FAAA Congress gala dinner

Last week marked the first Congress hosted by the newly-merged Financial Advice Association and for Professional Planner, it was an honour to be media partners for the inaugural event.

Towards the end of the first combined association Congress, one of the comments I overheard about the joining of the Association of Financial Advisers and Financial Planning Association was that you could tell who was from the AFA at the gala dinner because the men were all in tuxes because they were used to a black-tie event at their conference. And then, some people thought the whole conference was more FPA because people were wearing suits… and some say clothes don’t matter!

It was certainly a different vibe for the FAAA Congress in Adelaide this year. Most notable for me was the number of profit-to-member funds represented. Many had stands – ART, Aware, AustralianSuper and Brighter Super and others without UniSuper, CareSuper and Hesta. All were spruiking the ease for advisers to engage with them, the usability of their portals and ability to add advice fees – and all seemed to be doing good business at their stands.

At the Professional Planner Licensee Summit in the Blue Mountains in June, we talked about the need for licensees to engage more broadly with member-to-profit funds and not see them as the enemy. It was also a session at the Professional Planner Advice Practitioner Summit in February and Researcher Forum a year ago.

When Michelle Levy brought down her Quality of Advice Review recommendations many advisers felt that super funds were being given an unfair advantage in the provision of advice but the reality is that while most funds have their own advisers – some general and some comprehensive – nearly all want to engage more broadly with external advice providers. And we all know there is plenty of business to go around.

The industry is certainly maturing and its good to see.

Other changes were the focus on students and graduates, not only were they sponsored to attend but there was a special stream for their needs. In rooms with these new entrants it was also good to see the gender split was close to 50/50, and there was greater cultural diversity too.

This year I felt that the AFA influence was felt through sessions like ‘Mic-drop’ – where advisers had table discussions on subjects such as business growth, marketing, building teams, self-care and professional contribution.

As the investment side of financial planning becomes more commoditised the soft skills rise to importance again. The opening plenary session was ‘Richer, wiser, happier – how the world’s greatest investors win in markets and life’ – delivered by journalist and author William Green. These investors have made billions but it was their personal habits that had made them such experts that the session revolved around. Their four top tips were:

  1. Don’t be a fool
  2. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
  3. The aggregation of marginal gains
  4. Beyond risk

The other trend which again was explored in the recent Professional Planner Women in Financial Advice roundtable, was the number of advisers moving towards coaching from full service financial planning.

The reasons are manifold but it’s a trend that is unlikely to abate anytime soon.

Around 1200 delegates attended congress, of which about 800 were estimated to be advisers. This was similar numbers to Sydney’s FPA Congress last year. On the whole, whether people were FPA or AFA didn’t matter – everyone mixed nicely although there were definitely friendships forged through the separate associations through the years that still carry through – but most of these friendship groups seemed open to new members. It really is a new era.