AFA Adviser of the Year Diaries

In this final instalment from the year-long diary being kept by 2014 AFA Adviser of the Year, Eleanor Dartnall, Eleanor reports her experience of being a part of the AFA’s 2015 National Roadshow. She pivots back to the importance of informed client consent and also shares her thoughts on the value of sharing review processes with fellow advisers, while looking ahead to what the future may hold…

AFA Roadshow

The AFA crew and 2014 AFA award-winners are back from our Roadshow travels through every state – and what an amazing two weeks we have had with our advice community! As always, the AFA crew planned carefully to present inspiration, new ideas and support for a stressful time in our industry, and delivered on this brilliantly. Hundreds of delegates listened keenly to each presenter, and I just wish I had had the time to talk to more of them. Each conversation I had taught me more about my profession and opened doors for me to continue sharing.

My role on the Roadshow was, to quote Brad Fox, ‘lift the lid on what we have done to ensure our clients can give us informed consent to any strategy or investment recommendations we provide’. I found this task challenging as I looked at the competent advisers in front of me. How was I going to tell my story in a way that would inspire, that would give the audience something different to take away and consider, especially when they are already delivering sound advice in a way that suits their individual styles? I trust I managed to share my journey with each audience in a way that will bring about worthwhile change.

If we as a profession continue to share with one another, what will arise is improved best practice

As I listened to the AFA CEO Brad Fox, Chief Operating Officer Phil Anderson, General Manager membership Services & Campus AFA,Nick Hakes and National President Deb Kent, it became even more apparent to me just how much work the AFA undertakes to achieve the best possible outcomes for us as advisers – not just on one front, but many. Firstly came FoFA, then educational standards, then Opt-In and Your Best Interest, then the Trowbridge Report, and so it goes on. They work hour after valuable hour on submissions, hearings, discussions and writing papers to ensure that legislative changes will support what the advisers require to be able to carry out their roles…

As a member, I cannot thank the AFA enough for their efforts on my behalf.

Back at my desk today, I’m catching up on dozens of emails from advisers happy to share and to find out more about what we do in my practice. This is great; I’m excited at the prospect of learning from them all, and in turn they may take away something from our new approach to giving advice. If we as a profession continue to share with one another, what will arise is improved best practice and, as a result, improved professionalism and an improved reputation. This, for me, seems very much worth the time spent.

Getting the story right

An industry magazine reported on my Roadshow presentation under the heading ‘How I doubled my business in a year’. I would like to restate an important message. The focus of change in my business was to improve our engagement with clients and to provide them with the necessary tools for them to manage their own financial futures. That this has resulted in client referrals is a fact, and a pleasing one, but it was not the focus of our change. The increase in business simply underscores the desire our clients have to be empowered to control their own investment decisions.

The tools needed are a better understanding of investing, diversification, their own tolerance to risk, and all the other building blocks necessary for making sound investment choices. This requires education at the outset, and ongoing educational support. To accomplish this, we have developed education workbooks, working through these together with our clients and using this as the beginning of our shared journey.

The take-away message should be that our clients fully understand any advice we provide, that they’re clear as to their own tolerance to losing any of their capital and what could cause such a loss, and that they can make informed choices regarding how their capital is spread across defensive and growth assets. The overriding goal in our approach is for each client to be able to give informed consent to our clear, simple and correct written advice.

What next?

Sharing with others remains a strong focus in my business. As I wrote in one of my earlier diaries, we regularly enjoy visits from advisers who sit around our boardroom table to share. The current theme is to look at each adviser’s portfolio review process. I’m next in line to share our approach, so I have some preparatory work to do to ensure that I’m entirely happy with it – and, guess what, it won’t be the first time our review process has been overhauled as a direct result of sharing! I’m also sure that as we share more, I’ll need to go back to our processes again. It’s just as well I have a wonderful team willing to embrace change!

Given the number of advisers who have expressed interest in learning about our client engagement process, it has occurred to me that a series of masterclasses would be the way to go, so I’m beginning to outline what these might look like. Although my Adviser of the Year journey is drawing to a close, I’m happy to say that my journey in our adviser community is far from over…

The next few weeks will be catch-up time for me as I attend to my backlog of advice documents. I will also prepare my next series of interactive investment workshops for the University of the Third Age Term 4 curriculum. These workshops, delivered over four two-hour sessions, are an important KPI in our business plan each year, forming part of our annual community education program. I thoroughly enjoy working with U3A members, and make sure they reach the end of the series knowing enough about investing, economic conditions, estate planning and other important elements of managing their own financial future, to be aware if advice given to them is appropriate and will meet both their risk tolerance and their financial and lifestyle goals. If this is the outcome, my job is done.

Click on this link to read Eleanor’s diaries in full.

Eleanor Dartnall is the 2014 AFA Adviser of the Year. She has performed a variety of roles within the banking and financial services industry over several decades and has been a financial adviser for the last 15 years. She commenced her own practice, Dartnall Advisers, in 2006.

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