Imagine if advisers could predict exactly when a client or prospect needed advice on a specific matter. Imagine if they could magically call or appear in their inbox at that moment. Johnny on the spot. Not only would they have a highly motivated client with a problem, they’d have the solution.  Would the client value that advice? Yes. Would they be willing to pay handsomely for it? Definitely.

This scenario poses the questions: What if advisers only provided and charged for advice on an as-needs basis?

What if they only provided one piece of advice in Year 1, no advice in Year 2 and three pieces of advice in Year 3? Could this be classified as an ongoing relationship?

You bet and an extremely valuable one at that.

While this type of relationship may not meet the definition of “subscription” – the industry’s latest buzzword – it has the power to yield strong returns.

But in order to turn this scenario into a reality, advisers need three things: great relationships, confidence and data. They can learn a lot from other professional services firms.

Professionals bill their clients regularly for the work they do and their clients pay.

They pay because they have complex, pressing needs that they can’t meet themselves.

It’s a straight-up, timely value exchange.

Yet the advice industry’s fearful reaction to draft legislation requiring explicit client approval for advice fees to be deducted from accounts annually suggests that advisers think some clients may not pay or renew.

The ongoing fee model needs a rethink.

To me, the industry’s resistance to annual fee contracts is akin to a sailor running south on the deck of a ship travelling north at 40 knots. No matter how fast that sailor is running, he or she will still end up north (and exhausted). Similarly, advisers need to accept that ongoing advice fees are close to expiry, due to changing demographics, consumer preferences and professional standards.

As an investor and business partner in over 60 professional services firms including a number of accounting firms, it is clear that Australians have increasingly complex needs and they’re prepared to pay a reasonable price for good advice.

Tax, superannuation, lending, social security and survival in general is complex stuff and it’s only getting harder.