Proud to be an Adviser – Part five – Anne Graham

From

Anne Graham

I’ve always been proud to be an adviser, but it’s now more difficult than ever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my team and the work we do, but in general terms when I look back over the last 12-18 months there’s not been a lot to be proud of – on the surface at least.

The issues and behaviours raised in the Royal Commission have been surprising at best, shameful at worst. And now, we’re dealing with the aftermath which will continue for a long time. The process of working through and resolving the poor behaviours of the past will be long and messy but those who come through the other side will be better for it.

Now, back to me. When self-pity and anxiety start to raise their ugly heads, the main issues that occupy my mind are many and varied: what do I do about licensing? How is my succession plan tracking? What is the business valued at and do we still use the same models? When will I find time to prep for a 3.5-hour exam that my career is riding on? How do I support my team and keep them engaged? Will I end up in jail because I forgot to do a file note?

Ok, that’s all a bit extreme. The one thing that isn’t in that never-ending list of woe are my clients

Like many advisers in recent times, I question why on earth am I still doing what I do? Who would be an adviser in this climate? Where is the upside? Do I really make a difference?

And like many advisers, I need to look back at what got me into the advice profession in the first place. And that was to help people.

Sounds corny and sentimental, but it’s true.

We all have our stories and case studies, many of them have a common thread.

We’re not geniuses, most of what we know can be learned by anyone with a desire and interest to do so. In fact, we are likely to be replaced by some extent with AI.

However, what good advisers bring to the table (in addition to their technical skills) is empathy, common sense and a genuine desire to make a difference.

So, when I have a deadline to respond to compliance checklists, prepare for an audit, or respond to queries from associates, all that drops away when I get an email or call from a client. My focus shifts to their issues and concerns. Why? Because it’s more fun, rewarding and fulfilling than FDS, OASA, AFSL, SOA, FFS (yes, fee for service, not the other one).

What does a typical week of client work look like and why is it so rewarding? Let’s have a look:

Claire* is divorced and in her late 60s with adult children she doesn’t see very often. We first met Claire about eight years ago when she was referred by her solicitor. She had little experience managing money, let alone a budget, and her goal was to make sure her money lasted as long as she did. She purchased a home, invested funds tax effectively and commenced drawing regular income. In theory, the plan ticked all the boxes: it meets best interest duty, is easy to understand and implement, is flexible to adapt to a changing legal environment.

In practice, life gets in the way and is more complex. Claire suffers from anxiety, depression, insecurities and low self-esteem and as a result of this, spends more than she can afford on designer handbags and French champagne (the real stuff, not the sparkling wine). When we dig deeper, the source of the anxiety and insecurities becomes clear – concern about health and the impact breast cancer had on her view of the future.

What makes me proud when working with Claire? Despite the challenges, we believe in Claire and helping her deal with her issues. I’m proud because the advice, coaching, accountability and care we show Claire is what’s saving her from relying entirely on the age pension and maintaining financial independence for years to come.

Patricia* Bill* and Jane*– Patricia (and her husband Bill*) were in their 80s and were long standing client for many years. The words that describe Patricia and Bill are feisty and gentlemanly. Patricia had a penchant for scarves and Bill had a penchant for bookkeeping. As time went on, Bill required aged care and we helped and guided Patricia through that process. Explaining the complexity of aged care fees and options available, in a simple way that Patricia could understand was challenging but with a little patience and care, Bill was able to receive quality care and Patricia was comfortable with the decisions she’d made. When the time came for Patricia to move to aged care herself (a week after her Bill died) we helped her daughter Jane through the process. In a very short time, she had to come to grips with not only her mother’s failing health, but her mother’s finances and the world of aged care. Decisions regarding the home and aged care fees had to be made and once again we proposed options, trying to make the complex simple. Sadly, Patricia passed away (scarves were a feature at her funeral) and we’re helping Jane with the Estate and her inheritance.

What makes me proud when working with Jane? Being in a position of trust. When people like Patricia, Bill and Jane have complete confidence and faith in your advice it is a great responsibility. Advising this lovely family and developing friendships during what are the most difficult times is a privilege. Assisting with the stewardship of the family’s hard-earned wealth, in a genuine and caring manner is rewarding.

Maddie* and Tracey* are a terrific couple who care for others more than themselves. Maddie works full time in a tough job whilst Tracey looks after elderly family members – parents, aunts and even neighbours. It’s just what they do. They are in their 50s and have a love of cars, singing, and travel. We’ve worked with Maddie and Tracey on developing their retirement plan ensuring there is flexibility to consider their non-financial goals. Maddie works far too much, conscious that she’s not only supporting Tracey and herself financially, but she’s also indirectly supporting others.

What makes me proud working with Maddie and Tracey? When difficult and challenging decisions need to be made, two confident, smart and caring women turn to me for advice and guidance. I’m proud that they’ve achieved their goals and are now in a position where Maddie can take on a part time job, with reduced income but will still be able to meet their retirement and personal goals.

For many of us, being an adviser isn’t just about working with clients and giving them information and advice they need to achieve their goals. It’s also about building something bigger than us and guiding and training the next generation of advisers and financial planning teams.

With that in mind I’m also proud to be able to provide career paths for new advisers, Jessica and Jess. Being able to support their studies, supervise client meetings, guide them through the advice process and develop rewarding careers is exciting.

I’m proud to have built a business that is solid enough to withstand the many changes we’re experiencing in our world.

I’m proud to support graduates who want a career in financial advice, whatever that will look like in 5-10 years.

I’m proud of my adviser community. It’s in tough times that we can see who we really are and sometimes it’s not real pretty. It’s great to know that our community, my community, is strong, supportive and caring. We’re all experiencing rapid change and whilst onlookers may think we compete against each other, the truth is we’re more collaborators than competitors.

Even though the thought of a new career, or retirement is attractive at times, I’m proud to be an adviser and I’m sticking it out.

By Anne Graham, CEO Story Wealth Management

*Not their real names.

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