High-Net-Worth’s? It’s time for a re-think…

William Francis Sutton was an American bank robber.

When asked why he robbed banks, he allegedly responded: “…because that’s where the money is.”

Medicine has used “Sutton’s Law” when training students as a metaphor to expedite focus on the most likely source of interest when diagnosing.

So too have many in the financial advice industry who pursue high-net-worth clients as their market of choice.

Following Sutton’s Law (i.e. where the money is) has narrowed the access to advice. For those that are not wealthy, or not on track to becoming wealthy, or not a retiree with a large enough lump of money, or not lucky (or unlucky) enough to inherit or win wealth, access to financial advice is tough.

Sutton’s Law has tilted the advice industry out of reach of the majority without wealth confirmed by Investment Trend’s analysis which suggests most Australians have unmet advice needs.

Imagine if the medical profession only served those with wealth…

Suggestions that artificial intelligence or robo-advice will provide alternative advice models misunderstands the myriad of indecisive human moments that make advice valuable or disastrous. While a valuable tool for a minority, portraying robo-advice as an advice solution for the majority is camouflaging a product distribution strategy.


Whether wealthy or not, making money from other people’s money is the obvious modus operandi for the product industry.

Not without danger (favourite book on this topic), the product industry plays a crucial engineering role in creating robust and reliable products central to the financial lives of many.

Money management, however, is only an engine under the bonnet in the vehicle that represents everyone’s unique financial life.

The advice industry’s future and value are not attached to the size and performance of the engine, but the size and difficulty of the forward journey.

Adhering to Sutton’s Law will produce more efficient engines but it will not ensure the primary objective of financial advice which is to serve the broad best interests of a client.

There is a viable, working alternative.


It comes from Plato.

About 380BC, Plato taught his young Greek medical students that “…the cure of a part should not be attempted without the treatment of the whole”.

Plato’s approach was revolutionary as Greek medical practice was a ‘mechanical’ focus on parts of the human body, not a broad ‘whole’ approach to patient care and treatment.

Many in today’s financial advice industry have transitioned their proposition to be ‘holistic’ but have found the remuneration transition tougher.

They have done a ‘half-Plato’ – the easy half.

Unable to crack the right balance of price, value and cost delivering comprehensive advice, many have been forced to pursue a wealthier market whose larger product needs can fund the inevitable higher costs of building or maintaining advice firms.

An advice industry offering comprehensive advice but holding onto remuneration models embedded in Sutton’s Law is an industry out of balance with both its promises and potential.

Plato provided the clue to progress.

For him, it was value created in the patient’s life when the complexities of the whole patient were considered, not just the sum of the parts.


The birth of the financial advice industry might have been from the marriage of a young superannuation industry and a rollicking financial markets industry, but the destiny of financial advice is the management of complexities that affect someone’s whole life.

The parts of a financial life (tax, lending, superannuation, property, investments, shares, hybrid funds, cash flows, structural, legal) are integral, but their sum does not guarantee the best possible path. In fact, the more parts the greater complexity.

Serving a client’s greater good needs a profession rewarded not by Sutton’s Law, but by Plato – the establishment and maintenance of the client’s greater good.

Like Plato, the profession needs only trust that clients will pay fair fees for what they value – the establishment and maintenance of their greater good.

William Francis Sutton and his disciples don’t believe it is possible – I wrote about this last week.

There has never been a better time to be building valuable advisory firms.

What do you reckon?




Photo credit: shutterstock_376364425



For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted advisory firms across Australia. His firm, Certainty Advice Group coaches, trains and is building a growing group of advisory firms delivering comprehensive, unconflicted advice, priced purely on value. The community of advisory firms aligns with Australia’s highest and only ACCC/IP Australia Certification Mark standard of comprehensive, unconflicted advice – Certainty Advice. He has authored four books regarding financial advice with his latest – What Price Value – released this month – March 2022.


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