Mario Bardella’s work as a financial adviser with Mercer is never dull. In this chat, he discusses his pathway to planning, FASEA and how clients are handling downturn concerns.
So, Mario, how did you get your start in financial advice?
I’ve been in financial services for 20 years, and around the last decade in advice. To give you some background, I did retail and institutional client services coming out of uni, and one day it dawned on me that filtering down and leveraging off some of that experience to help your mum and dad-type investors would be a great idea. You know, helping them make better financial decisions that will ultimately have a positive impact.
What steps did you take to get there?
So, in the early 2000s, I did a planner pathway course at one of my previous employers. I decided I’d do it from the ground up, pretty much started from scratch, working as a paraplanner up to a fully-qualified, certified financial planner.
What’s the general profile of your client base?
In terms of working for Mercer Financial Advice, we predominantly help retirees and pre-retirees, with the odd smattering of younger clients who need a bit of help with creating and protecting their wealth.
Are they concerned about talk of a market downturn?
Absolutely. I’ve been speaking to many a client who are pretty fearful of what markets did at the end of last year. A lot of my clients are asking those questions – will I have enough to live the life I want in retirement?
I imagine sequencing risk is a concern, especially for pre-retirees.
Sequencing risk is definitely a concern from my point of view. I don’t position it to clients that way, but I’m essentially delivering the message that the worst thing for people moving into retirement is the market crashing. So, we need to put a portfolio together for them and work out how it can meet their goals. You only get one life so it’s important to live it as well as you can. Putting a plan in place never guarantees that short-term market falls won’t impact you, but it will give you the best opportunity to avoid the far bigger risk which is running out of money too soon.
What have they been asking you?
A few clients have been asking me about Challenger annuities. There’s talk of interest rates being cut, the economy not going too well – but even in that discussion where clients want that security, rates are so low that the real rate of return, although fixed and guaranteed, is next to zero. So it’s a balance between people wanting security but they don’t, or shouldn’t, discount that they may need to take on some risk as well. Those are some of the rich discussions I’m having with both existing and prospective clients.
On another topic, have you had any issues dealing with the FASEA changes?
For me, the short answer is no. The big one for me was just around, like a lot of the industry, how much if any more am I going to need to do to meet the requirements? I think I only have to do one course unit, which is a big relief for me knowing how much I’ve studied in the past to get to where I am today.
What would you say is your favourite part of the job?
I would say, for me, the fact that no day’s ever the same. I get the privilege to work with people who have very different needs, which keeps me on my toes, strategy-wise. There’s never a feeling of a Groundhog Day, and helping clients successfully go through a journey and tick off those bucket list item is very satisfying.
Thanks very much for your time, Mario.
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