THE COALFACE: Clients key to financial planning success

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Charlie Viola works for Moore Stephens Sydney Wealth Management and has $250m funds under management. He says his success is due to the happiness of his 145 clients.

What makes a good financial planner?

An adviser that, first and foremost, has the best interests of the client at heart. While I pride myself on being technically proficient, the most successful advisers I have ever met have been the ones with an outstanding client service ethos. Clients fundamentally just want to know that you are there, and are ready to answer their queries and hear their concerns; and that you are aware of how changes to taxation arrangements, superannuation laws, investment markets, the economic environment etc, will affect their situation.

What do you like most about being a financial planner?

My clients: I make a great effort to get close to the clients and genuinely understand their situation. I am acutely aware of the trust they place in me, so I do all I can to reciprocate by always being available.

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

Regulatory change (and the uncertainty surrounding it) and investment markets.

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

Components of the regulatory change: While change is always difficult, we understand what many of the changes are trying to achieve, and I see a positive outcome for good advisers as a result.

What targets do you have for the coming year?

While every business has revenue targets it needs to meet (commercial reality), my main targets are always three-fold: happy clients, happy staff and happy business partners. I always treat my main KPI as referrals – as centres of influence and existing clients will only refer work to me if I am doing the right things.

What is your top tip for other financial planners?

Call your clients back when they call, even if you don’t have an answer. They will always respect your honesty and obtain comfort from the fact that you are working on finding a solution/answer for them.

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

We have been ostensibly a fee-for-service business since I started working at Moore Stephens Sydney (April, 2003). The change to ‘fiduciary duty’ is something we figured existed anyway. The amendment to our documents with respect to service and fee disclosures is only a minor one, as many of the requirements were being addressed in our existing documents. As such, we believe our business is effectively ready for the changes. Being a chartered accounting practice as well, we may also need to deal with the onset of APES230, which we think will be a greater challenge, and we don’t believe many ICAA, CPA or ACA aligned advisers are fully aware of what the standards actually mean yet.

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

Perception of advisers generally: Most advisers I know are well trained, passionate and experienced professional service providers. Unfortunately we don’t hear enough from these people. Secondly, confidence in investment markets: There is a lot of doom and gloom about; advisers need to ensure their clients can get past all the ‘noise’, and focus on what they are trying to achieve, both personally and financially.

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

As I alluded to above, great client service: Referrals are the life blood of any adviser’s business. If you can gain the confidence of your key centres of influence and clients, momentum will build.

What do you like doing outside of the office?

I have a young family, so spending time with my wife and young son is very important to me. Additionally, I am a sports fanatic, so I spend a lot of down time watching, reading and partaking in sports. I have an almost unnatural passion (my wife says unnatural) for Liverpool Football Club. I haven’t missed a game in over 10 years, and have spent a lot of time and energy (and emotion!) following them, through good and bad…