THE COALFACE: Act honestly and be approachable

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Anthony Stedman has 77 clients with Advice Evolution and believes in honesty and needs-based advice to best serve clients.

What makes a good financial planner?

In my opinion, a good financial planner is one that can take a client down a sometimes complex path whilst making the process understandable and empowering the client to make decisions that are appropriate to their needs. Obviously, being a good listener is critical to the relationship.

What do you like most about being a financial planner?

I love my relationship with my clients. Knowing and understanding a client means that our advice is pure (in that it deals with our clients’ needs and aspirations). Equally, when one of our clients calls us, they are comfortable in the knowledge that we are there to act for them. I suppose the greatest buzz is having the ability to influence people’s financial wellbeing for the better.

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

Without doubt the markets. We have taken a very conservative approach since May 2008, with significant moves to cash, fixed Interests, hybrids and higher-yielding blue chips. Whilst our clients are significantly better off than they would have been had they remained invested in the markets, as business people, we are now facing an interesting dilemma. We have recently lost a client because our costs (whilst remaining very conservatively invested) have continued and he felt that there was little point in continuing paying for advice given our shared pessimistic outlook. Managing clients’ expectations whilst continuing to value our advice is a fine balance and I would imagine that most planners are dealing with this on a daily basis.

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

Being able to protect our clients’ portfolios in these terribly uncertain times.

What targets do you have for the coming year?

Whilst we are continuing to invest in technology and our websites, with a view to maintaining referrals from this area, our focus is much more on developing our needs-based advice skills – which we believe will be integral to our longer-term relationships with our clients.

What is your top tip for other financial planners?

Think more about the future and be proactive. Consider this: As clients become more educated, do your clients want to receive advice from a planner who is part of a larger banking/funds manager style dealer group, or will they value advice from a planner free of the influences and demands of a vertically integrated model?

I would suspect that the former is ‘crowded space’, with low cost advice from industry funds and the banking industry. We believe that clients who value advice (and are willing to pay for it) are not likely to be dealing with someone who is ‘tied’ to a specific set of products.

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

Simply roll with the punches. We have spent many years working behind the scenes in the industry. The payback for us has been to gain a much clearer view of where industry leaders see what the future will look like. Where we have seen changes coming, we have dealt with them immediately and made changes early enough so that any changes have already been dealt with prior to those changes becoming legislation.

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

Overregulation, largely as a result of our own inability to deal with advisor behaviour and intra fund advice.

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

Act honestly and be approachable. Stay in touch and be organised enough to let individuals know about changes that will affect them. Don’t treat clients as a group. Treat each of them as an individual.

What do you like doing outside of the office?

I have developed a passion for Australian art and motor cars from the 60s. I also love the geeky side of technology. But most of all, I love spending time with my wife, family and close friends.