An interview with Patrick Anwandter. First appeared in The Australian, April 2018.
Award-winning planner Patrick Anwandter, of Strategy First, has been a financial adviser for more than 20 years.
The financial advice landscape was very different in the 1990s when he started, communicating with clients was all about imparting technical knowledge and showing value through complicated financial plans and commission based fees.
Commissions were a big part of a planner’s business and to stop them seemed completely alien to many of those who had become dependent on them. To stand apart and argue the benefits of fees and no commissions seemed sacrilege to some of the older players but for the new breed, led by the likes of Patrick Anwandter, it was the only way forward.
Today, Patrick is a strong advocate for open and engaging communication with clients – where they fully understand the advice they are receiving and the costs involved.
What’s been the biggest change in the industry for you?
For me the greatest challenge is articulating the value of our service to clients, especially with the rise of RoboAdvice or digitalisation of financial products. Building a strong relationship with clients is now more essential than ever - being able to articulate our fee structure and the value behind our advice. We need to show them why we’re worth it. It’s OK to be expensive but we have to ensure we work alongside our clients’ expectations in helping them achieve what they want financially. Doing so will actually make the real cost of good advice much less.
As an example, a few years ago when markets were under performing I spoke to a few clients who thought that super was a bad place to invest or continue contributing to. This broad statement may not have actually been the case, it may have been in their best interests to keep contributing as equity markets may have been at their most attractive valuations for years. Conversely when markets are at the top like now with property and equities, decreasing their holding in these areas might not be what they think they should do, but may be in their best interests. That’s what our value is, we tailor advice based specifically on what is in our client’s best interests.
What does being a financial adviser mean to you?
Financial advice is a relationships profession, the key part of what we do is helping clients achieve their financial goals.. Listening to clients and understanding them is critical to providing client-centric advice. In the past, initial client meetings tended to focus on data-gathering. As important as this is, it takes away from the ability to truly listen to a client. Our industry, technology solutions and processes need to continue to adapt to make data capture more automated and efficient, to free up the time for the people involved - client and advice team - to have a proper conversation about what the client is looking to achieve.
While technical knowledge is critical, it’s an assumed knowledge. We first started over 10 years ago and at the time, I thought that clients really wanted the detailed, technical information. But now I understand that being able to take the complex and making it simple and engaging for clients is really what sets us apart. Our true value is not about picking stocks or managing investments. It’s about building an ongoing relationship, where clients feel engaged throughout the process.
What does your business offer and to whom?
Our business works with clients to develop structured financial plans, we analyse assets, liabilities, insurance and investment strategies. We can also help with estate planning, self-managed super funds and retirement planning.
Our clients usually have been with us for many years and include a wide range of individuals, family groups and businesses, they understand and are respectful of the advice process we offer.
How do you make your business work for you and your clients?
We always ensure that we remain transparent and open when it comes to our fee model and the way we provide advice. From day one, we have operated as a fee-for-service practice with an agreed fee model with our clients.
We don’t take commissions or percentages of funds under advice. This has not always been an easy journey but it’s one that has kept us aligned with our clients and the way we provide advice. We aim to achieve the outcome our clients want, with the lowest risk possible and at a lower cost.
What advice would you give new advisers in building a successful business today?
When I look back to the way I was communicating with clients 10-15 years ago, I don’t think I fully understood what they wanted. I would explain in detail issues around Reasonable Benefit Limits, for example, and I can see now my client’s confused faces.
My advice to those wanting to run a successful advice business would be that it’s all about client-based outcomes, rather than explaining technicalities. About 18 years ago, I was helped by a business consultant who asked me to show him my best financial plan. So I sent through a really technical plan and he told me quite bluntly what was wrong with it. It’s not about appearing as the most technical adviser, it’s about showing the client in simple terms how they can achieve what they want, and how we can help them get there.
This information was prepared by BT Financial Group. It does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your personal objectives. Awards are opinions only and are current at the time of publication.