When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection.
My youngest finishes his high schooling in a couple of weeks.
It seems harder to get out of the place than it was to get in based upon the number of leaving ceremonies we’ve attended.
While I will not miss the fees, he will miss the place full of his mates.
The exuberance of these kids during their fast-finishing days has been electric.
When together, they are generally happier.
The biggest takeout from the study of human behaviours operating since 1938 – Harvard University’s Adult Development Study – confirms that our connections with others are both powerful and beneficial. The study confirms that our good connections provide the most significant probabilities of us living longer, healthier and happier.
Connections mean different things to different people.
Instagram’s recent removal of the number of ‘likes’ on posts was an acknowledgement that creating false connections and popularity contests were not beneficial.
Quick fixes, social media screens and overnight relationships might be influential but tend to teach us more about things we already know. Better connections are needed when we face unfamiliar alternatives. The most valuable connections provide the invisible hand that pulls or pushes us along our needed track mainly when our instincts cause hesitation.
However, it takes a mixture of commitment and value for connections not to fade into disconnections.
Life is what happens to us while we make other plans.
We move on.
The connection with the knee surgeon when we had our knee fixed or the mid-wife when we had one of the kids, was significant at the time considering what was at stake. These connections helped us live through important and unfamiliar events.
We look for similar connections when we are approaching retirement, when our parents are getting too old to care for themselves, when we buy a new home, when we need funds to grow our businesses, when we need to support our family or move through another of life’s transitions when our stakes are high, or options are many, or emotions are high.
However, unlike the knee surgeon and mid-wife, financial services is remunerated as if it were continually connected.
The on-going fees we pay for our retirement products, or insurance products, or investment products, or finance packages, or superannuation funds, still assume we are still strongly connected to those who gave us the product or advice years ago.
ASIC nailed this disconnected state of the industry in their 2016 Fee For No Service Report.
Ironically, Australians were destined not to even connect with this industry-changing Report if it were not for 2018 Royal Commission into Banking and Financial Services.
The Royal Commissioner damned the industry with 76 recommendations to overhaul the profiteering, greed and inaction of many taking advantage of disconnected clients to best ensure these circumstances never happens again.
But it will.
The knee surgeons and mid-wives we connect with are valued not for the products they use but for the advice, care, services they provide. They provide a valuable service when require and receive no on-going payment.
Until all financial advisers are remunerated like the knee surgeons and midwives, when there is a valuable and transparent connection, we will continue to witness more regulatory patchwork, making a ridiculous industry structure an increasing expensive ridiculous industry structure.
We should only ever expect to pay for valued connections when required.
Transparent & valued connections
Ironically one of the predictable outcomes from the Royal Commission into Banking is more regulatory paper-work which makes connections harder to create and maintain to comply with impending legislation.
The path forward for Australians seeking financial advice isn’t any clearer. The easy promises from the coming tsunami of financial technology ‘solutions’ with ‘easier connections’ and greater choice are still just that – promises.
The original reasons most advisers became advisers was to connect with people, not with products.
Unfortunately, the choice of business platforms most advisory firms have needed over the past thirty years to run their firms were designed for product management first and client management second.
Herein lie the adviser’s challenge and opportunity – to separate product and advice, while re-wiring their day-to-day processes to deliver transparent and valuable connections every year to their clients. This is like extensively renovating a busy and full family home while still living in it – it’s tough.
Despite the headlines and survey findings, financial advisory and accounting firms are generally full of great advisory teams who work hard to build connections with their clients helping them to save money, to budget better, to curb spending habits, to support their careers, to manage the health twists, to manage family transitions as kids leave and elderly parents need care.
The valuable and transparent advisory connections are not built upon the fundamentals of financial products – i.e. debt, tax, investments, structures, finance, or superannuation.
While significant, financial products play a similar role to the scalpel in the skilled hands of the knee surgeon or mid-wife. But they are nowhere near as valuable as the advice provided by a trusted connection familiar with one’s broad circumstances and experienced in the decisions faced.
This type of transparent and valuable connection is crucial as all of us listen to ourselves too much when it comes to our financial decision-making in areas that we are just not wired properly for effective decisions.
Like my boy and his mates excited about leaving school.
Their excitement will carry them for a while, but eventually it will be their connections, old and new, that support, help and hopefully encourage them the most through inevitable unfamiliar experiences.
That’s the path to progress, confidence, and happiness.
For him and most of us.
Trusted, valuable connections. The future of advice.
What do you reckon?
ABOUT JIM STACKPOOL
For 30 years Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted to accounting & financial advisory firms across Australia. His firm, Certainty Advice Group provides the development for a growing list of accounting & financial advisory firms seeking to deliver Australia’s highest and only ACCC/IP Australia accredited standard of comprehensive professional advice for their advice clients – Certainty Advice. He is also an author, blogger, columnist, and keynote speaker covering topics on his expertise – growing and developing professional advisory firms based purely on client value and transparency.