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How James Wortley delivers compliant video SOAs

James Wortley hasn’t produced a paper-based SOA in the last 2.5 years. Instead, he presents 100% of his SOA’s to clients using video. James has built a fully fee-for-service practice and says he and his team build holistic relationships with their clients, but they don’t deliver holistic advice.

There is so much we can unpack here, so we’ve pulled together some of James’ responses from last week’s XY+ web event as he took us under the bonnet to demonstrate how he is delivering video SOA’s, and getting a tick from compliance.

Emily: So James, how did you get to this point in your advice journey?

James: Three years ago I made the decision to go self-licensed. I wanted to be able to control the advice I was delivering rather than be held to someone else’s set of rules in what we could and couldn’t do.

The other thing I always kept coming back to was the client. Somewhere along the line in delivering ‘compliant’ advice, the clients have been forgotten. I kept asking myself ‘how can we [as an industry] reinvigorate the relationships we have with our clients?’ And the thing that always stood out was the Statement of Advice.

We then set out to answer the question ‘how do provide advice from the client’s point of view?’. We sought legal advice which highlighted this paragraph from the Corporations Act which forms the basis of our ability to deliver video SOA’s:

Under the corporations act a Statement of Advice can be given by an advice provider to a client in either printed or electronic form. This has been interpreted by ASIC to mean that the corporations act allows a Statement of Advice to incorporate a range of digital features such as video, audio, interactive menu features, radio buttons, Q&A, animation and gamification.

Emily: You mentioned you don’t do holistic advice James. Can you elaborate on that?

James: Yes, we moved away from holistic advice when we went self-licensed. We still build holistic relationships with our clients, we just separate the parts of advice and deliver it to the client in stages, prioritising the most important first. This has been a game changer in improving the client experience. We can turn a piece of advice around in under 24 hours, and it means no video SOA presentation will go over 10 minutes. I’m a bit of a dictator when it comes to the length of the video, because again, it’s all about the client experience and we want them to be excited and engaged in the process.

Emily: Ok, so how are you charging for this style of advice?

James: We are a fee-for-service business. When we sit down with a new client after going through the discovery phase we’ll say something along the lines of ‘based on all of the services we’re going to provide to you, your cost is going to be $5,000 per year. If you’re happy to go ahead with us, you will start paying a monthly retainer from today. We’ll start working with you from today’.

Emily: Let’s go under the bonnet and look at this from a practical point of view. How are you actually creating and presenting your video SOA’s?

James: Ok, so a good place to start is with the tech. We use a video software called OBS (Open Broadcaster Software). It’s free, you can download it directly onto your computer. 

We chose OBS because it gives us the ability to record video while using three screens. I have my laptop set up where I can talk to the camera, and dual screens above so I can move across to the presentation slides and anything else I need to cover off in the video.

From a practical standpoint, once we have recorded the video, we put all the required links into a Dropbox folder which then gets emailed to the client. Typically, this folder will include the actual video, the client’s financial position summary, the scope of advice, a goals report, additional information and the PowerPoint presentation of the advice – which we talk through in the video.

To expand on this some more, we use Astute Wheel to produce the fact find and goals report. The scope of the advice we include in the Dropbox folder is critical. This is something we are working with ASIC to make sure clients fully understand what advice we are actually providing for them.

(A screenshot of ([part of] an example 'Scope of Advice' James includes in the Dropbox link for a client.)

(A screenshot of ([part of] an example ‘Scope of Advice’ James includes in the Dropbox link for a client.)

The additional information document we include could be an insurance need analysis, or something else relevant to the scoped advice we are delivering at that point in time. This will include the things which often blow a paper-based SOA out into 40, 60, or god forbid 100 pages. The powerpoint presentation includes an executive summary, some information about the adviser (one slide), the recommendations, the basis of advice, the things to consider, alternatives and any disclosures.

What’s important to understand here is we have built this entire process directly from the RG90 framework provided by ASIC.

Emily: Ok, so you’ve put a lot of effort into getting to this point. What has been the result for your clients and for you as a business?

James: This has been an absolute game-changer in every regard. From a business and efficiency point of view, we can turn a piece of scoped advice around in under 24 hours. We’re also getting paid for the work we are doing for clients from day one, which provides a level of certainty with cashflow and revenue.

Most importantly, this process has significantly improved the client experience. We have not had one client push back on our video SOA’s, they love the experience. They have the flexibility to watch the video in their own time and then come back to us with any questions, and we’ve found they are far more engaged and active in the process.

Smart tech to help you improve your personal productivity and business efficiency

In a recent XY+ web event, we spent time with Charles Blake (aka ‘The Smart Tech Guy’) and Timothy Reid (aka ‘The Automations Guy’) who ran us through their smart tech frameworks, automation strategies and tools they’ve used to dramatically increase their own personal productivity and business efficiency.

Think you and your business could benefit from a 20% increase in productivity this year? Read on to find out how!

Getting organised for super-productivity

As a financial adviser, you’ve got a lot of ‘stuff’ coming in at you! The trick to super productivity is managing your time effectively. Check out this handy decision tree from David Allen, author of the book Getting Things Done:

Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

  • If it’s actionable and can be done in less than two minutes, just do it!
  • If not, delete, defer, or delegate it.

Tech-wise, paid solutions like Monday.com or Asana can be helpful for delegating or deferring tasks for later, but Charles pointed out free tools like Google Keep and Microsoft OneNote can work just as well.

Power tips for boosting personal productivity

On a personal level, here are some of the great tips our guests shared for getting the most out of your time:

  • Analyse your time investments for one week. Do you how you are actually spending your time? For one week, make an effort to measure where your time is going, so you can find out what you need to stop, start, or improve.
  • Minimise latency with your smartphone. Early to a meeting? Don’t sit around waiting. Use your phone to follow up and push projects along, or get some of those 2-minute tasks out of the way.
  • Embrace new micro-habits. Using technologies like predictive text and voice-enabled text takes some getting to, but it’s well worth forming these habits to free up time in the future.

Boosting organisational efficiency

Next, we looked at some tips for increasing productivity across your business.

Voice Technology

Embracing voice technology allows you to “type” at around 120 WPM using commands. (Remember the average person can only type around 40 WPM.) These technologies are great both for dictation, and for client conversations – especially if you’re not a fan of writing manual file notes.

Video technology

Tools like Loom are great for sending short video messages and screenshares -for example showing a paraplanner some retirement projections- or when you just have a simple question that doesn’t require a full-on conversation. They can in turn answer back when they have free time, and neither person’s workflow is interrupted.

These tools are also perfect for giving demos to a client – such as how to log into a new platform.

Transcription tools and NLP (Natural Language Processing)

Charles gave us a demonstration of Otter.ai transcription in action! This service now includes live streaming AI, so no need to upload files and wait for the transcript to process. It even performs well with low-quality, ‘real world’ audio and conversations, with only minimal edits required.

Another interesting feature is it adds punctuation automatically – unlike tools such as Google voice typing or Microsoft Dictate, where you have to add in commands such as ‘full stop’ or ‘new paragraph’. You also get 600 minutes for free to give it a test drive.

Automation technology

There are a lot of ways you can make your processes, CRM, and overall business flow in a much more structured fashion. Tim shared this map as an example of the potential flow and order of processes for a review thread:

Once built into a system, you can dramatically improve efficiency because the system does the thinking, planning, emailing, and contacting for you.

Biz ops and automation

Mapping and automating key processes can be done in almost every CRM that’s available. Something like client review is the best place to start for most practices, as that’s the one thing every practice must do well – especially with changing requirements and compliance steps to add in.

Integrations and smart links

While tech like Xplan and Midwinter can do a lot, adding in integrations like MS Bookings, Calendly, and DocuSign can really improve the process for your clients and your business.

You can also look at adding some smart links (like hyperlinks to your PDS’s) which means you don’t have to add them into the document or send them to the client as well, because they can view them at their own will.

Templating your common email correspondence is also crucial. If you are doing something more than once, template it so you get it perfect every time – in just seconds.

Aim to reduce key-person dependency so you don’t have to rely on the adviser to do tasks like proofread an email. Rather, delegate these tasks to support staff so the business can run smoother and smarter.

Finally, let the system do the thinking! Don’t try and remember review dates or birthdays when there’s software that can do that for you.

Some final tips to streamline your smart tech

  • Embrace new technology and let it work for you
  • Remember you are in control of your technology solutions
  • Start with the problem/objective, then look at potential solutions
  • Focus on adoption with clear evaluation goals and timeframes
  • Be patient & persistent with new solutions – it takes time
  • Be honest with yourself on progress and manage the barriers such as inertia/distractions (new habits aren’t easy)
  • Your client interaction will improve as you’ve removed manual process with technology doing the work

Finally, remember why you’re doing all of this – so you can enjoy more time doing what you do best!

A purpose-based advice approach

Thabojan Rasiah left a high paying, secure role as an employed adviser in 2017 to start his own business – Rasiah Private Wealth – to figure out how he could deliver advice in a way he believes will allow him to make the biggest impact on his clients’ lives.

Four years in and Thabojan has built a high-touch, fee-for-service business which really centres around delivering purpose-based advice. So what does this look like in practice… really? Thabojan’s advice process is a four-step journey, depending on the clients’ needs and where they are at. Before we dive a little deeper into each step, something really important to first focus on if you’re thinking about incorporating more of a purpose-based advice approach into your offering is – mindset.

Getting out of the box of what Financial Planning ‘should’ look like

A mantra Thabojan has carried throughout his career is this…

Don’t get defined by a particular way of doing things.

Thabojan didn’t just come up with this himself though. He has been lucky enough to have some great mentors in his career who have helped him adopt a forward-thinking approach, and he actively seeks external input through his peers and coaches who can look at what he’s doing and offer an objective perspective or help him look at something a different way. 

It’s also important to really understand ‘why’ you want to give advice. While this might seem really basic, your answer to this question is the ‘thing’ you can always come back to on those days that are far tougher than others. For Thabojan, his ‘why’ has always been about helping people, and his drive is to do the things that are going to make the biggest difference in people’s lives. Having given advice for over 15 years, Thabojan realised when he does one-off pieces of work for people, it’s helpful but it doesn’t change their lives.

He recognised the longer he worked closely with his clients, the more benefit they got from the advice relationship and the real value he was able to add was giving them peace of mind – removing their concerns and anxiety and connecting them to what’s most important to them, their purpose. 

Thabojan’s purpose-based advice process

1. Introductory call

Thabojan will have a 30-minute phone call with anyone who enquires. He doesn’t have a filtering process to qualify leads and he doesn’t charge for this meeting. This conversation is an opportunity for Thabojan to learn about the person and their circumstances, figure out if they would be a good fit to work together and run them through his process.

Running a prospect through his process means explaining the way he can have the biggest impact in their life is by understanding them at a deep level. Understanding their values, what’s important to them and what sort of legacy they want to leave in the world. Thabojan will tell a prospect he insists on connecting with them at this level, because if he can connect with them at this level, he can have a much bigger impact as the advice he gives will be in line with helping them achieve the things that are most important to them.

Thabojan knows this approach isn’t going to suit everyone, and while it’s difficult to turn new business away, if they aren’t a good fit for his business, he will refer them to another adviser or provide them with some resources to help, depending on their circumstances.

2. Discovery meeting

If Thabojan determines a person or couple are a good fit for his business; if they’ve got enough complexities to justify the in-depth process, he’ll move to a discovery meeting. Again, there is no cost or obligation to proceed at this point. Why? Thabojan invests a fair bit of time upfront without charging to really make sure the advice relationship is going to be a good fit for all involved.

It’s in this discovery meeting (or sometimes meetings) where Thabojan goes deep to understand the clients concerns and anxieties in life, particularly around their money, with the ultimate goal of discovering (and helping his clients discover) their values and purpose.

This meeting can sometimes get pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly, but Thabojan says if you can push past the awkwardness and politely nudge your clients into that space where they might be feeling uncomfortable, this is where the breakthroughs happen. In other words, this is a clients ‘a-ha moment’, and the point at which you make a strong connection with them on an emotional level. Getting to this point with a client is not easy. Thabojan’s advice is to continually practice and go into these meetings with the mindset of knowing ‘why’ you’re doing this – to ultimately help your client.

3. Wealth Management Plan

Through the initial engagement process, Thabojan will build and then present to a client a ‘wealth management plan’. This is not a Statement of Advice, it’s a PowerPoint deck of the key things relevant in helping the client get to where they want to go in life, and constructed in a way that uses the client’s own words as much as possible. It’s a visual representation answering the questions – ‘why is money important to you?’ and ‘what in your life is worrying you or is causing you anxiety?’.

The wealth management plan then leads into the things you’d typically find in an SOA, but presented in a way that reduces the financial planning jargon and compliance. Thabojan will summarise the key issues he is going to help the clients deal with in a way they can understand. It’s at this point Thabojan will get the person’s buy-in to the process and sign them on as a new client with an ongoing service arrangement, paid as a monthly retainer.

4. Interactive cashflow modelling

After the discover meeting/s, Thabojan then moves to interactive cashflow modelling to map out together with the client, what their future might look like financially. Here, they will play with different scenarios using XTools, and it’s typically at this point where clients really get engaged in the process. They’ll start asking questions like – what if we work more? What if we spend less? What if we travel more? What about private schooling?

The scenarios Thabojan and his clients build in this session will also go into their wealth management plan. Up to this point, there has been no discussion about product or strategy. The entire conversation has centred around what’s important in the client’s life and what the future might look like. Thabojan says it can sometimes take a while before any ‘formal’ piece of advice is presented to a client because he needs to fully diagnose a client before prescribing the medication. 

Are there any similarities between your advice process and Thabojan’s?

Thabojan’s approach to delivering advice is unique, high-touch and purpose-driven. During this XY+ web event, we asked advisers tuning in live if they do anything similar or equally unique in their process. Here’s what a few had to say:

Jayden Post said “I have a list of ‘interview questions’ for that first call to ask really great questions which creates the space for the client to talk.”

Dylan Martin said “this is a big part of my new client approach – delving into goals and core values and recognising conflicts.”

Clint Nice said “Two meetings before scope has been set has created great results for me over the past few months.”

What we are up to

18 months ago we launched XY+ with nothing more than an idea. We didn’t have a dedicated portal, we didn’t have a long term business plan – we didn’t even have an offering. All we had was an idea.

An idea to dramatically impact the landscape of financial advice forever.

But we knew it was too big of an idea for us to do by ourselves. Realistically at that point, we had one staff member, and a whole litany of jobs to fill. We were running the podcast, events, and the Facebook group. If we were going to bite off a topic that had perplexed the industry for a decade, we knew we were going to need advisers to get behind us.

Enter XY+

With nothing more than an idea, we launched XY+ to the XY community. The idea was to ask advisers to dip into their pockets and fund this specific movement. Having no idea where to start – we simply put the message out ‘join us in our quest to change the tax deductibility of advice’. We put a $30 a month price tag on it – and we sat back as hundreds of advisers joined the campaign.

I have to admit, two things went through my mind. 1) wow, I’m so stoked so many advisers want to support this campaign. And 2) now, what the hell are we going to do about it?

So – we did what any grass roots movement would do with an influx of cash, and no idea on first steps. We went to the press and made a song and dance about it. A couple of articles picked up on our idea, and we started to get some emails. Suggestions after suggestions, dead end after dead end. We would take calls, take coffee meetings, we would discuss this project with anyone who wanted to catch up and chat. This, we figured, was a great strategy. Crowd funding the intelligence. By simply saying we were going to solve this, it agitated the waters, and those with the capabilities and the ideas were seeking us out. So – we stepped it up. We began allocating resources to this strategy, and we launched this marketing campaign to drive more attention, more awareness – and ideally, more conversations.

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The idea was to centre in on the ridiculousness of an SoA not being tax deductable by juxtaposing the hard work required to create an SoA next to a pile of laundry – which was tax deductable. In terms of the effectiveness of the campaign, I’d say it was ENTIRELY successful, as one of the people who touched base with us had a very novel idea. One we hadn’t heard before. Rather than challenge politicians in Canberra, challenge the ATO on the exact ruling which was getting in the road – TD95.

This gentleman’s name was Conrad Travers. Now, theres a couple of things you should know about Conrad Travers. 1) He has what I would consider the greatest names of a legitimate living person. Just saying the name makes you feel like you’ve woken up in an Agatha Christie novel. But arguably more importantly 2) He knows his financial services stuff. Real well.

As you can imagine, the more I listened and learned from Conrad, the more his strategy made sense. And better yet, he knew the exact team required to fix the problem. This team had successfully challenged the ATO’s TD95 for other industries, and figured there was a relatively good chance the same thing could be done for financial advice. This one guy – Conrad Travers had in my opinion, cracked the code. He had the strategy, he had the team – all he needed was the money to make it happen. Knowing we had a team of advisers funding this program, there was certainly the desire for us to be able to fund it. But… and this is where a small amount of money can get in the road, we didn’t have the funds required. What was needed was big bucks. Not like BIG-BIG bucks. But certainly, more bucks than we had lying around. 

Enter the FPA.

Dante, Ben, and the team considered the merits of the argument, and backed it financially. And again, it wasn’t a small amount of money. With no guarantee of success, the FPA absorbed the financial burden of this project, and put whatever other resources behind it – to make it happen.

And you know what? That’s amazing. 

For me, seeing the emotional toll on advisers as multiple burdens and problems are heaped on to them. Year after year. Administration after administration. To watch this profession become the play thing of politicians aiming to make a name for themselves. To see the research that puts advisers at the top of the at-risk groups of mental health problems. To see all this – and to see the main association get behind an idea that would be the first good news story in the industry for a long time, well – all I have is respect.

The result isn’t finalised yet. The FPA and the ATO are still in discussions. And like all sensitive things, only those in-the-know, know what’s happening. BUT… I can say, hard work is being done to provide a skerrick of the respect advisers deserve. We need this. We deserve this. As I’ve beat on about this more than a few times – if every stakeholder is going to demand a higher level of professionalism from the advice community, then at least respond in kind and provide the benefits attributable to a profession.

This is more than simply being able to say to your clients ‘you can claim my fees as a tax deduction’. This is about respect. It’s about being treated like a profession. And I think it’s a perfect first step in the right direction.