March 29, 2022

#295 Will Hamilton – Transcript

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Ben Nash
Hey guys, Ben Nash from the XY advisor crew and today pumped to be here with will Hamilton will is the managing partner at Hamilton wealth partners, their Victoria based advice firm with clients around Australia been around for almost a decade and and known for their their client experience and service. I’m keen to pick his brain about what’s happened through the evolution of the business and some of the lessons learned along the way. We’ll thanks for joining us, buddy.

Will Hamilton
Thank you, Ben.

Ben Nash
Mate, it’s great to be chatting. I think if we think about the advice industry, and you know, what we do and how we do it, I think that there are a lot of things that are unchanged, but there has been a lot of change that we’ve experienced over the last decade or so. So I thought maybe a good place to start, before we get into the evolution for you guys specifically, is how US you tell us a bit about the business story, you know, how it came about and how it’s grown over the last nine years or so?

Will Hamilton
Yeah, look, nine years ago, we just hung out a shingle to be honest and just started. It’s always been from day one. A firm where we only look up and our license only lets us look after sophisticated investors. So we have not looked after retail investors. However, we have subsequently about six months ago with open invest rolled out an online solution called H WP invest. Because one of the things was some of our clients wanted a solution for fit friends and family. So that’s been an online solution that we have rolled out recently. But look, when you hang up a shingle. It’s, I think you there’s a lot of learnings from it. Because there you start off with what I always called the low hanging fruit. And then you probably get a couple of years where it is a little bit more difficult than people envisage. Because people want to see if you’re going to stick around, they want to see if you’re gonna make it and hate how you’ve gone with those clients. So then after about three years, it’s amazing how builds and it starts to build quite nicely. And in fact, the last sort of three years been very good for our business. We’ve looked last year just over 30% new client growth that’s in revenue terms, you’re in what was a very difficult environment. So but yes, you’ve we’ve had to work hard. And I think the one thing that we’ve done, which I think has been very important, as we say, we’re good at what we do, or we’re proud of what we do, because we’re proud of what we don’t do. So we’re very singular. And make sure that excellence is is what we do to the best of our ability. But we don’t do everything.

Ben Nash
Yeah, look, I think it’s increasingly become, it was difficult to begin with, but increasingly with the changes your regulation, compliance standards, and all of the things around that as well as what people expect to be all things to all people. So I’ve found for us that we do work with a broad range of clients, but we have a really specific solution that we offer. And knowing that that is what we do. And we don’t do those other things that it helps in a lot of areas clarity for clients, I think clarity for Team onboarding team, especially growing business onboarding team not having, you know, 50 different processes that people need to work towards, or systems manage, as well. So what what would you say have been the the biggest changes that that have come about in terms of how or how you do what you do or what you’re what you’re delivering over the evolution of your business.

Will Hamilton
As I mentioned, where a license is specific for sophisticated investors only. But we have always taken a view that we want to meet, what are the industry standards. So everyone is fasea compliant, even though we’re not on the far we don’t need to be, but we think that’s important. And there’s no doubt that the one change in the last decade has been regulation. There’s no doubt about it. It’s it’s increased. I was even on the fasea board for two years. So can’t be blamed for the introduction of anything, but I was there to try and, you know, along with lawyers that can be in depth Can’t we were working hard to try and put the views of device industry forward. But you know, we were three on out of nine people. And there’s no doubt, you know, regulation has increased remarkably. I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty and I think that’s all There’s an enormous amount of uncertainty on the regulation front, and that, that the industry needs clarity.

Ben Nash
Absolutely, yeah, I think I’m not an expert in the regulation. And I have always tried to set up our business in a way that were, you know, get ahead of some of the changes that I had seen. Potentially coming in around like no insurance Commission’s since since day one, which has had meant that things like that meant that we haven’t had to respond to the changes that have been pushed onto us, but more get in front of it. But I would agree with you totally, that there is still a lot of uncertainty there. I think the fact that I’m sick of just opened up a review into, you know, some of the unintended consequences of the legislation that’s been put in place is testament to that, I think that a lot of in my view, a lot of the challenges have had been well intentioned. And and I think some of them have helpful to varying degrees. But yeah, get at it is hard. And it’s even harder when you’re having to spend time as a business to take a view on things or and then still having that sort of fear of the unknown there. So I think anything they can do to tighten that up is going to be helpful for everybody. And hopefully, they can achieve the mandate of this, this particular review and maybe bring down some of those costs to serve to actually make devices at all levels more accessible. I think, with declining advisor numbers, that means that we’ve got, you know, even with the same demand, but I think that the demand is increasing as well that it is there’s more people out there, I think the majority advisor, you want to help more people and be able to do that and do it profitably in a sustainable way for your business. So you can be around to help heal for the long term. But yeah, it’s been huge, especially the last two years in particular, I would say for us in terms of all the, the extra requirements and, and cost, time cost in particular that goes along with that. I agree. I know you guys are known for your client experience. And I know that you’ve picked up a few good guns around that I’m keen to see here. You know, how did that come into your focus or into your focus so, so firmly? And what does that journey look like for you guys?

Will Hamilton
Yeah, look, it’s part of our DNA. We call it the HW P way. So it’s one of the things that it’s a very important thing client experience when client service because we think it’s great and that it is about a client experience. We look we, we explain the service that we that we will provide 21. But what we try to do is exceed on that. So it’s not just about your we’re lucky because you know, being a service for sophisticated investors, we’ve only got 90 clients. So we’re not a business which has hundreds of clients. So the personal service and the personal touch is definitely there. We’ve also done a lot of thought leadership things. So during the COVID Joe, they were via webinars, but we’re back to live events. We’ve got John Wiley presenting to our clients. Next month up in Sydney, we’ve got Mark Burgess, the former CEO of the Future Fund. We just had David Morgan, we get him talk about the link between family communication and wealth to every client. So as new ones come on, he talks to them. We do about six of these live events a year with thought leaders. Last year, we managed to do one from memory that was with Olivia Werth who’s head of loyalty at Quantis talking about the future of travel. So these type of things are really important that we’re never selling anything, we will never will sell anything but it’s about providing thought leadership and you know, also for prospective clients to come along we will never talk about a client but if you turn up and you see existing clients there you can see who are the clients of FM. And Jed, like at the David Morgan one we had someone who was a prospective client and he really quizzed a lot of existing clients about our service proposition what we like and and in that service proposition we’ve learned from organizations that we’ve been to their offices we’ve spoken to the executives such as Four Seasons Hotels, they’re based in Toronto, and your everyone knows what the expectation is in his fourth season say if one gets the yet but what they need to do is give the well and that’s that’s part of what we talk about to everybody that joins that’s a book the business principles are Four Seasons Hotels by zero sharp and that explains this in four seasons have been small leaders in little things like they were the first people to put shampoos in the rooms make sure you’ve always got a comfortable bed in a hotel you know if you go to a hotel, it’s not on a comfortable bed when your staff dashi. Yeah, back in the day when there was what they called the Grand Hotels of London. They were the first people to let you wear jeans and you didn’t have to worry jacket and tie. So these are the sort of things we’ve learned about. And then more recently, we’ve talked to me about Australia, they sell a refrigerator, which costs $25,000. And it keeps you milk cold, guess what you can go to JB Hi Fi and you can get one for efficient parcl for under 1000 bucks. And guess what it keeps you milk cold. So if you’re going to sell something, which is worth $25,000, and it keeps you milk cold, you’ve got to have a great experience around that. Now the sort of things we’ve learned, we’re now talking to another organization that about this, and they’re just outstanding and what they do, and you could substitute the word for what they do, and bring in advice, or our industry and substitute that word that we’re learning. And so I think that the thing is, it’s about trying, trying to be as good as you can. And I think that’s really important, being as good as you can not as good as someone else. And it’s not, it’s not arrogance, we don’t benchmark ourselves against anyone else in the industry. We think we’ve got to learn from others that are really outstanding at this outside our industry. And as being as good as we can.

Ben Nash
I’m interested to hear maybe I’ll get some ideas for our business. But what are a few of the things that you feel for you guys that are interesting ones that deliver that? Well, for your clients? You mentioned a couple of things already that we’ve had. Great. But

Will Hamilton
look, I think the big one is it’s about contact. And I think that’s, as I said, Everybody understands that yet, but you’ve got to give the Wow. And you cannot be in contact with clients enough. And like, I’m just always surprised that when you like just a little thing, which I think it just recently, we contacted every fund manager and we wanted to know, not just their exposures. But what as an organization, their attitude was to Russia. And we wanted a statement from the organization’s is what your attitude was to Russia, we told clients, we’ve done this, the feedback we got from our clients just by by replying emails was incredible, I’d say 40% must have would have replied to us. That, please, that’s what we did. So that’s one of the things that, if you look on our website are saying is wealth where wealth without values is simply money. And we don’t talk about ethics, we don’t talk in the language of ESG, because values is a very important ethics, it’s judgmental, what’s ethical to you may not be ethical to me and vice versa. But so therefore get standard personal values. And that’s another thing, which is part of this, it’s we try and find out our clients values, what these values are, and we try to make sure that we are running the money in line with what those venues are.

Ben Nash
Okay, and practically, how do you do that? Because I know for us that we over time, you get a sense of our clients values and the things that they think are important through building relationships with them. I have found and one of the things that we’ve considered but haven’t implemented in the businesses is doing more of that at the front end. And our sort of our thinking at that time was that we there’s always so much going on, especially early days were heavily new business focused for me, time for people. And they’re they’re trying to do the budgets and pull together the share plans and the vesting schedules and all these things that can can sometimes in themselves be overwhelming. How do you bake that in in a way that is consistent with the experience that you want to deliver and works efficiently for your clients?

Will Hamilton
Well, nine years ago, we said tobacco kills people. So we wouldn’t allow any fund manager that this was an issue in global equity portfolios, you think back nine years ago, there was some really good performing funds that had tobacco in them in triumph and back then try and find any infant that didn’t have tobacco as well, we did find one. And therefore we said, look, we’re just not we took a position as a firm. And we told our clients that so they understood that. Likewise, what we’ve said with Russia, and to be honest, one will probably have to take one fund manager of at least because of their response. Likewise, if they’ve got individuals and that’s really difficult, like I hear, like one guy said to us, he didn’t want to invest in sugar. And yeah, yeah, Coke has sugar, Coke bonds, for instance, in credit funds that would be in there. And his view was sugar is more addictive than heroin. So yeah, we’ve got a we’ve had to adjust to those sort of things and those particular values of clients and it is difficult, but it’s amazing. People, you know, and it’s not age based either like yo, the thing that shocked On this is, one morning, we saw a client who sold an asset and he and his wife were in their 30s and in their 30s, and then realized a lot of money. And then that afternoon, we saw a couple in the 70s in their late 70s. And they both wanted, they both had what I would call a value oriented stream that they want to overlaid on their portfolio. Luckily, very simple, lovely, quite vanilla. But this is an age based either. Just, I think it is just as important for the elderly, as they’re thinking of grandchildren and things like that as it is to the younger people.

Ben Nash
Yeah, I think that the family builders, it brings it more into focus. And we tend to work more with the accumulated clients during that younger space. But I would say across our entire book and the people that we talk to, we often talk to the parents of our clients as well. It’s the it’s the same deal. And I was just at a conference last week all around ESG investing. And I think why the stats show us that it’s all on the rise, and something that I think will come come more into focus. So in my view, it’s great to say,

Will Hamilton
we’re back in 2016, I think was I used to go to I’m going back to it this year conference in Europe, could fun forum International, and I kept telling lots of people about it, no one else goes to it. Yeah, there’s 1600 people there. So you’re going to get COVID Yes, we’ll get it, but. And they’re just to hear that trend of ESG from six years ago, and the first time I went to this conference, there was probably 4050 people on ESG in the room, the next within two years, it was a mainstay, it was a major stream. And you just knew this was coming. So we all went and completed the UN PRI essentials, which I highly recommend people to do. In gives you a really good understanding of that space.

Ben Nash
Yeah, it’s great. And it’s been interesting, I actually chatted to a bunch of people putting together some content around ethical investing not too long ago and and talking to economists about how the flows of capital and like the cost of capital for what you consider unsustainable or non sustainable. I don’t know the right term with that. But other companies and I think we’re actually seeing this in the listed space, there are a lot of companies that are divesting assets, which are, which do not take this sustainable box or being you know, in some cases aggressively pursued to be pushed out as faces like we’re seeing with AGL at the moment. And I think it just naturally makes sense that I think even we if it was selfish interest from the fund managers that you reach a point where that cost of capital, and it sort of skews out that the majority of portfolios are going to be more sustainably focused, which I think is as someone that’s hopefully got a few few more years to live on the planet, that is a good thing for works. Well, how do you see the client experience is obviously broad, and you know, goes goes into every sort of element of what you do, how, how linked? Do you see that to what your actual service offering is? And and did the two go hand in hand? Or do they move in lockstep? Or what is the influencing crossover there?

Will Hamilton
So the DNA of FM we refer to as the H WP way, and it is lockstep the whole experience is it’s integrated and is part of the process on how we look after a client. And it is absolutely crucial. And one of the big learnings as well as you because shit happens, right? mistakes will happen. And the one learning that we got from four seasons on this is the recovery is the best way to reinforce your value proposition. So when you make a mistake, it’s about recovering that immediately and communicating to the client. And that is that is part of your DNA. And that is how you can reinforce that value proposition. So even goes down to that. It is it is everything. It’s how we communicate. It’s how we serve what it is the service element. You know, even down to the quarterly reports, we’re changing portfolios a little bit at the moment. It’s not just about we recommend this we recommend that it’s there’s a there’s a detailed explanation as to why.

Ben Nash
Yes, it makes sense. And what it sounds like, though, from what you mentioned that you’ve you’ve talked to a number of companies that are known for providing exceptional Client Experience and it sounds like that’s like an ongoing something that gets ongoing focus in your business. Do you have a? Or what is the approach that you take to? Yeah, refining and improving what you’re doing over time.

Will Hamilton
We’re always looking. You know, there’s that saying, If you stand still you go backwards. So, and we’re always looking to what is this? We think is right for us as well. So, look, I can’t remember the name of the book, but I’m in for probably four or five years ago, there was a book published on Mercedes Benz in their house service proposition I read it wasn’t for us. So next. And yeah, love and nothing against it. It just wasn’t us. And that’s why I thought, well, when we came across Mila, and I thought, and got talking to them, and the way that you know that this is an experience, and it’s an incredible expense, because guess what, they want to sell another fridge that’s worth 25 grand. Yeah, to those same people. And if you just sell them the fridge, and there’s no experience around that. It’s not worth the $25,000. Yeah, they claim that it can keep her avocado avocado fresh for two weeks or something. Otto’s cost again, yeah. $1. So, yeah, I think that it is about an experience. And it’s about linking with a brand and an identity with a brand and getting the client then to identify with that brand and be proud of without that brand, and you need to talk about and position that brand. So that’s why I find I look a lot of what other firms do, especially offshore, and we talk about some great relationships in the UK in Europe, and I laugh like a couple of the European firms, if they had cameras in the meeting room and see what I do. When I go into the meeting, I take photos of everything. I take photos of me that the meeting room and how it looks. Yeah, they’ll bring you a cup of coffee, it’s got that little bit of chocolate, guess what, I’ve ripped off that little bit of chocolate. So we’ve copied a lot and copy is the best form of flattery. And I’m shameless in it in things that I’ve observed, and I think that is fantastic, and they’re the little things that matter. Going to a lunch and seeing the menu. The menu was taken by me. I am a shameless copier of what I think fantastic things. And that’s what that’s what we’ve done.

Ben Nash
Well, look, there’s no point there’s no point reinventing the wheel. Right? If you’ve got something that works, then it works. And but I think that the Yeah, every business is different. So as you say that some ideas are not for you, or some elements of ideas and not for you as well. So I think you’ve got to figure out what works for the business, your team, your clients, the outcomes that you want to work, and then you can take that chocolate from there and that menu from there. And leave leave some of the others that that don’t will I’m keen to change gears a little bit and and chat about the growth and drivers of that growth in your business. You mentioned that you you’ve you’ve grown a team and 10 sounds like solid client base enviable stats around new business client numbers and the growth around that one, what what have been the biggest drivers would you say of that growth?

Will Hamilton
Well, I think that it’s all about stages. And you’ve got to first of all, if anyone’s in the early stages of the business, you need to go and establish referral partners and broad referral partners. The second thing you got to get your brand out, then you got to build that brand. And that’s what we did. And again, we were quite shameless in the way we used media. But then I write for the Australian when we go, that’s now once a month we owe that originally was once a fortnight we’ve cut that back and you’ve got to learn the one thing which everyone says to everyone when you start a business is you’ve got to learn to say no with what is not right for and of course, when you’re looking for revenue you never do. And everyone makes that mistake, and we made that mistake. But guess what you got to learn to say no. And I think that’s a really important thing, you know. And we’ve looked at, you know, even for clients borderline, so technically, is a sophisticated investor, but really that they look more like we refer them on to other retail firms, and we’ve got some relationships with other retail firms that we refer them on to and those clients are better suited to those firms. Likewise, if they’re wanting a heavy, what I would call financial planning experience, that’s not us. We’re a wealth manager. We’re very good at running money. And again, we would refer them on to to another firm where we think they’re going to do a far better job than us. So it is when we track everything. So we use Trello So for anyone that doesn’t use Trello, electronic whiteboards, we met everything, every referral that comes in every conversion every loss when we refer on. And so we’ve got all the stats, and we assess that. And that’s a really, really important thing. And the other thing is, every year, we sit down, we have a five year strategic plan. We’re reviewing that on a one year basis with one year tactics, because it always amazes me when you go to industry conferences, and people say, So who here has got a business plan, or strategic plan and how few hands go up in the room, you don’t know yet, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there. So, use Trello is free. And I think there’s all these things that then you again, patent you need to track all these things. So you know, against patents, so you can, again, not have part of that strategic tactical tilts of where you’re going.

Ben Nash
Yeah, and I think that for us, like, you know, you’re helping your clients with their wealth management, they have that clarity in the plan that gives them confidence that what they’re doing is the right thing. I know, for us, we’ve been using what we use a number of business coach and coaching programs. But one of the things that we do now is we do that for four months, every four months, we’re doing the business plan, and it gives you that confidence and peace of mind, which is the same thing we do for our clients. So it doesn’t have to be set in stone, like our wealth management plans, or our financial plans for our clients aren’t set in stone either. But knowing that you got something that you’re clear on where you’re headed and happy with those outcomes, gives you peace of mind. But like with clients, I think sometimes the simple things, the things that are very easy to let slip, agree, as well. Well, you mentioned referral partners and referral relationships in there, I’ve got to put my hand up here and say that that’s something that we we had never really done particularly well, we do have some great partners now that I’ve collected over time businesses that have aligned values that we know can deliver great service. But I also know, with those clients, I’ve actually been chatting to those partners of ours over the last little bit to say what could we be doing to help us to help, you know, ultimately, to get in front of more of your clients? What would you what would be your tips there around, you know, how do you create, build those relationships and set them up for success, but ultimately, to ensure that you’re getting, you know, get getting the the outcomes that you want from that too, in terms of talking to more people that are ideal clients for your business.

Will Hamilton
So there’s two things as existing clients, which we’ll get into later, but then there’s external referral partners. So we have the, the worst thing you can do is have a broad list. So you know, in accountants have two or three, but make sure they fit you in different areas. Likewise, in with divorce lawyers will get to, because sometimes it can be conflict naturally. You know, and yeah, real estate agents, we’ve got only one, and I put it to them on its life as a two way street is what I say to them. And you know, we’re going to refer to you, and I always try to make sure we’re first out of the cabin, they don’t refer back. Guess what they’re often what, there’s plenty of other accountants Was that real estate agents, divorce lawyers out there. So what you wanting to do is establish, and you want to ensure that you’re building a relationship, and it’s long term, and then it just it’s natural, it’s two way. But you’ve got to be quite blunt about it upfront life is a two way street. And you know, if they feel indebted to you, because you’re out of the box. First of all, that’s a good way to start. But I’d follow up, you could be blunt. The second thing is with existing clients, we use an annual NPS survey. So like last year, our NPS that’s on our website is about 86 I think so yeah, which is a great result, were quite shocked at how high it was. But what you do is if someone gives you a nine or 10, and where I came at this, we’re not great at it. They’ve they’ve said your a nine or a 10 ring, contact them. And thank you, we really appreciate it, if you know of anybody that can just ask them for the, you know, to for referrals. We’ve got better at it. And we’ve got a lot better at it. But we still got a long way to go. And I think we were pretty crappy at first with those asking people for referrals.

Ben Nash
Yeah, I love that. It’s some it can get lost in the moment. But it makes sense from a targeting perspective in that you know that you’ve got people that are stoked, I think that’s one thing that we were getting about a third of our clients from client referrals and the question that we asked, which I’ve found to be a really easy way and effective way to ask for referrals is to say to clients, a, you know, you’ve got a ton of value. Like it seems like you’re really happy you got some great results. We’re happy with the results that you’re getting. If you wanted to. If you were us and you wanted to talk to more people like you what would what would you do? And then actually makes them think as opposed to saying like, Oh, you just want to get over just a referral. Let me think about a referral. And I found that that does, then that’s like that might go, I’ll think about that. But then the referrals tend to flow afterwards. So I like that NPS targeting though, because we do that with our clients, I might have to think about that, to build that into our process, as well. And yeah, they think they ultimately end up being your biggest fans, what what are your, what is the split, if you if you know, off the top of your head in terms of where your new clients are coming from,

Will Hamilton
I’d say now 50% of coming from existing clients, so you, the firm’s got my name on it. So if we go back, even five years ago, it was probably 80% were sort of people that had a relationship with me, that’s probably now 30 40%. So it’s hard at least, and it’s well under 50%. And then, of course, we’ve got some good referral partners, where that’s continuing to flow. So I think that’s also a sign of a business. It’s getting a little bit mature, more mature. You know, we’re nearly completed our ninth year and I think that’s also really something I’ve was very conscious of five years ago, and I’m really pleased to see that that’s got well below 50% Now, and you know, we’ve also got client referrals would be would be probably 50%. Yeah,

Ben Nash
that’s right. Like I say, sometimes it’s simple things are the ones that we overlook it but often the most effective they thank you so much for sharing your insights. My last question for you is that if you could go back to your yourself nine years ago, you just just hung that shingle and give them one piece of advice. What would it

Will Hamilton
be stricter about saying no? Everyone said to us, make sure you this is the type of client be really strong about it. Everyone gave me that advice. And of course you don’t listen to it. And you know, we’ve lost very few clients over the years but the ones we have we should never have taken on.

Ben Nash
Hmm, I love it. I love it. Wise words there sure will mate. Thanks again really appreciate you sharing your story then. Thanks Team.

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