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Whilst many of the Australian media might not agree with me, I reckon most advisers undercharge and over-deliver.

The quantum of advice fee charged has long been the biggest driver of being too busy rather than poor back-office systems, compliance or team performances.

(That’s probably another webinar sometime?)

Sure, I know we can all quote ‘some advisers’ that have fleeced whatever fogged a mirror, but I’m not talking about them – they’re not advisers.

From my experience, because most advisers are driven by their desire to help clients, that same desire usually makes them too cheap (and thus too busy).

I’m not advocating lifting price. Rather I’ve long been advocating understanding your value, then work on your pricing.

So, next Wednesday 25th at Noon for 30 minutes, I’m running my next webinar – “Alternative Advice Fee Models”.

I aim to cover how best to balance your value, your price, and your future considering AUM pricing, commission pricing, hourly pricing, hybrid pricing, value pricing and pull-a-figure-out-of-the-air pricing for your advice.

Well before I wrote “What Price Advice***” almost ten years ago, I’ve been pricing advice for advisory firms.

I want to share the current insights that I reckon professional advice pricing must consider to be sustainable, effective, and of course, valuable for your clients and profitable for you.

The future is upon us, whilst we haven’t hit the ‘tipping point’ just yet, I reckon if you’re not actively practicing with your pricing, you might already be in your own special Kodak moment.

And, by the way, I am again asking for a $20 donation to the best unknown cause Streetwork – which does real work on the real issues for our kids at risk, which is getting more prevalent and unrecognised. If you register, every single dollar you pay will be going to them – cheers up-front.

If you’re interested, I look forward to you joining me next Wednesday.

It’s the best of times to be building great advice brands and firms.


*** yes, I know it’s ridiculous that it’s currently out of stock, but the writer has been promising next draft for some time now!

Genuine People caught in disingenuous places?


Maybe there is a beast…maybe it’s only us.”

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

What happens when genuine people are caught in a disingenuous place?

What did the people working on Manus Island caring for Australia’s unwanted refugees best do about their circumstances?

What about those working in Trump’s version of a White House?

Or those loyal workers in the Churches who try to rationalise the line-up of former leaders that not only failed but subverted those they were meant to be serving?

When perceptions of promises consistently fail to match what is delivered, cultures are questioned.


Normalised behaviours…

Disingenuous environments tend to normalise disingenuous behaviours.

For instance, there was a minority in financial services who believed their best clients were those that rarely called, rarely sought advice, rarely wanted to meet, while continuing to pay for ‘services’ every year.


No. Wrong. Very wrong.

When the industry’s limp watchdog highlighted the issue two years before Justice Hayne, the normalised behaviour had the fines for no service in the millions – $178m.

Now thanks to Justice Hayne’s Royal Commission (or more rightly Senator John Williams) the remediation is now in the billions as is the loss of market valuations for some institutions.

The industry knew behaviours were systemic, not just a few bad apples.

Lots of genuine people knew that the real power in financial relationships resided not with the person with the financial products (e.g. superannuation), but with those that supplied the products as these products just kept on gifting back to the provider year after questionable year.

How do genuine people shift this balance of power back to where it should be in every financial relationship – that is, with every client?


Little sense of value…

As William Golding’s Lord of the Flies illustrates, disingenuous places tend to falsify questions of value.

What is valued?

Keating, Kelty, and Hawke forced all Australians to save for their retirement decades ago. Unfortunately, as our own most recent white paper concludes, we don’t all value our mandatory nest eggs.

Those providing the products for our mandatory nest eggs, however, have certainly understood their value opportunities.

That’s why we have both the fourth largest pension funds in the world and also why we have Justice Hayne’s Royal Commission.

The neglected question of value has normalised us all that the agreed method of fees we pay is a proportion of how much product is being bought.

It’s ridiculous that the common charge Australians pay for ‘services’ is based upon how much product they hold rather than the value of services provided.

How do genuine people arrest that notion of value and bring it back to what everyone better understands – value for services rather than fees for the product?


People are genuine…

Disingenuous places tend to label everyone involved as being disingenuous.

Leaders claim high-ground promising ‘better futures’.

Alternatively, if unable to reconcile better value models, they seek to exit to safer reputational credentials.

The raging debate whether Australians have enough money or not, is in itself, symptomatic of the uncertainty faced.

What is clear, however, is that many genuine people, long loyal to their client’s best interests are leaving the industry in frustration. Their biggest fault is possibly trying to do too much serving every client’s best interests (the opposite of Fees for No Service findings) for too many clients using the normalised business model.

Will the proposed new qualification requirements produce more genuine professionals?

We can hope.

Will the promises of new tech-based financial solutions exchange today’s “Fee for No Service” with a “Fee for No Tech Service” report?

The issue in financial services is simple.

However, the solution is complex.

The greatest value in financial services has been consistently collected not by the receiver of services, but by the provider of services.

Genuine people genuinely serving Australians to lead their best possible financial lives are not afraid to align their promises, their value and their reward.

Let’s hope we don’t inhibit them in 2019.

Let’s hope 2019 paves a path forward for as many genuine people as possible to deliver their promises of serving clients best interests, for a price their client’s value, rather than the product manufacturers value.

Let’s stop feeding the beast within with the dogma that product is value.

Our clients always have and always will be our value.

What do you reckon?



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.

The new value proposition for financial advisers…

Some financial advisers are searching for a new value proposition as one might search for a lost set of car keys.

Others are searching for their value proposition as a golfer frustratingly tries to regain their former groove and rhythm when their swing was smoother, more consistent and the handicap was lower.

Fascinatingly still today, there are other advisers content to sit back on old, ‘proven’ value propositions and wait for the certainty the pre-2008 marketplace provided them.

Tragically there are other advisers whose focus isn’t preparing a new value proposition at all. Their future focus isn’t their advice clients. Their search is for a ‘product’ partner who’ll pay them to join, or stay. These advisers aren’t building advisory firms, they are building financial product franchises similar to a Toyota dealership. That’s an OK model, provided nothing is being hidden from the client that inevitably affects the financial advice.  

Keeping your financial advice simple…

I was with a great group of financial advisers yesterday who reminded me the importance of getting the basics right.

They are so engulfed by so much ‘noise’ in their professional worlds.

Markets are up, markets are down.

Personal wages (these advisers were primarily employees undergoing yet another remuneration review exercise) are uncertain and linked to the roller-coaster economic conditions.

Clients are on the back foot, some looking for miracles, some looking for retribution, most with rock-bottom expectations from their financial (read investment) advisers.

To lift revenue, they are being pushed to lift their fees, which to some appeared like throwing fire onto a fire that’s already too hot.

Amidst this, they knew the path to their growth.

Stick to the basics.  

It’s not just interest rates…what about wealth rates?

Hasn’t there been a lot of noise about how the banks aren’t automatically passing on recent Reserve Bank reductions in interest rates?

What about the quiet pillaging the banks and fund managers are doing on wealth rates?

Where’s the noise on that?

For instance, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Housing Finance Report of 2011, the average home mortgage size is $284, 400.

Therefore the recent 1/4 percent drop in rates announced by the Reserve December 6th would save approximately $710 per year for the average mortgage holder – not a bad saving and understandable why people are having a crack at the banks for explanations why it won’t be automatically passed on in future.  

“No Assumptions…”

Ironic isn’t it?

Our industry rigorously reminds its clients not to view past returns as a indication of future returns, but too rarely stops to question if the client’s past desired outcomes are indicative of their current desired outcomes.

Why do financial advisers do this? Isn’t that strange?

Why do they clumsily try to explain how they added value in the past year, without first checking that they are in sync with the whole reason WHY their clients are paying their fees?

Is it because they assume the value they add will be determined purely on how they perform in the beauty parade of investment returns? Is that why they’re paying us all?

Also, isn’t it ironic that because the majority of our clients have investable assets (or superannuation sums) that we assume them all to be investors? Just because I have a garden doesn’t make me a gardener, does it?  

How to identify good Advice Conversations…



How do you know you’re having good financial advice conversations?

What are the things to listen out for, to query, or to notice to confirm you having good advice conversations to ensure you’re on track for your best possible financial future?

It’s not easy.

The Royal Commission into the Misconduct of Banking, Insurance and Financial Services has made us think more about the financial advice we receive.

I reckon it will have a direct effect on all of us delivering or seeking financial advice for many years to come.

So how do you know you’re having good advice conversations.

But first…

What’s an advice conversation?

Ok – I reckon there’s a big difference between financial advice and product advice.

Financial advice is the type of advice you’re seeking when:

  • stakes are high – i.e. you really want to get the right advice because in your opinion there is a fair bit at stake if you don’t get it right; and
  • the options available are complex – i.e. there are so many options and those options are complex to you – you want to know what’s best for you right now; and
  • emotions can be fairly strong – i.e. there’s strong emotions, feelings, beliefs surrounding getting your ‘right’ outcome.

Make sense?

Product advice, on the other hand, doesn’t have all three of the above.

Or doesn’t have the level of ‘intensity’ of each of those.

For instance, getting ‘your tax done’ each year can be viewed as a ‘tax conversation’ rather than an ‘advice conversation.

Or moving a relatively small amount of your superannuation from one fund into another might also be viewed as ‘superannuation advice’ rather than the ‘advice conversation’ such as I am referring to here.

So what are the factors to listen out for, to notice, to query when seeking financial advice (as compared to product advice.

The above animation tries to explain it.

Three Elements of Financial Advice

Keeping it simple, I reckon there are three fundamental elements that comprise Financial Advice:

  • the advice;
  • the trust;
  • the value.


The advice element…

Whilst most advisers will disagree with me – this is the least important (and hardest) piece to really understand when in an advice conversation.

Their disagreement is totally understandable because they have dedicated their careers and spent years developing their advice via their technical knowledge, their study, degrees awarded, their on-going technical development, as well as their growing experience which is absolutely required for them to deliver your advice.

Experts like Commissioner Hayne will recommend better standards for future delivery of financial advice to improve the delivering of this piece – which is good.

Because whilst there have been 37 enquiries into the provision of financial services in Australia in the last ten years alone, judging by some Royal Commission headlines it seems still too easy to drive a fairly sizable truck through some of the holes in the current structures that deliver advice whilst in plain view of the ‘police’ (i.e. ASIC) meant to protect us from such practices.

This makes too many of us wonder if the advice we receive is good advice, or bad advice, or conflicted advice, or in our best interests or the interests of the provider.

The trust element…

But when in advice conversations we can listen or notice some clear signals that might smell a bit when it comes to earning or keeping our trust.

For instance, is your advice conversation:

  • focused on those giving you the advice, their expertise, their process, their offerings, their experience, their team, their qualifications, their awards; or
  • focused on their range of products, their services, their special exclusive offerings; or
  • contains too much of them talking at you with their jargon or language or content that might sound impressive, but doesn’t relate or make sense to you; or
  • going to be paid for based upon how much money you are investing, or how much insurance you are buying, or how much you have in your superannuation account…

then, some bells should be going off which needs clarity so there is no question that might affect the trust of your advice.

When it comes to earning your trust, what should you expect in an advice conversation?

Conversations that:

  • focus on you (not them) – including quality questions about why you’re seeking this advice, what are you hoping this advice will achieve or help you manage or resolve; and
  • doesn’t use language or specific product features that you don’t understand or leaves you confused or worse makes you feel like ‘you just have to trust us’ Really?; and
  • involves an understanding of what the significant others in your life also want to achieve or overcome (i.e. life partners, spouses, business partners) if you’re after advice that provides better outcomes, even if they differ from your own, for them as well; and
  • don’t use the amount of money invested, or amount of money in your super, or the amount of superannuation you have as the main measure for how you will pay for their advice – why buy financial advice like you buy prawns – the amount you pay should be solely based upon the value of the advice rather than the quantity of product, shouldn’t it?.


The value element…

We can also listen out in advice conversations for signals about what is valuable and what isn’t.

For instance, to help you identify or notice if your advice conversations are valuable:

  • is the value being explained by the past performance of the products you are being offered e.g. “our recommended products beat all the benchmarks” – a good feature IF you are seeking product advice, but when seeking financial advice you expect the products to perform; or
  • is value based upon how ‘easy’ or how ‘convenient’ or how ‘much money you are going to save’ with this ‘advice’ compared to previous ‘advice’ – a good feature IF you are seeking product advice, but your advice should firstly be relevant and valuable to you before being cheap or ‘easy’ – in fact, when stakes are high, options are complex and emotions are strong, it’s good chance the advice may come with some needed habit or belief changes which may be ‘hard’ to accept, implement and live by (which you’ll only do if the outcomes are ‘worth it’ or valuable to you);
  • if your on-going advice fees are determined by the amount of money you have. This needs a query why the amount of money you are being asked to pay for advice in the coming year and every following year is determined by the amount of money in your superannuation or your investments or loans or insurance premiums rather than based upon the quality of the advice – listen for a clear explanation of how the value of your fees is directly linked to the amount of money.

Rather, identifying value in your advice conversations, listen, notice or query about:

  • the path you are being advised to take that clearly demonstrates to you in terms and outcomes that makes clear sense to you about what is real progress for you in your financial life, rather than the products being offered if in fact any products are required at all;
  • any fee payment that is not determined by the quality of the advice as you will judge by the progress you are now making because of the advice every year as compared to the factors beyond the influence of the specific advice;
  • advice fees that are re-valued every single year to ensure every single year you can see the progress that makes that advice valuable to you.


Advice is crucial

Product advice and financial advice are both crucial for better lives for us and everyone important to us.

I applaud better financial literacy for us and future generations to better understand aspects of the technical aspects of financial advice.

But I reckon greater awareness by more of us of the aspects that increase or decrease our sense of trust or our sense of value from our current financial advice conversations will enable more of us to access and value the financial advice we deserve and need particularly when we know the stakes are high, the options appear complex and emotions are involved.

What do you reckon?



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.

Simple, Accountable Planning for your Advice Firm…

A big part of a financial adviser’s job is to make the complex things in their client’s financial lives simple.

I’ve long been a fan of Verne Harnish, his Rockefeller Habits and particularly his One-Page Strategic Plans.

As you make your client’s financial lives simpler and their outcomes more certain, Verne Harish’s One Page Strategic Plan will go a long way to make the complexity of your firm’s strategic planning much simpler.

By capturing your firm’s long term objectives, breaking down your desired outcomes into shorter one-year and quarterly time-frames, using relevant “smart” numbers that records and keeps team members accountable for ‘real’  progress, these one-pager business plans are indispensable.

Plans age as quick as milk.  

The Four Advice Propositions – Part One…

The “Supplier Proposition”

Do you have clients that seek the advice proposition that I call the “Supplier Proposition”?

You can identify them by their focus.

Without trying to sound obvious, they only seek what you have.

By that I mean, they are less interested in you ‘getting to know them’ or filling in all the myriad of forms than they are simply trying to ‘roll over’ their super, or ‘get a new loan’, or ‘get a better return on their investments’, or ‘set up a self-managed superannuation account’, or ‘get insurances updated’.

They are nice people (as all your clients are!), they generally take your advice regarding their specific need, and once purchased, they aren’t as keen for your annual reviews unless they have another specific need or they aren’t happy with their situation or need a change.  


World-class financial institutions?

AMP is currently revamping its financial advice business.

As part of its long-term growth plans, CEO Craig Mellor stated that he intends to make his company more customer-oriented.

AMP recently established an alliance with United Capital, a large American financial group, touted as a leader in something called the ‘financial life management movement’. This alliance seeks to leverage the experience and information that the Californian-based group has gleaned from their implementation of a goals-based advice approach throughout America.

This does not sound quite right.

I predict that in under three years’ time, AMP is going to consider this alliance wasted money and effort.


Because I believe AMP continues to misunderstand what business it is in.

OK, AMP is Australia’s largest financial advice network. This approach, however, is not what Australians or AMP advisers need most. There is a clearer, and more productive way to make the company more customer-oriented.


Separate AMP products from AMP financial advice.

AMP’s core strength is their products.

AMP’s history of clients, depth of product knowledge, and understanding of the Australian marketplace is a testament to their strengths. AMP have smart people, robust product support, and well-developed product research and development.

What would this separation mean?

  1. AMP can focus on their core strength – delivering world-class financial products.
  2. AMP’s market for their products can broaden well beyond their current aligned advisers.
  3. AMP’s entrepreneurial advisers become free from conflicting arrangements such as buyer of last resort (BOLRs – the most hidden sort of conflicted alignment), platform fees, investment trail fees, and insurance and banking product commission payments.
  4. Provides those advisers who wish to remain ‘aligned’ with clearer positioning as AMP Professionals delivering great products from a great manufacturer.


AMP – The next creative disruptor?

The effect would be a flood of entrepreneurial advisers freed from the product-based structures that will always prevent them from providing impartial, valuable and professional financial advice.

Importantly it will also provide needed brand clarity for AMP’s many stakeholders – AMP builds world-class financial products for everyone.

Unfortunately, I don’t think they will do it.

AMP has worked so hard for so long to build Australia’s largest adviser base. I’m guessing they would not consider it prudent to potentially set free the top 20 per cent of advisers to grow their own brands, value and their reputations.

I spent ten years forging alliances with Amercian firms. Everyone can learn something from best practices from all over the world, but my experience suggests that Australia’s financial advice profession is unique and world-class.

Our market needs world-class leadership.

Good luck AMP.

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.

Advice Pricing – Part 1: Pricing Committees and Models

It’s unfortunate but not surprising that the majority of financial advisory firms have been badly caught out in the current marketplace with their old-fashioned, product-based pricing models.

A few of these unfortunate firms are proactively experimenting with new pricing approaches. The majority, however, are being reactive – not confident enough to tinker with pricing, they prefer to switch to an alternative product line (e.g. insurance) and wait for good times.  Both groups are considering cutting expenses, if they haven’t already.

Too few self-proclaimed advisory firms have been able to capitalise upon the mammoth opportunities for great advice created by the current market uncertainty. I can’t understand how an industry can try to masquerade as a profession, when such a fundamental tenet as its pricing is beyond its own control.


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lorem ipsum s simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more
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