Financial advisers share stories of innovation

Financial advisers share stories of innovation

07 September 2019

Momentum Media caught up with three leading financial advisers at the ifa Excellence Awards in Sydney last night to find out how innovative solutions are transforming their businesses.

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Innovation can come in many forms, from technology and platforms to leadership and the delivery of specialist services.

Innovation is a term often associated with technology. But innovation is really just about changing something that already exists or introducing completely new ideas. It is an essential component of progress in any business. Technology is just one part of the innovative process.

As you will see from the three advisers we interviewed at the awards, human relationships remain at the heart of their business.

Innovation can come in many forms, from technology and platforms to leadership and the delivery of specialist services.

The advisers we spoke to in this story all have very different business models. But the one thing they all share is a commitment to their clients, with their respective innovations all driven by a desire to improve the client experience.

Keeping it simple
Pivot Wealth founder Ben Nash decided to go back to basics about 12 months ago and re-consider the value of financial advice to his clients.

He says delivering financial results to clients is something that has been lost a little bit in an era of complex financial products and confusion around financial advice.

“People come to see us so that we can build a financial plan that gives them the lifestyle that they want. We have really doubled down on that over the last 12 months by investing in a program that maps out how our clients are tracking relative to their plans.”

Pivot Wealth uses a Salesforce-based CRM system. But when it comes to client engagement, Mr Nash likes to keep things simple.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the hype with technology. At the end of the day, people want to feel confident that they are on a path they want to be.”

While he may not be a big fan of technology, the Pivot Wealth founder does understand the importance of future-proofing his business. The practice is fee-only and non-aligned, two decisions he says remove many of the issues that have impacted, and continue to impact, the broader advice industry.

“Ultimately, we want to deliver results, but we want our clients to feel confident in what they are doing with their money. I know plenty of advisers in the institutional space who do great things and deliver great outcomes for their clients, but when things like the Royal Commission come up, their clients ask questions.

“Sometimes if clients don’t understand things deeply, it can take away from confidence. I think the move towards non-aligned advice will continue.”

Global expansion
Atlas Wealth recently became the first Australian financial advice firm to have a presence in Dubai. James Ridley, the group’s managing director for APAC, explains that Atlas Wealth specialises in Australian expats living overseas. Opening an office in Dubai to service Aussies living and working in the Middle East was a logical step for the innovative practice.

“By having an office in Dubai, we can actually meet with our clients face-to-face, have coffee with them and have those hard conversations rather than using digital tools like Skype and Zoom,” he says.

While Atlas has plenty of clients in the United Kingdom and United States, Mr Ridley says Dubai was actually an easier country in which to incorporate a company. It is the group’s first overseas location, but it won’t be its last.

“We’re looking to move into Singapore next,” Mr Ridley says. “Singapore is actually a pretty big hub for Australian expats. The final frontier will be the UK and then the US.”

The US is by far the biggest market opportunity for the appropriately-named Atlas Wealth, with over 200,000 Australians currently living and working in the world’s largest economy.

One of the more recent innovations from the firm is its ‘Pre-Departure Review’ for expats preparing to move overseas.

“It’s for clients who are about to become a non-resident for Australian purposes and want to know a bit more about how things will be treated from a tax point of view and what they need to be considering in terms of shares, property and other assets,” Mr Ridley says.

The service is currently offered for $295. Once the review is completed, a general advice report is generated almost immediately through Gravity Forms. Having already invested in the back-end tech infrastructure, Mr Ridley says the service is now a viable additional revenue stream for the business.

Video-conferencing is also imperative for a group like Atlas, which now has clients in over 28 countries. Mr Ridley uses a number of applications, including Zoom, Join.Me and Loom.

Helping younger clients
Fox and Hare co-founder Jessica Brady has found her niche servicing a much younger demographic. At a time when most advisers are focusing on clients who are on the brink of retirement, Fox and Hare focuses on helping Australians much earlier in their financial journey.

“I think that, in itself, is the innovation,” she says of the group’s niche. “The majority of Fox and Hare clients are 25-to-45-year-olds, which is typically a market that has been massively underserviced from the advice sphere.”

“There is definitely a misconception that you need to be old or wealthy to qualify for financial advice. We are really trying to break down those barriers and show younger Australians that they can make an investment in themselves earlier on and, by doing so, the compounding and cumulative effect sets them up well for those future years.”

Ms Brady says she doesn’t have an elevator pitch to prospective clients. Instead, she simply asks them how they are going at managing their money.

“What you will find is that most younger people have really aspirational financial goals but absolutely no idea how to get there,” she says.

“Young people are very passionate about their careers and are career-focused. But when you ask them what they do with their money there is a disconnect. They think they deserve to spend it if they have been working hard.”

When it comes to technology, Fox and Hare has adopted a number of systems to drive efficiencies. Ms Brady says that when she started the business a few years ago, she was hoping for a complete tech solution that would deliver everything the firm required.

“Sadly, when we did a bit of a tech project, we realised that wasn’t going to happen,” she says.

What the firm has ended up with is what Ms Brady calls a “patchwork” of financial services technology and applications that are not specific to the sector.

“We are really looking for best of breed client technology. It is complicated and there are a lot of systems,” she said, stressing that it is important to understand what technology clients actually want to use.

“Before we launched the business, we spent a lot of time on client-facing tech. Very quickly we needed to consider what the back-end looks like. That journey is still ongoing. I believe that financial services tech is pivoting, but it still has a long way to go.

“Our clients are digitally native. They expect to interact with us like they do with any other service provider.”