Creating a business to service a declining market might seem like a nonsensical business move, but Marc Fabris believes the launch of Risk Hub will help facilitate more access to much-needed risk advice.
Risk Hub, which launched to the public this week, is a peer network and professional development network, like Ensombl (formerly XY Adviser) but with a core focus on risk advice.
“I’ve had people go ‘hang on, don’t you only have a couple of 100 people that would be interested in this?’,” Fabris tells Professional Planner.
“I have this simplistic view of three groupings of advisers: the ‘riskies’ who do a lot; the ‘holistics’ who maybe do a little, not much; and then the non-risk writers who just don’t want to.”
Data from Adviser Ratings earlier in the year found there are roughly 3400 advisers that write risk, but only around 150 “pure risk” advisers.
Fabris accepts the dire straits facing the risk advice sector, but sees the opportunity not only in the couple of hundred risk specialists, but the 3000 to 4000 advisers dipping their toes in risk.
“That is the biggest opportunity to help growth and that’s the conversation I’ve had with insurers,” Fabris says.
“What we want to try get to is to help with the trust, the knowledge and understanding of strategies. Some people used to do risk and have gone away from it because of efficiency issues, some maybe don’t know how to bring it in the process and need assistance.”
Fabris believes that group doubling or trebling the amount of risk advice they write would have a profound impact of the accessibility of life insurance. “All of a sudden the industry is coming back again.”
“Risk specialists are a key target to help with [their] efficiency and engagement,” Fabris says.
“Yes, it’s a smaller pool – there’s maybe a few hundred – they are absolutely screaming out for a bit of help.”
The hub was launched this week and has the backing of insurers PPS Mutual and MLC Life Insurance. “We’re starting small and we’re planning to build this out,” Fabris says.
“I love the industry. I’ve been in this industry for a very long time. I love it and I’d love to be one those people making a real difference.”
By “starting small” Fabris means the hub has limited proprietary CPD content but facilitates various content streams.
For the proprietary content, Fabris says the focus is on risk advice fundamentals.
“At the moment I’m linking to some third-party ethics CPD because people are asking about ethics CPD [and] I’m housing some estate planning programs from the Legal Hub,” Fabris says.
“Then I will develop stuff, definitely digital – things like improving online presence – this is the kind of stuff I’ve done heaps with advisers. What I’m pleased now is that I’ll have somewhere to put it.”
However, what the hub won’t focus on is doing technical support for product. “A few people have asked that,” Fabris says.
“I want risk to grow. Whatever I can do to help easier access and knowledge of services – some of it I’ll do, most of it I won’t. most of it I’m going to help you find or curate or whatever.”
While the hub will provide original CPD resources, Fabris doesn’t believe in trying to replicate in what others have done – and instead wants to facilitate that content through the hub.
There’s other CPD places that I will not try and replicate but I’ll point. I’ve talked to the FAAA [Financial Advice Association, as well as other groups*] around what they’re doing and in some cases I might house [content for them]. I’m happy to house links [to other providers content], not necessarily the material.”
Long love affair with risk
Fabris is well-known in the risk advice sector with a career that has led through advice, product and technology.
“I would commonly say that I’m no tech expert but what I’ve tended to do is be the guy that connects with a bit of understanding of technology and the real need – the design, the end user,” Fabris says.
“A lot of my corporate life was around connecting the paths between appreciating the customer and the distributor and then what was possible and being that middle-piece of delivery.”
In the earlier stages of his career, he was an adviser, but concedes this was during a time when the barrier to entry was lower.
“After my period of time advising, I went into business development and then moved into a product and research,” Fabris says.
“I’ve kind of worked my way through the value chain. I’ve used that used that through my career of actually appreciating the end user, whether it’s the client and understanding and what you’re trying to deliver for them, for the adviser and the challenges of being a small business person.”
Around the turn of the millennium, he was at AMP, working on the development of risk insurance product.
He then spent almost two decades at Zurich working across the firm’s distribution and marketing channels, including a stint in Switzerland.
Fabris says the idea of Risk Hub has been “in my head” for a long time.
“I love the work from the distribution perspective, actually understanding a fair amount of what’s need across that value chain and trying to deliver that,” Fabris says.
“Risk has often been the poor cousin, so this is me going let’s try and have a better risk lens on the services and solutions for practices.”
*This article was edited on 18 August 2023 to clarify a quote.