To understand the tangible benefits of shifting focus from the SOA to the client, let’s consider how perspectives differ across several key facets of advice – namely, the structure, process, price and language of advice.
We’ll also look at how some advice entrepreneurs are finding innovative ways to overcome typical hurdles in these areas.
I have a specific financial issue to solve, and I just want help with that.
I simply want to develop better money habits and get my finances in order.
It’s too risky for me to provide anything other than comprehensive, personal financial advice with related product solutions.
General advice and limited scope advice leave me too exposed from a compliance perspective. Plus, I’m not sure how to appropriately charge for that.
The demand for modular or limited advice is strong. Whether it’s for younger clients with fewer complex problems to solve, or DIY investors who need guidance or specialist help from time to time, there’s a large and growing group of clients who would happily pay for expert help, if they could only access it in a modular form. This is a client pain point.
Despite ASIC virtually pleading with advisers to offer more options for clients seeking personal guidance on one or two topics, most established practices seem reluctant to go down this path13. There are likely two reasons for this:
Fortunately, however, we’re seeing newer advice businesses take a much more market-driven approach, offering clients the opportunity to access expert advice on specific topics. These topics can often be explored in discrete modules with their own challenges and solutions, such as:
One advice business that offers advice in this way is Finnacle (Finnacle Solutions Pty Ltd ABN 47 621 162 678)
Every aspect of the business has been designed to accommodate this vision. Before they even opened their doors to clients (or ‘members’ as they call them), the Finnacle team had conducted three months’ of extensive market research – using paid surveys and client focus groups – to listen to what this target market wanted. This ‘proof of concept’ stage proved crucial in the creation of a sustainable offering for an under-served market.
The result is an online-only practice through which members can access personal advice on demand in a progressive, modular fashion.
Members subscribe to either an Essentials package for $199 per month, or the Advanced package for $299 per month, according to the number of financial goals they’re looking to address. Over the course of a year, members will access modules progressively, with each module broken down into steps including situational diagnosis, plans of action and implementation. Each module has its own needs analysis, allowing targeted solutions to be delivered across a broad range of typical client situations. As an example, saving for a home deposit is one module, with a later module devoted to applying for a first mortgage.
Recognising the ceiling on what their target clients were willing and able to pay for advice, Finnacle set about building a model that could support that level of pricing. Limiting face-to-face engagement strictly to Zoom calls has substantially minimised overheads, and their just-in-time approach to administrative resourcing (a concept borrowed from the motor vehicle industry) sees them outsource administrative work to a team of virtual assistants. This allows support to be dialled up or down – and paid for – according to need.
What differentiates the model further is its focus on step-by-step financial management.
“Rather than the entire advice relationship being centred on one upfront discovery and SOA process, Finnacle members effectively tackle their issues one step at a time, which helps them learn, helps them build confidence and helps them build trust in the value of advice,” said Nagarajan.
Finnacle is already reaping the rewards of their approach, with the team tracking currently towards 75–100% revenue growth year on year.
Word of mouth has been a driving force behind this growth. For every active member of the program, they average three referrals a year. Of those three, an average of two a year convert to paying members themselves.
According to Nagarajan, his licensee has also been extremely supportive, recognising the compliance rigour inherent in the individual steps in each module.
“From their perspective, the underlying principles of quality, compliant advice are all there, it’s just old wine in a new bottle”.
T Sharpe, ‘ASIC wants to know what’s holding up ‘bite-sized’ advice’, Professional Planner, 14 October 2020.