Alisdair Barr (left) and Mitch Harrison

Education is a necessity for future advisers coming into the profession, but learning and articulating the value of advice to clients is going to be a self-taught skill.

The point was made by Index Wealth financial planner Mitch Harrison to a room of advice students on day one of the FAAA Congress in Adelaide.

“The value you add isn’t just one area, it’s adding value to a person’s entire financial life and if you can convey that, they’re more willing to help pay for advice, and that’s understanding the value that you provide and being able to communicate that,” Harrison said.

“That’s the number one skill you have to learn that they don’t teach you at university: you have to be able to communicate that value to clients. Because ultimately it isn’t cheap – let’s be real – it isn’t cheap.”

Harrison said trust feeds into the question about price, and younger advisers entering the profession, even years after reforms that sought to professionalise the industry, will still have to deal with the perceptions built up over the past.

“Financial advice hasn’t exactly had the perfect history of trust, love and compassion – and that’s well warranted – [but] the industry now is going to a positive place,” Harrison said.

He added there are two recurring questions that come up in every new client meeting.

“Every single client that I speak to [asks] ‘how do I know you’re not going to steal my money’ and ‘what are your fees?’ – they’re the two main things that people ask me every single meeting.”

When it came from the transformation from being a student to becoming an adviser, Harrison said it was temping to feel like “you know everything” when you start the role, but the reality is there is still much to learn.

“The idea of continuous improvement is a tenet that I hold very closely to myself, and I have that no matter where I go,” Harrison said.

“What I’ve seen a lot of is more mature advisers that have lost that tenant in the rolls I’ve been in and they stagnate… and they’re very set in their ways. My goal is to not be like them and to continue pushing, learning and evolving, and be the best person I can be.”

In the hot seat

Despite heavy demand for advisers, picking up graduates who aren’t revenue-generating is risky for practices. Striver founder Alisdair Barr told the students it’s important they show the full value they can offer.

“I used to say this, and people thought there wasn’t enough science in it: people want people they like,” Barr says.

“There’s not a business I’ve worked with over the last 11 years that hasn’t told me that they want people who have a good work ethic, attention to detail [and] want to treat it like a career, not a job, as the baseline.”

Barr said companies look for individuals who have drive, are interested in learning and with whom they can connect.

“When they say they want people they like, if I’m running a 20-person firm – we’ve got great clients, the shareholders are happy, we have a good time at work every day – the last person that comes in that doesn’t connect with the rest of the firm is going to be the first person out,” Barr said.

Returning favours

Recruitment is a two-way street and Barr said it is essential for students to also do due diligence on the firm they might work for and this starts with finding the right cultural fit.

“You can do your research, you look can look up Adviser Ratings and see what their clients have said about them,” he said. “I would generally not accept a job by Zoom. Get in there, get inside the office, check it out.”

While students may not have the industry experience to articulate in interviews, Barr noted some skills are transferable from other work.

“If you say to me ‘I’ve never worked in the profession before, so I don’t have any transferable skills but I worked in greenkeeping, for example’ then you have,” Barr says.

“You’ve worked with tough customers, you’ve worked under pressure, you’ve worked with a team, you’ve had suppliers, you’ve had tough people you worked with, you have attention to detail…all those things are transferable skills that any business anywhere is looking for.”

Barr says for the last 11 years he’s been at Striver it’s always been a good time for new entrants to come into the professional, but that it’s “never better than now”.

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