Taking five with our latest industry leaders: What has shaped your advice philosophy?


It’s said that major life events influence the core behaviours that affect the financial decisions we make for the rest of our lives. For financial advisers, this is no different.

Zurich’s new series, “Taking five with our latest industry leaders”, sits down with the 2016 AFA Adviser of the Year, Darren Johns, and Practice of the Year owner, Sam Henderson to talk about the events that have shaped their advice philosophy, as well as their approach to business and life, and how it affects the way they work with clients.

Darren Johns, 2016 AFA Adviser of the Year – Align Financial:

Darren Johns

A few years ago my wife was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and was no longer able to cope with a lot of her day-to-day activities, including the senior role she held in the insurance industry.

Our two young children are our priority, so we made the decision that I would take on the role of their carer much more than I had previously done – making lunches, doing the school drop-off and pick up and host of other activities that come with school-age children.

This meant that my own work/life balance – and that of the entire family – had to be completely rethought. It made us focus in what was really important. For me that was three key things: caring for my wife and helping her recovery working close to home so I was always available for kids, and if we were lucky, spending some time indulging in what had been our family passion – snowboarding.

By looking at my core beliefs and motivations, it allowed me to recognise just how this could be integrated into my advice business and way of working with clients. This led me to embrace the concept of ‘financial life planning’, or “money therapy” as it can be referred to in the US.

This philosophy takes into account the ‘softer’ side of money and is based on the premise that you should first discover a client’s most essential goals in life before putting together a financial plan, so that a their finances fully support these goals.

It’s something that I think a lot of advisers can shy away from because they feel they aren’t qualified to deal with clients on an emotional level. The reality is, most of us are more than able to discuss a client’s softer side – it’s is as simple as asking the right questions and being prepared to listen.

However, since I was advising my clients that they were able to take financial control of their life goals now – without having to wait until retirement – I thought I should start practicing what I preached. So 18 months after first being diagnosed with CFS, my wife started getting better and we decided to take the family on a skiing holiday in Canada.

What started out as a 6-7 week adventure soon turned into almost 6 months, and I made the decision to live and work remotely. Dropbox, Skype and Outlook were the only tools I needed.

A common question I get asked is, “Didn’t the clients mind?” This was a large consideration of mine, and naturally I consulted with all my clients before I left, to see if any had major misgivings. It was encouraging to hear that none did, and I quickly learned that as long as you remain in contact and deliver on what you promised, clients are happy.

It was great to discover that to work remotely, or operate your business outside the box, you don’t need to be a tech wiz. All you need is a basic level of knowledge and tools – just know how to use them well!

Sam Henderson, Owner, 2016 AFA Practice of the Year – Henderson Maxwell:

Sam Henderson

I remember at a very young age, my father losing our house in a bad real estate deal and spending a lot of my childhood bouncing around Melbourne from rental property, to rental property. This was tough and meant, as a family, we had to start from scratch.

After this set back, my dad started and slowly built up a small retail paint business and I was quite involved in it throughout my younger years. It ended up being a successful venture for my dad, and seeing him go from nothing to something had quite a significant influence on how I viewed the power of money and proper financial management.

Another ‘watershed’ was when my mother, who was a nurse, retired and I discovered that she had little more than $30,000 in superannuation. The insecurity of this experience, along with what our family experienced while I was growing up, instilled a strong sense in me to help others.

I never want my clients to have to tell their kids “we can’t afford it”, which is something that my parents often had to tell us as kids. This was reinforced even more strongly after I became a father and realised just how much your children take precedence over everything else. It’s driven me to keep learning as an adviser, keep providing the best for my clients, and keep growing my business to ensure they have the financial security growing up that I didn’t.

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