Paul Del Grande has been involved in the insurance sector since 1982, but it was in 1988 that he decided to take on the challenge of setting up a holistic advice practice, and his journey provides some valuable tips for other advisers.
Del Grande would be lying if he said it was “anything but really tough” making the transition from BDM to owning his own financial planning business. It took him almost three months to even get the first client on the books.
“It was almost at that stage where I was starting to panic. I went through periods of self-doubt,” he admits.
Del Grande was targeting “anyone with a heartbeat”, until he set up referral relationships with general insurance brokers. He then realised, that all of his clientele were coming from these relationships, so that became his target market.
When the Government introduced SGC, he jumped on the opportunity to speak with the brokers’ SME clients about setting up superannuation for their employees.
“Once you get in front of a particular person or business it opens up all sorts of opportunities,” says Del Grande. He knew that the 3% would eventually become 9%, and the super balances would grow from thousands, to hundreds of thousands.
Del Grande jumped on another opportunity when he read in the paper that a jockey who fell off a horse, was trying to sue another jockey involved.
“Six months later the jockey who sued actually won the case, so within days we had a market out to every jockey in Australia saying ‘you need public liability’ and I didn’t make anything on that, but through that we set up a group personal accident scheme and from that I now look after their life, trauma and superannuation. Once again you have to look outside the square, not for what’s going to bring you immediate gratification and immediate dollars, just at the potential.”
Del Grande began opening up offices all over the country and was rapidly expanding his business. He says that the turnover was fantastic, but often things happen that make you rethink your path.
While it's usually legislative or regulatory changes that force advice practices to adapt, it was a personal incident that made Del Grande reassess his business model.
“I thought, was this really making me happy? And I realised that it wasn’t. And I wasn’t being smart, I was replicating processes in three or four different offices, employing much more staff than I needed.”
Del Grande scaled right back and brought all of the admin back to Sydney. He says that he now wonders why he had so many staff, when his current workforce is able to handle it all.
Jodie Barnao, NSW state development manager for Millenium3 says that it’s always valuable to hear how successful advisers have made the most of opportunities in the marketplace, so that she can help advisers in her network use similar techniques.
“Part of my role is to look for opportunities that might be outside the box that we can then bring to advisers that they might leverage for their business” says Barnao.
She says that it’s particularly interesting to hear how businesses might make a connection with something in the media and leverage off that.
“Advisers can get very focused on their business, so we should be able to bring other perspectives.”
Barnao agrees that regulatory changes are forcing advisers to adapt, particularly in FoFA, fee-for-service and MySuper. She says that it is important for advisers to look wider than just their own business, for opportunities.