Penny works within a busy accounting and financial planning firm in Brisbane.

Raised and spent most of her adult life in the small country town near Toowoomba, she knows all about close-knit Australian communities and how important they can be for each other.

She’s been a regular on our advice webinars, asks great questions and often leaves comments, suggestions and feedback on what she would like to learn how to deliver great financial advice for her clients.

She is a late starter in financial services, after a bust-up in a relationship, she sought a re-start back into the workforce. Being a single mum she had few options but to move to Brisbane, find a job to support herself and her two young kids.

However, after a couple of years, she feels stuck.


Stuck in Old Advice Worlds…

She expects to get her authorised representative status in the coming months, but the firm’s ‘management’ have told her it will take her a ‘few more years’ to advance and lead her own financial advice conversations with ‘real’ clients.

She believes she is already working with ‘real’ clients and loves helping them with their Centrelink, pension and other issues. The firm has a lot of these clients, but she feels very limited by the technical product boundaries which, in her (and my) opinion, restrict good professional advice she could provide.

Most of her clients are from the firm’s “orphan” segment. Her main responsibility is to be the first port of call for those smaller clients who ‘request’ support, even though the firm receives a trail fee from all of them. She questions a system where many of the firm’s clients aren’t even aware of how much they are paying every year for ‘on-going advice’ that they never receive.

Reading the headlines about the current Royal Commission, she can relate to the system that seems to reward firms based on the amount of products in place rather than the quality of advice and value delivered.

Having a strong service ethic, she wants to work out an engagement method for her clients, believing there is tremendous potential to look after them better than just their Centrelink needs.


Clients will pay for value…

She also believes her clients will pay for a better service – all she has to do is make it valuable for them.

Unfortunately, her firm won’t support her with any self-development funding.

They reckon they will support her to try new methods, but there isn’t a budget for her to learn how to make a more valuable offering for her current client base. They are spending on an initiative to make the firm paperless with their next priority being an update to their CRM.

I reckon there are lots of Pennys stuck in a similar position to Penny’s throughout our current financial services industry.

Great people who really want to help clients in their financial lives, but are held behind higher and higher compliance boundaries been built as ‘risk measures’ by licensees. Penny reckons that the majority of the advice she’d like to provide has nothing to do with any product, so she feels stuck.

I agree.

Due to a system that rewards and focuses on the amount of ‘products’ in place rather than the depth of client’s needs, great service providers like Penny are stuck.

Because she is relatively new to the industry, she hears constantly from those more experienced around her that say, that’s just the way the system is. Due lack of ‘product’ opportunities, many like Penny’s bosses believe there is no money to be made looking after those people unless you do it pro bono – that’s just the way it is.

She’s right of course – that is the way it has been.

But, thanks to people like Penny, more so than Justice Hayne’s Royal Commission, I believe it won’t be the way for too much longer.

The future approach for real advice – as opposed to what most advice is today, i.e. product advice – will be less focused on what product can be sold, as compared to what real needs are there and how can they be better met.

Short term, Penny needs the money, job and the experience.

Long-term, people like Penny will thrive in the future generation of advice – she knows the value of support from a close-knit trusted community and I’m sure one day in a couple of years she will get the opportunity.

What do you reckon?


(BTW – Penny’s name and location have been changed for obvious reasons!)



About Jim Stackpool

For nearly 30 years Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted to advisory firms across Australia. As founder of Certainty Advice Group, he leads a like-minded team of professional advisory firms seeking to create greater certainty for their clients. As an author, blogger, columnist, and keynote speaker, Jim is regularly called upon for his professional insights into the advice industry. His latest book Seeking Certainty is available now.
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