Angus Benbow, CEO of Centrepoint Alliance, speaks at the 2019 Professional Planner Licensee Summit

Traditional leadership is at a bit of a crossroads according to Angus Benbow, who has adopted a more “situational” style of management that is better suited to helping Centrepoint Alliance’s adviser network through the pandemic era.

“From day one we decided that we wanted to respond and not react,” Benbow says, before detailing some of the proactive measures the firm has taken to support their adviser network.

The CEO explains how Centrepoint identified the need for “clear, constant and concise” communication early in the pandemic. Fortunately, Centrepoint had recently created an updated intranet for their advisers which gave them a central hub to keep everyone abreast.

“We didn’t want them to be relying on emails,” Benbow continues. “There has been so much noise, everybody has been sending out notices and making adviser sift through them.”

The second thing Benbow says they focused on was reassuring advisers that the licensee was going to be operationally and financially viable through the pandemic.

“We’ve been signposting all along what we we’re doing, so they knew exactly how we were running as a company, that we’re still here, open for business with no disruptions,” he says.

The third consideration Benbow took was to cater for the welfare of advisers and provide personal support where possible with ‘outreach’ care programs and buddy systems that encouraged team members to get on the phone and check in on their colleagues. “We changed the general operating rhythm of the company,” he says.

There was another thing. In March Centrepoint temporarily cut executive salaries and provided amnesties on scheduled fee raises to reflect the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Those scheduled fee increases were a major part of what Benbow calls a “three to four year” project the firm is undertaking to eradicate product rebates and become transparent in how they charge advisers. It’s a journey the CEO spoke candidly about at the Professional Planner licensee summit in Katoomba last year, when he detailed the challenges inherent in front-running disruption.

“We wanted to provide confidence that we were leading and responding in a commercial way,” he says. “As part of our fee transition we had a step up in early April and we just didn’t do that. The reason was to provide some fee relief but also to provide certainty around [advisers’] own cashflows and forecasts.”

These changes, Benbow reckons, is what “situational” leadership is all about; reading the landscape and formulating a response that is considered, not reactive.

“You have to look at the situation and say ‘OK, how do we want to lead at this point’,” he says.

From here, the CEO reckons the smart licensees will be the ones that start thinking about the next phase of the pandemic; slowly going back to the normal and applying the lessons learnt during the crisis. It’s something he readily admits they aren’t up to yet.

“Over the coming weeks and months people will turn their mind to what worked well during the crisis and what can they bring into the core business,” he says. “We haven’t articulated those just yet but a lot of people are starting to.”

Benbow will speak more on the topic during a session at the Professional Planner Licensee Summit on June 2, which will be presented as an online digital conference. To find out more about the event, click here.

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning. Contact at tahn.sharpe@conexusfinancial.com.au
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