newcastle-based planner. “I have clients overseas, in South America, celebrating their 50th birthday and I can see that on Facebook.
“You can also see the fruits of your labour because I was involved in helping to fund and plan this trip, so it’s very rewarding.”
Watson has four Facebook accounts. The first two are business related and include his own firm, Elliot Watson Financial Planning, and his joint venture Singleton Financial Planning, which he shares with an accountant.
The last two are personal accounts – one for his close circle of friends and family, and another for his clients.
“In the second personal account, I wear a white shirt and blue tie and don’t post anything controversial or too personal, but I still see it as a more relaxed way to reach my clients and stay connected,” Watson says.
So how big a difference does his engagement with clients on Facebook make?
“I think it’s a significant advantage and one of the best points of difference I have,” he says. “I’ve raised this strategy for a number of years when speaking to other planners at events and they acknowledge it is a good idea but they often don’t do it. But that is OK because it gives me an edge or a point of difference.”
One of the great advantages of engaging with clients on Facebook is that it builds trust, on which Watson places a huge emphasis.
“Some time back, my old boss came into my office and he picked up an old paper file and placed it back down on the desk so it made a sound and he said to me, ‘It doesn’t matter how good this advice is; unless the person on the other side of the desk believes you and trusts you, this is all just worthless pieces of paper.’ That has stayed true for me ever since.”
That advice was front of mind when Watson started his own business two years ago. He employs another planner in addition to himself, and is also considering taking on a senior planner to service the aged-care advice sector.
His books are fairly new, so he has few, if any, trailing commissions and close to $30 million in funds under management.
Watson, a finalist in the AFA 2018 Financial Planner of the Year Awards, has worked hard to secure the trust of his clients, but he concedes that some people – those who carry battle scars from the GFC or even from dodgy financial advice – are reluctant to trust the markets again.
“People have to find that confidence,” he says. “Pretty much everyone I have met over my career I could help – about 95 per cent-plus, I would say. But many Australians aren’t seeking good advice because of what is coming out of the” Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.
Watson says the best way to handle a fearful client is with information.
“The first step for any uncertainty is always education,” he says. “Most fears come from a lack of knowledge about how things work. So my goal is to provide as much information as possible.”
He teaches them the number-one rule of investment: timeframes.
During the GFC, my clients didn’t panic and they were all patient and by 2012, pretty much all of them were back in front,” he says
Name of firm: Elliot Watson Financial Planning
Name of licensee (if not self-licensed): RI Advice
Time in the industry (previous jobs?): 11 years, previously worked for Rethink Financial Group
Academic qualifications: CFP, bachelor’s degree in economics, advanced diploma in financial services (financial planning), diploma in financial services (financial planning)
Professional association memberships: Association of Financial Advisers, Financial Planning Association
TOPICS: Facebook, Singleton Financial Planning