July 12, 2022

#325 Ash McAuliffe – Transcript

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Ben Nash
Hey guys, Ben Nash from the XY advisor team. And today I’m pumped to be here with ash McAuliffe Ash is the head of advice at CareSuper, and come from a big background through practice management running advice team. So I’m keen to pick his brain. Hopefully he’s got a few silver bullets for us. In terms of solutions, Ash, thanks for joining us, buddy.

Ash McAuliffe
Thanks, Ben. Pleasure to be here. Thanks for the great intro.

Ben Nash
Like good to good to be chatting. And as I say, I’m I’m holding out for those silver bullets. So we’ll get there. But I thought maybe a good place to start was just maybe you could talk us through your, your background and how you’ve ended up in in where you are today.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, fantastic. I’m sort of going to show my age here. I started in my father’s practice, here in a MP practice. 23 years ago, I started quite a very, very young, I’ll have to say, but I’m so old that I was actually appointed as an agent. And shortly after that, the Finance Reform Act came into play. And then I was a proper authority holder. So look, I was set for a career in in science or computer science. So I started a double degree in physics and computer science. But I realized I wasn’t really good enough at programming to make a living and wasn’t interested enough in physics to make a living. And while I was doing that, I was I was observing my dad who started his advice business as a second career. And he’d been with Telstra for a long time as a manager. And what I noticed about my dad was his enjoyment of work and how he felt important in people’s lives. He’s having an impact on on people’s lives through helping them predominately initially with with insurance, but then through their investment management going forward. And he had a real enthusiasm for his work, which I didn’t see when he was working at Telstra, so of the way with the army at the time, and I thought, well, I’ll, that’s what I’ll do. And so I came back and said, they’re gonna work with you. And here I am 2023 years later. So that’s how I got in into advice, spent several years working with dad and then he decided it’s time to start thinking about retiring. So I moved out into the big wide world and worked with a Commonwealth Bank for a couple of years in the business of private bank, then followed with, with a invading the commercial bank, and sort of with various success, and sometimes very successful, sometimes the opposite of that. And the opportunity came up well that I invited to purchase a book of clients. So I let did that. And that was a great learning experience owning my own practice, particularly taking over and advice relationship that some of these clients had been clients of the previous owner for some 3040 years. So coming in a lot younger, with a lot of trust built up over that period of time and having to take that baton forward was that was quite quite a heavy baton to take if it’s really important that you manage and keep that trust. After a while that sort of ran its course. And I have to winding that up. I spent a bit of time at RMIT teaching in the Bachelor of Business Financial Planning major that I really really enjoyed that for a little while there the call of the wild in a call from a recruiter to be honest, but and the opportunity to come back into the advice profession with Mercer came up as a team leader in the Victorian strategic advice team. And over a couple of years working with Mercer. The role evolved to be the practice manager for Victoria. So there was a team in Docklands and teaming we lose Hill, and then I’ll finish up at Mercer at the start of the year through redundancy and as that happened the opportunity here at Kerr super came up so had a couple of months off and I really I gotta be honest, I really needed that reset and bit of time with with the kids and family and sort of ready to get cracking and two weeks into my role here at CareSuper so that is 23 years in a very short time that

Ben Nash
is I feel like we all needed a bit of a break after the chaos that has been encoded pandemic and lockdowns and all that sort of stuff. Tell us what what are you focused on? What what is the head of financial advice at care super what comes across your desk?

Ash McAuliffe
Look at the moment there’s two weeks in there’s a lot there’s a couple of couple of little little projects that were sitting on my desk with those on them so I you know, the roll had been vacant for a little while. So there’s a couple of things. Waiting one of those is you Having a look at the different advice channels, the mandate I have is to make advice more relevant to more people. And and that essentially boils down to making advice scalable and affordable for our members. And the probably the most urgent priority or the the foremost priority, I should say, is digital advice. And we’re looking for a solution there. There’s some work being done. And just working through that and what that means. And, you know, coming from an IFA background, it is something that I’ve got a lot of interest in, because it’s an efficiency tool. And it’s a value add, but it’s also got to be right. So that’s, that’s, that’s the project that I’m working through most, with most energy at the moment.

Ben Nash
Super interesting stuff. And look, I’m not expecting you to, you know, tell us all of your your trade secrets or anything here. But I think we hear a lot about digital advice and can see the potential to leverage technology more in the work that that we’re that we’re doing with clients, I know that I’ve spoken to a few people that have tried it in different formats over the last little while. It is obviously a beast, in terms of the complexity and all of the different parts. But for you guys, like how do you actually tackle that you obviously like we all know that affordability is an issue and scalability. And I think it makes sense that we go okay, well, how do we get it out to more people? Let’s let’s make it easier, let’s make it cheaper. But where to from there? How do you actually sort of, you know, crack in?

Ash McAuliffe
Yeah, I mean, there’s technology providers out there, and there’s some good solutions. But ultimately, it’s an automation and it needs an AI behind it. And like any automation, you’re trying to take the repeatable parts of your role, and sort of automate them so they can be more cost efficient and time efficient. So how are we looking at it is looking at the more simple part of advice. So so if you think of the spectrum of advice that members seek, and that’s one of my learning period care, I’ve got to stop calling double clients, their members. So there’s a little bit of a language difference, but so I’ll use those two terms interchangeably from now on, if that’s all right. But they totally verbalize what they need a little bit of advice. There’s times when they need a lot, and we just want to be able to be there for them when they need that little piece of advice. And, and so we’re starting with the very simple things. At the moment, we’re looking at a risk profile and investment change. So can we take someone through an investment profile conversation? The challenge that I’m finding at the moment is that yes, we can we can automate a questionnaire. But as we know, the questionnaire isn’t all of the conversation or the conversation with an advisor afterwards. So and there’s an education piece before and after for how do we follow that education piece and information piece into the here do the answer the 12 questions or five questions or whichever survey you’re doing. And then and then make recommendations. So there’s a lot of testing at the moment, and that that’s where we’re at. And I think once we once that can be dialed in, then then that can be expanded on. So it’d be great when we can get it as a profession, get it right and be able to utilize those in the term I like is it’s not it’s not a robo advice solution. But it’s a it augments our ability as advisors to reach more people. So it’s an all minute advice tool, not a standalone. Here, you don’t need an advisor. He’s a tool you can have, can get some information, get some advice based on on from some rules and go forward from there. So I think it’s really exciting. And there’s a there’s a focus here and an importance on getting this right, and getting it out so that we can we can give advice to more people. Yeah. For the last 10 or 15 years, in my career, we’ve been talking about the 80% of Australians who don’t get advice. So that’s how do we how do we crack into that and that, looking at other ways to deliver advice?

Ben Nash
Absolutely. Yeah. And I think over that time that we’ve been talking about this 80% The cost of financial advice has doubled. So it’s like, you know, it gets a little bit more out of reach. But yeah, as you say, it is quite complex that I know that for us in in our business that we work a lot of 30 and 40 year olds, most of our clients are 35 to 45. And for them when they do a risk profiling questionnaire. Most of them end up like balanced or moderately conservative when they just doing the questionnaire on their own and then what what we do is to take them when we do our strategy sessions, we take them on a journey and go okay, well this is what this is what different assets actually are growth investments, defensive investments. This is small company risk versus big company risk diversification. and how we manage our active investments, passive investments, all those things. And then yeah, in hearing that, you know, we, as we know, as advisors that typically the your investment timeline should be one of the key drivers of the the actual risk profile for for your investment portfolio. So, someone’s 35 for their super fund wants to be moderately conservative you go, Well, that seems a little bit out of whack, but your timeline, you know, like that, after hearing this, what do you think? And they go, yeah, actually, no, I would now that I know how all of these risks are being managed. And I’m comfortable with the, with a higher growth portfolio because they they’re actually informed, but I don’t know. Yeah, I feel like if we just say just in the questionnaire alone, that they don’t quite get there. So I know that the techs getting better, I would love to be able to pull on that to to, like you say, augment what we’re doing so that we don’t have to be the ones having that conversation necessarily, because it is fairly repeatable or highly repeatable. But yeah, it’s a tricky one. So I’m interested in in that space. Yeah, and

Ash McAuliffe
I agree with you. Because if you weren’t 100% Scientific on it, you would, you would base it purely on the time horizon, whether it’s a superannuation, that’s, that’s, that’s finite, whether it’s a shorter term investment, if you’re if you’re looking for short term goal, the science and the math says you will most likely be better off with this type of portfolio. But then you’ve got to fold in those human elements. We’ve got some volatile times at the moment. So that will influence and cast a shadow over how people feel about investing at the moment. That’s where the human element comes in. So yeah, it’s I think it’s a challenge challenge for the profession. But I think there’s enough people investing time and effort and money into into some, some good AI and digital solutions, so

Ben Nash
and so you obviously have had, like, your bit more exposure than most people, even though it is, you know, early days in your role there. But seeing what you’ve seen so far, where do you think we’re going with when it comes to digital advice.

Ash McAuliffe
I think if we’ll need more of an AI engine behind it, I think it will be a tool to for advisors to extend their their ability to advise rather than a replacement, you won’t 100% use one of these tools, instead of speaking to an advisor. So they, the smart businesses and advisors out there will will be scanning their environment for what’s what tools are available. And as I said, use these tools to augment their ability to to, to give advice. So let’s take that conversation we just had, where you might have this ability for a customer or client to to complete a risk profile questionnaire, get some get some advice, but then also just come back to you with that information already, you know, half the conversation head and you just need to top it off so that you can even get out to more people that way. So where we’re heading is it will enhance our conversations and allow us to have more conversations, rather than replace conversations.

Ben Nash
And so how do you think that we’ll get to a point where we can have a digital only solution for this? Or do you think there needs to be an advisor involved?

Ash McAuliffe
I do think we’d get there I I’d be reluctant to say we’d never get there. There’s there’s if you’re walking by a car that can drive me home, surely I can I can. I can buy a program that can help me invest. So I’m, I’d be I think it’d be short sighted to say no, we’ll never get there. But there’s there’s a lot of work to be done in the meantime. And I’m I think I think we’re close.

Ben Nash
Nice. Well, I look forward to our next podcast conversation. And you can you can give me the update on on that one. Ash, I’m keen to shift gears a little bit and talk about practice management and advice management overall. Obviously, like, we all know that, you know, part of the part of how we make things more accessible is like you say make it make it efficient, make it cheaper, as well. And I think that practice management can play a role in that with how we’re doing what we’re doing. What do you think are the real keys to success when it comes to actually running an advice team?

Ash McAuliffe
Look, there’s a baseline or some hygiene factors are good systems so that you don’t have you’re not putting speed humps in front of your people. But what I’ve found the here he a team runs really well when a team themselves are coherent and they feel supported. They’ve got enough people in the team. They’ve got clarity in their role and and they are operating as a team so that the team being greater than the sum of its parts is probably where I’ve seen most value in, in providing an efficient service. So when you’ve got everyone, the analogy I used to use with my old team was the log. So if the know you with the Navy SEAL training, whether they’ve got to all carry that big, heavy load, and at different times people will be stronger, or people will have weak days, and they won’t be able to take the full way the log, but the rest of the team are there. But at some point, everyone’s going to take a little bit of a wait and share. And the law gets to go. So I are going to disclose right here. I’m very terrible at analogies. I don’t know. Yeah. But honestly, a well functioning team, because people well supported, they trust their leadership, they they want to come to work, they’re happy to come to work, I find that is probably the most efficient thing you can do for a team is make sure that everyone’s on board, and everyone’s happy to be at work.

Ben Nash
And so you know, my next question already, how do we do that?

Ash McAuliffe
Well, that it’s long and slow, hard grind, it does start with trusting your leadership, you need to be our leader that has to show some vulnerability, it’s okay to make mistakes as a leader and own them, and demonstrate your accountability with those. And then that that gives people permission to put their hand up as a hey, listen, I’m struggling today, I need some help with this. And then that sort of builds that trust and accountability, once you’ve got some accountability. For the, for the outcome, you can sort of move ahead of the team, there’s a there’s a book that I I, you know, if you’re looking for a recommended reading, it’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Peter Lynch, oni that was that was put to me when I was at Mercer as Hey, have a read of this. And being able to take that methodology on board really did help him sort of establishing that trust and really focus on commitment from the whole team to the end goal and all sorts of fantastic things.

Ben Nash
Yeah, I think that that accountability to outcomes is the key part that people need to know what those outcomes are that they need to be measured. consistently. And and, you know, celebrated when they’re good and addressed when they’re, when they’re not where we want them to be? Because everyone seems have they have a job to do a role and a role is tied to outcomes. So it’s like we were hiring for, we love the people that we’re hiring for roles. And then it’s that that role needs to deliver certain results. But I think it’s it sort of ties in with practice management, because I know for us that when the business was much smaller, like or in the earlier days of the business before we had focused on this, that it was, we know what sort of like we want happy clients and to make some money, but like, then what are the things that needs to happen in between? And it’s, every business is a bit different? Because you’ve got different groups of clients, different teams as well, that, you know, it takes a while to figure out what are those things? What do we measure along the way? And how do we actually do that in an efficient way so that we’re not spending all of our time measuring everything as opposed to actually doing the doing as well. So,

Ash McAuliffe
exactly. And what do you measure? And how do you measure it? And how do you act? And how do you respond when the it’s not up to standard? So how do you you’ve got to respond correct constructively with this is where we fell short. Let’s let’s get together and see how we can fix that up and how do we fill that gap going forward? And rather than, uh, you know, the attacking with some compassion, I think is is important as well. So what what happened, what, you know, what do you need for, for us to move forward and not have that shortfall again?

Ben Nash
Attack with compassion. I like that.

Ash McAuliffe
I just made that up, Ben. So but you do you need to you. And I’ve used this term before, but as leaders, we’re custodians of people’s livelihood, their their careers. So if you need to be that person that helps them work forward in their career and get what they want out of their career. And that’ll come back to you as as either a business or a leader or a team, whatever it is, but if you can, this is an old Zig Ziglar ism. You can get whatever you want somebody to help enough other people get what they want, and that that sort of in leadership as well, he was he delivered that as a sales context, but I’m thinking as a leader, if I can help my team grow and achieve what they need to achieve in their career, then that that will sort of work through as, as I’m going to come back to benefit me as the leader.

Ben Nash
Totally. What do you think you’ve been involved a couple of decades in, in advice and in sort of leadership roles within advice teams as well, what have been some of the biggest shifts in in, you know, how advice businesses work and how teams function that you’ve seen?

Ash McAuliffe
What Yeah, what I’m saying is, and from, you know, when I started to my time with the bank was very, very numbers driven, very, you know, what have you done today to move forward, which is good, but probably the biggest shift is towards advice, being more of this as a social science than a, an investment, mathematical type career. So how we connect with our clients and members and customers, whichever one you want to call them, how we connect with them on a personal level allows us to, to do a better job for them. So that’s probably the biggest shift I’ve seen where it is very much. What conversations are we having, how how, how do we feel how to clients feel? Rather than his? I know the answer, here it is, and I’ll sell it to you for a price.

Ben Nash
Yeah. Yeah, totally. And I think it’s it’s sort of like you were saying, when it comes to risk profiling, like we know the scientific answer, but it’s not always the same answer when you put the people overlay on things. On the on the flip side of that question, Ash, what are some of the things that haven’t changed?

Ash McAuliffe
Oh, well, risk profiling hasn’t changed. It still, it’s still a questionnaire and we get a result. And I think broadly as a profession, we we recognize that that’s not the not the right to left, that is one thing that hasn’t changed. But at the end of the day, rigor and probably coming back to that that timeframe. So I was appointed as an agent, then we had Financial Reform Act, and we had both, and we’ve got Royal Commission, what hasn’t changed in this profession is that by and large, the advice professionals want to get the best outcomes for their clients. And there’s, there’s the one percenters that sort of ruin it for the rest of us. But, and there’s the systems and processes behind it, where the motivations come from. That aside, by and large, what hasn’t changed is that people in this profession, do want to get the best outcome for their clients. So how we need to do that with the regulatory framework, that that one’s not changing anything. The only change I’ve experienced is, has been? Well, the only content has been change. Yeah. So that’s something that hasn’t changed.

Ben Nash
at all, I know that you’re one of the things that you’re really passionate about is is education, you know, obviously working in that space. And I think as advisors, we always work in this space all the time, and isn’t leaders within teams as well, that we’re constantly educating? I, I’m sure that you probably know the stats, better than I do when it comes to, you know, the gaps that we’re facing around new entrants coming into the industry and advice. Can you give us a bit of your thoughts around where to from here?

Ash McAuliffe
Yeah, it would be these kind of things I noticed, which are winning to my role at the university with missing preconception about what was happening. And then to find that there was a lot of students enrolling in, in sort of financial advice majors. So that was, particularly in RMIT, and a couple of other universities as well. But there are some large classes, there was some classes at RMIT, the first year financial planning, somebody had 400 people in it, right, but they were from other degrees as well, it was an elective, but also notice some people come across into that financial planning stream, because they’ve done that elective. So in the foreigner years subject, and I thought we had people who started a marketing degree or start an engineering degree, but then through that elective, they came across to advice because, yeah, it’s a great career. What Why wouldn’t you? And the problem I think, is or not the problem, they the blockage is, we need somewhere for them to go. So that’s the graduates are coming through. And there was actually one other side note one thing or the gender balance was there as well. So the graduates were a good, good balance of gender wasn’t skewed one way or the other. So that gives me hope for where we end up forward as far as gender balance is concerned. But they ie, the students, quite often some of them, some of them our best students, that ended up at that place like KPMG, or EY, because they had graduate programs. And that was a good place to go. And a lot of them had done double degrees in accounting as well as financial planning. Having said that, I’ve also fired some of the careers of some of my former students as well. And very impressed obviously, they’ve had some good instruction through their, their studies, but seeing that people come through, and they’ve had to fight through to find a role and finding a company that will support them through. So the next step is, is us as a profession to make sure they’ve got a soft landing place. So they can they can study through, and know that there’s going to be somewhere for them to start work at the end of the day. And where these these practices screaming out for talent, there’s also

Ben Nash
one of those.

Ash McAuliffe
Yes, and yeah, but there’s also, it’s not very easy to bring on someone just at a university, you think that that 21 year old, who may or may not even have their own superannuation accounts, depending on whether their career or not, so we can’t just really can’t do what you know, happened in my generation was off you go, there’s your, you’re here, go go give some advice. We need to develop more fully our entry to the profession. And that includes having roles that are an entry level graduate program that gives the students a taste of the different parts of our, our profession, and then guide them through that professional year. So I don’t think there’d be too many students that will do their degree go straight into a py and then a year after that be giving advice. You know, the exceptions, obviously being career changes. So, or people have been in, in sort of financial services more generally. And they’ve done their study. Now they want to give advice, whereas I think a better way is to put a graduate program in place that is specific to advice. And look, I’d like to say that there’s a few of us working on that at the moment. And not, that’s something as important to me here, okay, super, but also to the rest of the professionals as well. So hopefully we can, we can we can grow our own talent. And that does feed back to a conversation around what’s important in a team is making sure that the people in your team have got some career progression. So having that the people that are in entry level roles, they can see the next step. And the next step, being an associate advisor with professional year, built into that role, and then they can see themselves into a junior advisor than senior advisor and the way they go. So if they can’t see where they’re going, it’s gonna be really hard to move forward. Yeah, it’s

Ben Nash
a tricky one. Because I think that not a lot of like businesses are built in different ways, like different businesses are built in different ways. And it’s often the ones that are built for more entry level roles, that I’ve found that there’s there’s quite a lot of those that they want people to be more to not not like they hiring people for roles, and there’s stuff that they need to get done. So there’s less, less of a focus on progression. Whereas like, for a business, like us, we want everyone to be progressing. But we struggle more with the entry level roles because everyone’s progressing. So it’s like we were going to have to pour all of these resources into a new grad out of the industry. And I recognize the pathway there. That’s how I learned myself. But yeah, I feel like we need to do something. And I was mentioned offline that like, the horizons program, which I think was a fantastic program in terms of what had actually delivered through the structure and training process. Some challenges, I think, for the people that were then sort of moved into the a&p advice ecosystem and a little bit, there was probably a little bit inconsistent from what I’ve heard the role of versus the actual structure training. But I think that that sort of thing needs to exist, because we’ve got, we’re trying to get more people seeking advice, and more people are seeking advice. Advice is getting better advice is getting more complicated. It’s getting more expensive or resource intensive that we need people, we need more people. And I was, I can’t remember the stats off the top of my head, maybe you know them, but some like pathetic number of new advisors registered over the last couple of years since all of this stuff came in. We’ve actually got three people in our business going through the py. So I hope to do my little bit to, to add to those numbers over the next little while. But yeah, it takes some time. And in the meantime, we’ve all got, you know, needs advice. Advisors are difficult to come by. I feel like we’ve been recruiting for an advisor role for a year in the business and the right people. It’s challenging. So I do feel like We need to do something. Just yeah, it seems like a complex base to get there.

Ash McAuliffe
Maybe it is in in the absence. And on my family horizons program, I’ve hired people out of it. And also, I’ve seen the programs that the banks used to have. But in the absence of large organizations taking that mantle, I think there’s an opportunity for a collective to get together and do the same thing. What what do we, what do we want this to look like, and move forward in that way. So the, you get a number of small practice, he can get together and sort of share that burden. You know, we’re trying to we’re trying to hire two planners in our Sydney team as well. And that’s, that’s sort of a challenge. We’re, we are finding it challenging. We’ve got a couple of good candidates, and hopefully, we can get them on board, but it is we’re finding people are we accept another offer here or this? So it is indeed a very, very competitive marketplace. But we can, you know, very small organizations, associations, whatever can get together and politically come together, then then, I think we can solve that, that mystery without relying on a large organization. And even even here, I don’t I don’t think superfine like us, we’re not big enough to go, Okay, well, let’s, let’s go and get 10 grads, we need to sort of partner with other organizations to say, we’re probably going to need a grad every year. But we need a bit more rigor and process around random selection. Where do we find the grads, you know, do? How many, how many businesses are out there, introducing themselves to universities, there’s a couple of advisors that have been on this show before who I’ve met, because they came to the university when I was working there, the students loved it. So. So yeah, I think there is an opportunity to fill that void left by the horizons of the world with with a collective effort, and then a little bit more control over what the career aspirations are.

Ben Nash
Totally. And I think that the extra, like you say that it’s one, it’s a tough market, but advice is such a personal thing that every business does a little bit differently. So not only it’s not like, you just need to find a financial advisor, it’s like you need to find a financial advisor that fits that wants to do the work that fits in with your business wants to work with the clients that you want to work with that wants to work in the way that your business wants to work as well. So it’s like you’ve got a small pool pool to begin with, but then you’re you need to like to run a good business you need to select and chunk that pool down even further. So I think the more diverse sort of approaches that we can get in it means that we’re going to have the right advisors for the right roles and that just just benefits everyone then the right clients as well that

Ash McAuliffe
you hit the nail on the head that’s critical and being an advisor is too hard if you’re not aligned with the direction of the business you’re working for. Or it’s just too hard you and as you probably speak this more than a little bit as a business owner if the people on your on your team to really 100 Think committed to the direction you want to take your business then then it’s just gonna create friction.

Ben Nash
Totally. Yeah, absolutely. Well, look, I could talk about hiring and recruitment and the frustrations around that all day but I will save everyone’s is ash thank you so much for sharing all of your your insights. My last question for you if you could go back to your baby face self and starting out in advice and give them one piece of it give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Ash McAuliffe
Relax, okay, relax and enjoy the ride. As a young planner, I was really and I still see it today. So that’s probably pertinent is I really went hard on my technical skills, which you need to they’re there. They’re a foundation skill but relaxing get to know the people you’re talking to and the piece of advice I would have given myself is ash they don’t need to know how the watch works. They just want another time so just really

Ben Nash
analogies that’s a great one.

Ash McAuliffe
I stole it from a dad but no that’s Yeah relax and enjoy the start of your career are very ambitious wanting to move forward and anxious to prove myself and when I would love to go back and just do it all again. But I’m probably I’m happy with where I’m ended up so

Ben Nash
last one was words there. I think that the people side it’s like you say the technical part is one part but probably the bigger part as you can see from your career and how that’s progressing is the people element and all other stuff that sits around it. So yeah, it was words there ash. Thank you again, so much for sharing your insights made I’m super pumped to see where things go especially look forward to that digital advice update. Moving forward meeting We’ll catch on the next one

Ash McAuliffe
Fantastic. Thanks Ben for was a pleasure.

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