THE COALFACE: How to succeed in tough times

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Justin Gilmour from Charter Financial Planning took the top spot in Wealth Professional’s inaugural Top 50 Advisers competition. He has 205 clients, $1.22m funds under management, and his practice’s profits have gone against the grain by posting an annual increase of 40%. So what’s the secret of his success?

Q: What makes a good financial planner?

A: You must have a genuine interest in your client’s outcome. You must take the time to truly understand what is important to your client to ensure you meet their expectations. You need to actively listen to what your client is telling you and never make assumptions.

Q: What do you like most about being a financial planner?

A: Assisting clients become financially well organised and assisting them to reach their financial potential. Every client’s circumstances are different which requires a different strategy – it keeps the role interesting.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge for financial planners in the last 12 months?

A: We operate a tactical portfolio management service in direct equities, ETFs and direct fixed interest for clients which, with continued uncertainty with markets, has been challenging. In saying that, we have been overweight in defensive assets for some time and as a result clients have maintained positive portfolio returns.

Q: What has been the best thing about the last 12 months?

A: We have experienced significant growth in the past 12 months which goes against the trend. Profit is up 40% on the back of a very strong year last year.

Q: What targets do you have for the coming year?

A: We want to maintain our growth focus. We aim to increase our adviser numbers by two, and cement another joint venture relationship with a two- to five-partner accounting firm. We will maintain our new business upfront fee target of $1.15m for 2012/13.

Q: What is your top tip for other financial planners?

A: Develop strong referral sources. Solid referral sources should be fundamental in any growth strategy.

Q: How do you plan to adapt to the many regulatory changes that are set to affect the financial planning industry?

A: We have been operating a full fee model for the past three years. I welcome the changes – I think it will only assist our industry gain the professional standing that is lacking. The transparent fee based model is well received by clients and has contributed to our practice growth.

Q: What are the biggest issues facing the financial advice industry today?

A: The changes need a common sense approach towards reform. The industry needs to be focused on delivering quality cost-effective advice. Legislation has boosted the cost of advice which means for many the cost of seeking advice and the cost to deliver that advice at times is cost prohibitive.

Q: What are your top tips for gaining, and retaining, clients?

A: Develop effective referral relationships, ask your existing clients for referrals. For retaining clients be proactive – particularly in times of uncertainty, over-service them – keep them updated and pick up the phone and talk to them. Let them know you are working for them and their outcome. They will reward you for your effort.

Q: What do you like doing outside of the office?

A: Ideally I would spend every weekend down south at our beach house in Yallingup. When I am not doing that I am taking kids to weekend sporting commitments, learning to box and spending time with the family. This year the focus is around improving my boxing technique, playing more golf and more travel.

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