The voices of individuals who have built businesses, who have lived through market crashes and recoveries, and who have the context of history to guide them into the future have never been as valuable.

Voices of experience and measure can often be drowned out by the day to day noise of product announcements and market prognostications so Professional Planner has asked a handful of individuals who have a wealth of knowledge in the advice industry to speak up about where we have come from and where things are heading.

This publication aims to encourage others with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share their stories in the hope these lessons will be written into the next chapter and not relegated to the past.

While those who lived through the formidable stages of this evolution will say that necessary changes were delayed too long, it’s the culmination of their experiences that got the industry to where it is today.

 

LAURA MENSCHIK

Current: WLM Financial Planning, director/adviser

Previously: FPA board member

Known for: Founding member of the Financial Planning Association, 1987

PP: ARE WE ON THE RIGHT PATH?

LM: I think pushing towards degree qualified candidates coming through their tertiary studies is a good thing because things are centred on having the appropriate education standards. It doesn’t mean that just because you have done the DFP equivalent in universities that you can be a planner, it just means you know the basics of economics and insurance, super and estate planning. It just means that for those who want to embrace it as a career path, it gives them a good grounding.

I think more and more of an effort is being put in by the FPA to understand what financial planning is and I think the hardest thing to get across is that it’s not just investment advice. Financial planners are much more than people who just tell you whether to buy BHP or CBA shares. Questions around income, growth, risk and return – all of the things we are now disciplined to inquire about.

PP: WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE IF YOU COULD?

LM: The royal commission should have come sooner. If it did we would already be further on the way to gaining peoples’ trust and respect.

I think the other thing is people sometimes forget the past or they haven’t lived through it and a lot of the younger financial planners who are very bright, and very good and very contentious haven’t been through a GFC, they just don’t know what it’s like – day after day people coming in and saying ‘what happened to my savings’. I think there will be a great challenge when the next recession hits, which we’re really due for. I’m not saying it’s going to be as long and as deep as the GFC but it’s going to knock a lot of people around, and if advisers haven’t prepared their clients and their business for what could unfold then they’re in for a rude awakening, and I have seen that unfold before. So I think dealing with clients when portfolio values went down is always something we can be better at if that situation comes around.

BARRY LAMBERT

Current: Chairman of Ecofibre; investor, Ignition Wealth

Previously: CEO, Count Financial

Known for: Selling Count to CBA for $373 million; rich lister

PP: ARE WE ON THE RIGHT PATH?

BL: There’s no other path you can go down now, you can’t turn back the clock. It’s inevitable we’re heading towards professionalism more and more. I think something a lot of people are missing in all this is the industry needs to become more efficient. It’s one thing to charge fees – price is one thing but value is something different. If you are inefficient, have high overheads, spend a lot of time still prospecting you might say, then maybe the value for clients is still not what it should be. Professionalism might be a step in the right direction, but practices and advisers need to become a lot more efficient. Particularly for smaller investors. For young people the first thing they really need to do is learn how to save. You can’t help these clients if you have an inefficient business.

PP: WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE IF YOU COULD?

BL: At the time when I started out you had life agents, friendly society salesmen and that was about the extent of it. I took the view then I thought advice should be given by professionals, not sales people. That’s why I started an accounting-based group. The royal commission all those years later discussed a similar thing – that advice shouldn’t be a commissions-based industry. We would cap our fees and accept a commission – that is we would dial down the commission to equal the fee or get rebated because that’s what was built into the system and of course trailing commissions came along as well. We weren’t big enough to change the system; you could only really change that from the outside – either a government or a royal commission. The only way you could compete with the others back then is if you charged on the basis of what people understood and what was normal you might say. People don’t like being charged large fees to be told to put money in a cash management account, which was of course the correct thing to do back then when inflation was 10 per cent and cash was paying up around 18 per cent. Unless you change from the outside it was impossible for one person to change from the inside because you wouldn’t have got any business. The AMPs and others would say ‘come to us and we won’t charge you anything.’

 

RAY MILES

Current: Founder and director, Fortnum Private Wealth

Previously: Associated Planners, Genesys Wealth

Known for: Straight talker; responsible for growing Genesys to its halcyon days.

PP: ARE WE ON THE RIGHT PATH?

RM: Absolutely, I think we’re on the right path. We’re moving towards a conflict free advice environment where the client can go into a practice and know their best interests are being looked after. If you truly want to be a professional financial adviser you can’t have conflicts; you’ve just got to be paid by the client, that’s all. We haven’t been on that path for 30 years and we’re on it now and that’s a great step.

The other part is this education bit; I don’t think as an industry we can call ourselves a profession unless you’ve got professional qualifications for people giving advice.

I just hope that people don’t find ways around this path we’re on like they have in the past. There’s a lot of talk about section 923a of the Corps’ Act. They’ve got to fiddle around the edges with it because there are some anomalies, but watering it down does not make any sense.

PP: WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE IF YOU COULD?

RM: We got everything wrong in my view. We did, we got it all wrong. There were some good things that the industry did, and by and large most advisers set out to do the right thing by their clients.

We got that bit right. But boy oh boy, all those compromises. We’ve got to make sure that the self-interested parties don’t have a say this time.

If you’re not speaking in the interests of the client and the profession then you should keep your mouth shut.

I’d also change the greed. The industry has been filled with a lot of people trying to make a lot of money and not delivering a lot of value. There’s a lot of people on big salaries in some of these institutions that have generally stuffed up those institutions.

The one lesson we’ve got to remember is that you’ll eventually get found out if you do the wrong thing. This is an industry where people save up their whole life and then they go to an adviser and they expect the adviser to do the right thing by them.

We need to get to a genuine advice environment where the client’s first and everyone uses their buying power to drive down the prices on the underlying platforms so we can deliver some really high-quality advice at a decent price to consumers.

Editor’s note: This is the first in Professional Planner’s two-part series bringing the voices of experience into the conversation. Part two is online here.

Professional Planner is the leading source of news, information and analysis for Australia's professional financial planning community.
2 comments on “[Part 1] Voices of experience: Advice legends tell their stories”
  1. Avatar Christoph Schnelle

    Excellent and well considered comments.

  2. Avatar Jeremy Wright

    There is a consistent theme and talk of Professionalism and that the only way we can be seen to be professional and it appears, “ethical,” is if we spend thousands of dollars and many hundreds of hours, studying to attain some bits of paper, that will extol the virtue of our new found theoretical expertise and ethics.

    Boring old experience and the fact that many of us, have successfully run Businesses for decades, is so “Eighties or Nineties” and clearly we must be intellectually inferior, which is why a plethora of Education courses, will absolve us of our sins.

    Education providers, just like Lawyers, have a vested interest in pursuing their interests and the Royal Commission was better than winning the lottery, as a lottery win only happens to a few, whereas ongoing education is for the masses and the Legal eagles who have taken over all aspects of thought and process, will keep their tills ringing ( It will be a very very merry Christmas for them ) by making sure that “all Australians will be protected under our guidance.”
    Best Interest Duty regulations and the Life Insurance Framework, are destroying the Retail Life Insurance Industry, which happens to be the only truly representative entity that has checking mechanisms that truly look after the interests of all Australians.
    The very people who are telling us all what we need to do, are the ones who are failing every Best Interest Duty to Australians and very little has been done to reverse this fiasco.
    Like most things in life, when confronted with a problem, we can make a choice to easily and efficiently remedy the problem, or we can sit back and hope some representative bodies will do the right thing.
    We have become a society that is too busy and too scared to confront the real issues and instead we have moved to a system of, being seen to be doing the right thing, without checks and balances to make sure the cure is not worse than the illness.
    By denigrating, or ignoring experience, you open up a Pandora’s box that diminishes the ability to find the correct solution, or to call out and push back against what is being promoted as wrong, though in actual fact, could be part of the solution.
    One such area is Conflicted remuneration. Many opinions, many inaccuracies and unfortunately for the future of the majority of Australians who will now miss out on attaining help and advice, many mistakes in how this has been handled.

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