A Way to Feel and Think Better This Year

The old adage of taking time to work on the business and not in the business applies to financial advisers as much as any business professional.
Yet taking the time to order your thoughts and set a plan is something that can be hard to come by or difficult to achieve in a busy practice, according to Elixir Consulting’s Sue Viskovic.
Sue writes that through the simple practice of ‘mindfulness’ advisers can reboot their brain to gain clarity and focus on the things that matter when setting a course for the new financial year.

Sooooo… a new financial year is upon us, and it’s time to think about your business plan. This next year will be one like no other, with the LIF kicking in from January and other elements of legislation impacting your clients and the advice you give them. Even if you were happy with your achievements in the past year, continuing your current routines without a fresh plan may not achieve the same results.

What projects will you work on this year? A new pricing model? An efficiency drive to streamline your processes? A new marketing plan to attract a different style of client? Are your staffing levels right?

What makes business planning difficult is dedicating the time to stop your ‘business as usual’, to create a plan for your enhanced business.

The formula to follow to create your plan is quite simple. After some honest navel-gazing to analyse where your business is at right now, you simply need a one page plan to identify where you want to be in 12 months time, and what are the projects you will implement to get there. Your definition of where you want to be should include financial targets (split between new business and renewal income), as well as qualitative aspects.

What makes business planning difficult is dedicating the time to stop your ‘business as usual’, to create a plan for your enhanced business. Great business plans take time and clarity of thought to process new ideas, approach challenges and work through the possibilities in front of you. Clarity of thought can be elusive if you’re caught up in mountains of client work, or suffering from stress.

There’s no doubt that there are a lot of compounding challenges and resulting stress facing risk advisers right now. Increased underwriting scrutiny is making it more and more difficult to get clients covered, negative media and the reluctance of clients to automatically embrace personal insurances as a must-have are all factors that are outside the advisers control. It’s a tough gig…and for those whose love for it still outweighs the downside, I have an important reminder. You can’t make the challenges go away, but you can change how you handle them. The reality is, the ONLY thing you have control over, is how you think about the challenges, and the actions you take to deal with them.

Are you feeling anxious (or still angry) about the LIF and every time you start thinking about how to handle it, your mind starts reeling and you end up feeling more stressed and unable to see a clear course of action? Or do you have great ideas for the future of your business but every time you get a moment to think about them your mind races and you end up with none of your ideas implemented?  They’re both sure signs that you could do with some mindfulness practice.

Over the past few years I’ve discovered mindfulness as one of the most powerful personal and business development techniques I’ve ever practiced. I liken it to the very technical strategy of shutting down and rebooting your computer to miraculously fix all manner of odd and distracting things it’s doing.  Mindfulness is a way to shut down and reboot your brain.

Mindfulness may seem like a spiritual / alternative practice to many, yet there is growing research and evidence to support the benefits it offers to the individual practicing it. If practiced regularly it has been proven to change the way that our brain responds to stress and enables us to increase resilience and coping strategies. Mindfulness is a tool that improves concentration and memory function, decision making abilities and enables us to better manage emotions, tap into our creativity and assist us to communicate with more clarity and conviction.

It’s little wonder that companies Iike Google, Apple and LinkedIn now have dedicated mindfulness programs where they encourage and pay for their staff to actually stop working and think of – well, nothing. They’re already seeing the results from a healthier and more effective workforce. The great news is, it’s a business strategy that’s not just limited to large corporates.

mindfulness is about bringing your full attention the present reality of your business, the state of your business, employees’ and personal wellbeing and performance

I find a lot of people who share my initial reservations, “I don’t think I could meditate, my mind never shuts down”. They’re often surprised to learn that they don’t actually need to sit cross-legged for hours on end on a mountain top in order to meditate. There are some great apps you can get on your phone that will talk you through a guided meditation. In as little as ten minutes, you can pop your headphones in and achieve that all-important shut down and reboot. (Check out Headspace or Mindfulness in the App Store as a good start.)

There are in fact, many ways to practice mindfulness. The application can be as simple as taking the time to create awareness and intention with your breathing, to developing meditation techniques and movement based practices.

From a business-planning perspective, mindfulness is about bringing your full attention the present reality of your business, the state of your business, employees’ and personal well being and performance. It is about critical consideration of the roles and functions of the business and strategically focusing and aligning intentional action to create improvement, motivation, productivity, happiness and ultimate well being of these entities.

Take the time to plan your year ahead, and don’t forget to include some intentional practices to take care of yourself! Experiencing the difference that mindful business planning could make to you and your business is about investing in you and your business. Some choose a solitary approach to mindfulness business planning and others prefer a facilitated and collaborative approach – choose which one is right for you. Want to chat about how you can make mindfulness a part of your business planning – schedule a meeting with us here https://elixirconsulting.com.au/contact/


In Practice Management, Elixir Consulting shares strategies for building better advice businesses.

Sue Viskovic is the Managing Director of Elixir Consulting and author of ‘Worth Paying For’.

This article is an excerpt from Sue’s new, soon to be launched, ‘Worth Paying For.’.

Contact or follow the author: Website | Email | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

  • Loch Slòigh

    You appear to be mixing apples and oranges and treating them as if they were the same.

    You state that “our research found 35.2% of participants charge a fee of some description when they provide insurance-only advice”. Is this 35.2% of ‘Risk Only’ Advisers? Unless you separate out your data it has diminished value.

    You also need to separate out ‘Risk Only’ advice given to SMEs vs others and you need to establish whether or not the Advice Fee for SMEs is fully tax-deductible and whether that for non SMEs is not.

    You also have only 14 ‘Risk Only’ advisers ie 5.6% in your sample but have confidently drawn conclusions adding in the other 94.4% of ‘Comprehensive Advisers’ who even though they may not intend to, may have wittingly or unwittingly cross-subsidise.

    In your data it alo appears that if an Adviser charges $1 or $2,000 it appears to be recorded as an ‘Advice Fee’ whereas this does not make for clarity in an argument.

    We need the groups separated on the basis of
    1. Risk specialist vs Comprehensive Adviser (As Stand-Alone Risk Advice and Risk Advice as part of a comprehensive Plan)

    2. SME vs non-SME.

    3. Dollar amount of Advice Fee

    Benjamin Disraeli said that there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

    I am not suggesting that you are telling lies but rather confusing what is a very important issue by presenting data mistakenly believing that it is information.

    • Warren B

      Loch you are absolutely correct. How many times have we read in Riskinfo of clients being happy tp pay a fee for the risk only service only to find out that the adviser involved is also charging for services other than risk! Personally, I wish that these articles would just focus on risk and risk only and stop muddying the waters.

      • Hey Warren, this article does focus on risk and risk only… no muddy water here. Please see above response to Loch.

    • Great questions Loch – and you are correct – we’re not lying, and it is difficult to represent the full detail in an online article. All of the data is represented very comprehensively in the Insurance Advice Insights, as well as the full research report. Your points 1 and 3 are provided directly, and point 2 is provided by way of the case studies and business models. We separated out the type and timing of advice very clearly – but didn’t separate out the price charged to SME’s vs non-SME’s. When you look at the full data it does indeed enable you to see the application of pricing models in different client scenarios.

      The point of releasing this article is to share some further insights to help advisers with their thinking around the topic. Even when you do read the full research, it is not designed to provide a pricing model tied with a ribbon that you can pick up and apply to your business – if anything it proves that different businesses require different models… the feedback we receive is that having access to this research is very effective in enabling advisers to consider different models and make their own decisions about what they’d like to implement.

      There’s little surprise that there is such a small number of risk-only advisers who participated in the research, given that they’ve not necessarily ‘had’ to subsidise their commissions with fees before. There is a lot of to consider, and rather than making an assumption that there is nothing to learn from the experience of financial advisers who have implemented different charging models for a variety of advice propositions, we’d suggest you consider this from a client perspective. Rightly or wrongly – I am not casting any aspersions on risk-only advisers – most clients would see that a risk-only piece of advice is no different whether they receive it from a risk specialist or financial adviser.

      The point is, in the absence of a plethora of risk specialists having implemented a fee model before you, turn to the next best option – pick up what you can from other types of advisers who provide a similar service to yourself and take from that what you will.

  • Squeaky_1

    Very well reasoned Loch! Thank you for the time you’ve put into that well structured request for more info. I do hope Sue responds fully.

    Sue, one cannot dial down the upfront part of a hybrid commission without dialling down the associated ongoing commissions too. You suggest this can be done if I’m reading it correctly. Please comment on this too when you have a moment.

    Lastly, I would be interested to know if you have researched the subject of a separate licence for pure risk writers. I simply cannot belive this does not exist. Riskies should have their own licence, compliance and full regime separate to full financial planning advice. It seems a no-brainer to me. Worse, nobody is talking about it. One would think the life companies would be all over it, but no, silence. I wonder why . . .

    • Hi there Squeaky_1

      I hope you get what you need from my response to Loch above.

      My understanding from a number of advisers is that you can dial down the upfront commission independent to dialling down the ongoing commission – I know you can do this with Asteron and I have sent a few messages out to other insurance companies to fact check this – I’ll report back when I hear.

      We haven’t researched the subject of a separate license for pure risk writers, although I agree with your comments above. I think it would be great if there were specific compliance, education and training requirements created for a risk-only writer rather than applying the full gambit of what’s required for a financial adviser… the licensing requirements might be quite different if the two adviser types were recognised as being different by the regulator….

      I know that Bombora specialises in licensing risk specialists but I am not sure of any others? I know that Affinia has a deep knowledge of risk advice but I think most of their advisers are now full financial advisers who also provide risk advice. I wonder if anyone else on this thread knows of other licensees designed specially for risk?

      • Ken

        Not one response to my statement ?? Is it too hard to answer or is this just a site for mates to have a ” winge” between each other?
        I constantly see the same names and the same retoric statements in this publication yet no one has an answer to this Bu€>>~t that is constantly farmed out to us under the banner of research ? What ?200 people in the industry give an opinion so that is the overall censuses ? That’s not even close considering there is around 20,000 advisers currently throughout Australia
        Who is actually “conning” who
        Lots of big words and so called futuristic opinions put forward by those that don’t actually have to go out and earn a living by speaking and conversing regularly with these confused people who have Super options Life options from direct insurers and the good old “Aussie” BBQ A one option thrown at them day in and day out .A lot off great mentality with all of them isn’t there ??? Then we have the media trying to convince them that everybody in the industry is a thief trust no one but the good old industry fund !we don’t charge fees or pay commissions (or at least non that you can immediately see!)
        You may think I’m way off the subject but I think not ? Just on the road of some actual
        Facts not holistic premonitions But all you Univerisity educated experts on your $200k salaries really need to get your As£>>s into gear and get into the real world and listen to the voices of what’s affordable and what isn’t to Mr &Mrs John Average

        I’ve been doing ‘this now for 42 years never had a legal issue and have many clients who have been with me for 30 years or more ! Why ?because I care about them
        We need people who care in this industry not those that seek only the best bottom line result for their shareholders and the top of the ladder Company results
        Tell me one bank that lost money this year ? Tell me who did not make multi billion dollar profits ! Tell me one that has or will reduce premiums once these new LIF rules kick in !
        Non To coin a statement from my late father it’s a case of who’s doing what to whom and who’s not paying ?
        End of rant

        • Squeaky_1

          Ken, I read both your comments above. I agree wholeheartedly with you on all your points. I’ve been in the game about 10 years less than you but feel the same way about ‘charging’ for risk insurance. Take it from me, there is NO WAY for it to be done. Commission is the only answer in the area you and I work in i.e. regular people, the mums & dads of the world who simply can’t afford the thousands we require as a fee. Something I have never seen voiced is that commission can be considered ‘time payment’ for these types of people. These self-interested regulators have no right to decide how struggling consumers should be able to pay for their risk advice. Compare it to paying cash for a new car or leasing it. The car industry would die almost overnight if these moronic regulators and self interested lobby groups decided they knew better and banned leasing/consumer credit tomorrow.
          Like you Ken, I am still in this game because I have clients that have become friends and other clients of which I am very protective. It sickens me when I hear about advisers churning but sickens me MUCH more when I see regulators taking such ill-advised actions as interfering with commissions which have benefited ordinary folk and their advisers for multi-decade time spans. They really don’t know what they are doing by interfering like this and the life companies are complicit – please, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If the life companies wanted commissions untouched OR clawback periods untouched they’d have fought for it and easily won. No other industry has regulators setting limits on what earnings can be – it is ridiculous. Many more people ripped off every day in real estate. Why no regulations to delete commissions there? BECAUSE their industry is as one – unlike the life advisers and insurance companies. If concerned, the life companies would have simply committed to the special interest groups and regulators to immediately remove the KNOWN churners and other offenders and that would have been that – things would have moved on the next month and we would not be having this conversation.
          Just look after your clients the best you can Ken, you and I, at this stage, can do nothing in the face of this life company/regulator collusion. Life companies want zero commissions and zero advisers. They want 100% Robo. They sadly think this would be the most profitable for them but they’ll quickly realize they’ve made the biggest mistake in their history. They don’t want advisers insisting on commissions OR getting in the way of their ‘strategic’ Robo decisions at claim time. The reinsurers are always there in the background too don’t forget, pulling strings. Sorry Ken, but don’t shoot the messenger mate!

  • Roger Smith

    I hate to throw the cat amongst the pigeons but not to put too fine a point on it “Fee for Service (FFS) will not work with Risk Insurance ONLY practices”. Of course there are Financial Planning practices not taking commissions on risk insurances and charging fees but as you have stated Sue that’s because their business model is different which is fine. As a purely Risk Only practice we have occasionally taken a “nil commission option” (when it has been commercially appropriate for us to do so) with No FFS. I can assure you that it won’t be happening under LIF so “whose going to be the loser?” – yes the client the LIF was designed to help will be far worse of with reduced advice levels and less choice. A great outcome!

    • Hi Roger, yes, as per the findings of ongoing fees on risk-only I think any risk specialist would be ill-advised to shift to a pure fee model (without any commissions), unless they work with clients who have an aversion to commission combined with the capacity and desire to pay an ongoing retainer for their services (anyone? anyone?).
      I am not convinced through, that there will be reduced advice levels … I know that there are some risk-only advisers seriously considering retirement, but then I also know risk (and financial) advisers who have faced worse challenges in their career and their tenacity and innovation has seen them adapt.
      That adaptation in the medium term might look like commissions subsidised with fees, it might look like separate service models for different styles of clients (eg mum and dad with simple needs vs more complex requirements) , it might look like utilising technology and different methods of administration to continue to deliver the same service more efficiently for the reduced level of commissions only.
      I’m not entering the debate of the validity of the LIF but to answer your question – what I do know is that the sure fire loser under the LIF will be the adviser who keeps doing business post LIF in the same way they did business pre-LIF and cries victim of an ill-intentioned piece of legislation.
      I don’t for a moment believe that will be you Roger , I’m just providing my view on the answer to your question.

  • ken

    This all sounds great with apparently people having found a way to charge people for risk only advice services ? I further assume that this ability to charge without question is due to the insurances being structured for KEY MAN or BUY SELL purposes as it takes on a whole business structure “feel’ about it and we all know we need to pay our business accounts.?? Don’t we ?
    However does this strategy also work with MUM and Dad scenario’s where they simply need enough cover to pay the Mortgage or Clear the household debt in event of premature death or disablement ?
    I find it hard to believe that someone has developed a concept that will pay a fee of $1000 $2000 or whatever on top of the premium to buy a life insurance policy that they can apply for free on line. If you are one of those who have done it Please call me or give me your details so I can contact you It is the next best thing to the invention of “fire” if you can explain how you do it and why they accept it you will make a fortune selling your concept to us “mere” mortals.

    • Ken, yes, this strategy works with Mum and dad clients, we’re not just talking about key man or business cover.
      You’ll probably know as well as I do that clients get better levels of cover, structured in better ways and with better underwriting (and therefore claims stats) when handled by an adviser.
      Clients who need a simple life policy only are perhaps better served by an online provider or simple solution, but as soon as a portfolio of cover is required, advice is most certainly worth paying for.