How do you define your value as an adviser?

Alex Burke,  Senior Writer,  No More Practice Education

Ask a few random people what they think the purpose of financial advice is and you’re likely to get several different responses – perhaps something to do with insurance, maybe guidance on how to pick the right super fund and possibly even a scoop on which stock is going to be the next Apple. 

What you’ll also find, if the research from ASIC’s REP 627 still holds up two years on, is a significant chunk of people who either think advice is too expensive (35% of respondents) or that their “limited” financial circumstances don’t warrant getting an expert involved (29%). This likely remaining the case – even if last year saw a significant uptick in advice queries, for obvious reasons – it follows that advisers have some work to do regarding making their value known in the marketplace. 

One frequently-proposed solution to this issue involves a greater degree of specialisation in the advice profession – FPA CEO Dante De Gori said this was “inevitable” on a panel back in 2018, referring to the idea of retirement specialists, divorce specialists and so on – but it isn’t the only option available. Just ask Evalesco director and financial adviser Jeff Thurecht, who (arguably) took his business in the opposite direction, offering a broader range of services to clients than many of them initially expected were even possible. 

Why did he do this? To a certain degree, the answer is already available in an excerpt from Evalesco’s mission statement: wealth without health and happiness just doesn’t get the job done.

“The idea to build the business around ‘Healthy, Wealthy, Happy’ goes back a while now,” Jeff explains. “As advisers, we have this privilege to get to know a lot about our clients. Money remains a taboo in most people’s lives, but we get to hear about that and how it relates to their health, relationships and general wellbeing.” 

The problem at the time, though, was that the conversation seemed lop-sided. Clients would divulge intimate information about their lives to Jeff, but the traditional adviser-client relationship only “scratched the surface of what was going on – we’d be able to set up an insurance policy or roll over their super.” 

He continues: “At one point, there was a senior executive in a sales role. Great networker, earned big money, but he was burning himself out and basically had a breakdown. That had a major impact on his family. And I looked at that situation and thought, ‘I could see that coming.’ I saw the signs.

“At the time, I gave myself the excuse that the nature of our relationship didn’t permit me to investigate further. But then I thought, well, if we can position the role of an adviser better, we can have those conversations: we can ask them about their health and their happiness. We can ask them: ‘Are you okay?’”

This moment led the Evalesco team on a journey to renegotiate how they interact with clients and expand the conversations they have on a regular basis. It wasn’t always easy. As Jeff explains: “It can be a tricky balance to strike. After all, there are boundaries. We’re not psychologists or counsellors, so we’ve had to develop a keen understanding of how far you can take these conversations, and when it’s time to park the financial element perhaps help them seek assistance in other areas. But the starting-point is wanting our clients to be healthy, wealthy and happy, and financial wellbeing is the cornerstone of that.” 

As might be expected, this process didn’t happen overnight. In fact, Jeff admits there were some awkward moments with existing clients “where they were used to us talking about their super and suddenly we’re asking them how they’re doing in other areas,” but with the help of their feedback the process has been refined over time. 

The other challenge was marketing: do you advertise as a financial adviser? What is that? Or do you promote yourself as a whole-of-life coaching service? Jeff believes it’s important not to be too vague about it. 

“You don’t want to mix the message too much,” he says. “We got some early feedback during this process that basically amounted to, ‘Well, that sounds nice and all, but what do you actually do?’ We decided that, from a marketing standpoint, we needed to make clear what our qualifications and experiences are, with the proviso that we are able to expand that conversation and provide support in other areas.” 

Jeff concedes that in the present environment broadening one’s value proposition as an adviser might seem counterintuitive – “The reality is that I might be totally wrong,” he jokes – but from his perspective, this kind of holistic approach is its own kind of specialisation. 

“I look at it this way,” he says. “We’re specialising in a type of advice for someone who wants to be healthy, wealthy and happy. Our ideal client isn’t someone who just wants to reduce fees and maximise returns; that’s not what we do.”

Considering Evalesco’s aforementioned mission statement, this makes sense: without health and happiness, after all, wealth just doesn’t get the job done. 

 


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