I was a COBOL programmer.

Not a very good one, but that didn’t matter in the early 1980s.

Back then, every Tuesday’s Australian newspaper featured a twenty-four-page IT section, of which many pages advertised programming and analyst positions available, with most from a recruiter named Len Green.

Supply for technical skills could not keep up with demand back then.

By the late eighties, programming skills were becoming a commodity and Len’s job ads were shrinking.

A bit like the path for a financial adviser’s technical skills.


In 1982 IT programming skills were king and queen of the IT marketplace, similar to the status of technical skills in financial advice today.

Technical skills are fundamental to every industry and profession.

Due to technology’s proven path of creative destruction, IT programming skills became a commoditised skill rather than a differentiating skill. By the mid-eighties, our team had moved most of the COBOL work to the Philippines, and my COBOL skills were not about to launch me into a lucrative new career.

The cream, however, rises to the top.

The girls and guys in my team who were excellent COBOL coders became brilliant analysts, and some are still today enjoying well-deserved reputations as experts.

Financial advice skills will follow a similar model.

While most Australians today still can not as easily differentiate or identify a specialist and expert in financial advice as they can in law, engineering, and medicine, this will, due to standards, regulations and the inevitable separation of product and non-product advice, become easier as the advice marketplace matures.

Just as inevitably, different skills will become the new differentiators to capture the attention and retention of future clients, not only the assets, insurances, superannuation, insurance and tax work.

Other industries provide clues as to what these skills might be.


I enjoy podcaster and author Michael Lewis.

Particularly his book Moneyball.

It is a story of how a low-end American baseball franchise – The Oakland A’s – redefined the identification and development of skills that build high-performance baseball teams.

Before Oakland A’s approach, skills and players were selected based on subjectivity, experience, and long-established networks of talent scouts. Oakland A’s introduced science and statistics to change forever how baseball teams are forged and skilled.

The development and focus of financial advice skills are still locked into a pre-Oaklands A’s era.

The advice industry’s focus on technical skills is understandable, considering the historical and systemic alignment with product distribution.

However, the lack of analysis and statistics on what creates a high-performing advisory team is not preparing the coming generation of advisers for the demands and opportunities ahead of them.

The distinguisher between financial advice and financial product distribution is an advice relationship.

The financial product distribution skills will follow a similar path to the IT skills of the 1980s – the experts will become more recognisable, and the margins will narrow for non-expert suppliers forcing them to scale.

The non-product financial advice skills live in the heart of every adviser-client relationship. These skills will drive the valuable advice conversations and connections between advisory teams and their clients that will build the advisory brands of the future, similar to the skills approach introduced by the Oakland A’s.

The industry’s systemic alignment to product distribution has ensured a plentiful supply of statistics covering product performance but paid little attention or regard for the data and statistics identifying the quality and performance of advice conversations.

Until now.


When a comprehensive and consistent approach to engaging advice clients is overlaid with the data from years of advice conversations between advisory teams and their clients, statistics emerge that could challenge the paradigms on how the financial advice industry will grow.

When this data is also overlaid with the outcomes of each conversation and the fees paid by clients, the financial advice industry can better prepare, train and focus on those advisory skills that are more important to consistently, specifically and methodically, build better client relationships.

Similar to what the Oakland A’s did for baseball.

What value does research place on good probing, listening, and controlling in advice conversations?

What is the value of laconic advisory team members compared to verbose team members?

Can a young skilled adviser position the value of advice consistently better than older and experienced technical advisers? If so, how?

Are longer meetings more productive than shorter meetings?

These are some of the research topics we will explore and share with our new service – CERTISTICS – the statistics that drive Certainty Advice and create valuable relationships.

There will always be a market for over-the-counter product advice for clients seeking over-the-counter and commoditised financial products.

The research and statistics CERTISTICS will focus upon not the skills for dispensing commoditised advice but the skills for advisory teams aiming to position and maintain their clients on their best possible financial paths.

Our clients’ best financial lives are not given to them ready-made.

While clients will always need access to financial product experts, their greater needs will be met by skills built upon science and statistics that methodically and consistently build the paths for their best financial lives and productive advisory relationships.

COBOL is still deeply entrenched in many of the services we take for granted today. Back in the 1980s, we could never have dreamed of the plethora of skills and services that have since evolved.

So too, for future financial advice skills.

What do you reckon?




Photo credit: Photo by Thirdman from Pexels



For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted advisory firms across Australia. His consulting firm, Certainty Advice Group, coaches, trains, and builds advisory firms delivering comprehensive, unconflicted advice, with fees priced purely on value. He is growing a strong and collaborative community of advisory firms aligned on Australia’s only Certification Mark advice standard for comprehensive, unconflicted advice – Certainty Advice.  He has authored four books regarding financial advice, with his latest – What Price Value – available now since release in March 2022.

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