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.