Best advice firm's secrets to success

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Troy MacMillan is the managing director of The Wealth Designers (TWD), which both the AFA and the FPA have come together to name as Australia’s best financial advisory practice.

TWD started in 2009 with four employees and has now grown to 15 – 19 if you include the board of advice.

Macmillan says he set out to create “a new world” of financial advice, but finding quality people has been one of the biggest challenges for the business so he has branched out to other professions to find the right people. This includes accountants, stock brokers and even legal practitioners.

He says that it is the quality of people that he is most proud of, and that has ensured the company's success. However, he has also had to make some tough decisions on letting go of people who couldn’t grow with the team. This includes clients as well as advisers, but to deal with his dilemma, Macmillan set up another business, Shape Advisers, which is tailored to service less complex clients.

“The ideal client for us has to have perceived complexity in their financial affairs. If a client doesn’t perceive their financial affairs to be complex, they will never actually want to pay for advice,” said Macmillan.

One such client that stands out to Macmillan is a woman he recently met with. She owned a successful cleaning business, which she started from scratch, but was always on call because her employees were unreliable.

She was in her 60’s and wanted to pay off her mortgage, but when Macmillan dug deeper he says that she burst into tears and said she just wanted time with her grandchildren.

“She said…’I feel like as a mother, I didn’t spend enough time with my children. And here I am 25 years later and I’m in the same position again, I’m doing it with my grandchildren’.

“When we came back to see her again, we gave her a plan that clearly showed her that she could retire today and as a result of that she could spend all this time with her grandchildren. So that’s what she did.”

Despite concerns being raised about FoFA during his roundtable with other finalists, Macmillan is positive about the outcome of the reforms.

“It aligns the financial planning industry more so as a profession now by having clients really understand what they’re paying and hopefully understanding why they’re paying it. I can only think of that as a good thing when it comes to advice.

“It has been tainted a little bit in the past, by clients having this perception that there’s all these commissions and you don’t know what you’re paying… if we can clear that up I think as an industry that’s a really positive thing.”

He’s now 43 and enjoys his position so much that he can’t imagine retiring, but says that they have a plan in place. Just like his clients, he says that he has goals, but would like to continue doing what he loves for as long as possible.