Separate advice and products: director of winning firm

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Those beholden to financial product manufacturers and distributors shouldn’t be able to call themselves planners, according to a wealth advisory director.

Fausto Pastro of William Buck spoke to Wealth Professional in light of the accounting and advisory firm winning the coveted “licensee select NSW practice of the year” award for the second year running.

In reaching its decision, the award’s judging panel acknowledged the firm’s client centric business philosophy, focus on high quality advice, and forward thinking leadership team.

Pastro said a secret to success was the absence of any potential conflicts of interests – real or imagined – that could distract from truly seeing to the client’s cause.

“From our perspective, we have an absolute focus on the client and an alignment with their needs and aspirations,” he said.

The biggest hurdle financial advice is facing is the struggle to migrate away from an industry and embrace a profession, Pastro said, adding that changes in legislation can only go so far.

“What really needs to change is the mind-set…with industry you put yourself first, but with a profession you put your clients first and eliminate all conflicts.”

Financial services will struggle for as long as it permits advisers to be “owned” by the manufacturers of financial products. The journey would be made a lot easier if there was a complete separation from delivering advice and selling financial products, he said.

“I would like to see greater clarity in describing ourselves. We shouldn’t be able to call ourselves a planner if we are beholden to groups that are manufacturers and distributors.”

Education is also a big focus for William Buck, which has grown over 15% per year over the past 10 years.

Pastro said the strong emphasis placed on the ongoing development of its advisors is something which probably contributed to winning the award.

“Education is part of our expertise and we shouldn’t compromise on that – it’s what our clients pay us for,” he said. “Many of us have an accounting background, so education comes naturally as it’s been something we’ve been doing on a continuing basis. That helps big time, because it’s second nature to us.”

The wider industry still has a way to go in terms of educational standards, but Pastro says historically this is because it grew out of a sales environment.

“To sell products, education isn’t so much at the front of your mind, but I think a transition has been taking place: certainly the thrust of the FoFA changes are there to force the adviser to put advice first.”

And after their win it will be business as usual for William Buck. The firm has “big plans” to grow organically, and certainly won’t be part of any future mergers or acquisitions.

“We don’t have any plans to grow a business to then be sold off,” Pastro said. “Financial advice is a great profession, and it can make a real impact on our client’s lives.”


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