October 4, 2022

#348 Ian Byrne – Transcript

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Ben Nash
Hey guys, Ben Nash from the XY advisor team and today I’m here with Ian Byrne, NZ senior financial strategist at Evolution Financial based out of Cairns. Ian has a super long career in financial advice, which I’ll let him explain the show he does a better job than me and took it out the 2021, regional advisor of the year through the IFA awards, as well as named as a finalist for a bunch of others as well. A couple of those I was up against him in So Ian made, I’m keen to get some tips from you, hopefully make my application better. Thanks for joining us.

Ian Byrne
Yeah, thanks, Ben. and privileged to be here looked up your bio as well made and here are pretty accomplished young fellow as well.

Ben Nash
Well, I look, I like to keep myself busy. But I suppose that where x y came from and where these podcasters come from is, is really that like when I started in advice, and with the other co founders, the X Y Advisor Group as well, we all basically had no idea what we were doing. And we just started sharing information, had some mentors sharing information between each other. And that helped us to improve and learn new things that we could focus on and make our advice better. And for me, I think learning from other advisors is where it’s at, because these people are doing it. And not to say that you replicate what someone else is doing that that will work for you. Because it probably won’t, but picking up the elements that will and finding out what works and what didn’t work, and maybe trying to learn a few lessons from someone else’s mistakes so that you can avoid making them yourself. Always a little bit helpful.

Ian Byrne
It’s interesting. You say that, because both myself and Brad Stewart has the aspects that guys are doing and take on board, if it works, why recreate the wheel?

Ben Nash
Absolutely, yeah, I still I still remember the early conversations that we had in the infancy of xy advisor where I joined, I’d left a big really established business to join a smaller company and basically talk myself into this role, which I didn’t really have the skills to be able to deliver on. And I was fortunate to have a really good mentor. And they would teach me a few things. And we were charging, we’d just take insurance comps and basically not charge for SLAs and take a percent on farm and that, you know, work from a financial perspective, but it wasn’t giving me what I wanted from the advice relationships that I had with my clients and the mentors, and he just got to charge you just got to charge for your SLAs. And I was like what you just charge 500 bucks. I was like, Oh, you can do that. Okay, and then so we did it. And then we’re sharing and this was the x y, that group and we’re like, Wow, I did this and I charge 500 bucks this SOA, they’re like, whoa, like, it just started. And then it was just incremental things from there. So I’m certainly not too proud to say that everything that I’ve learned, I’ve learned from someone else, that it’s done more and better than I think it’s just the power of an idea is in its implementation. And that’s how we all get better together. Right?

Ian Byrne
Yeah. Yeah. And that’s how we move from the cottage industry to the profession that we’re hoping to achieve.

Ben Nash
Absolutely mate. So how about a good place to start, I thought, talk us through your advice journey.

Ian Byrne
Yeah, the bit of an accident. Yeah, I stumbled into the profession at a reasonably young age. So originally, I went off and studied graphic art at college and realized there’s no real money in that so fortunate enough to jump across into a national league volleyball team, and be employed by Queensland volleyball in sports management. And then when I got married, I got told I had to get a real job. So I looked in the papers and fortunately, at that stage ANP were hiring. And the regional office were blessed with the excellent tech guru, and absolutely amazing recruitment manager. So Bradley and Dina if you’re listening, or respect to your boys, because that’s why I’m here. And essentially, you learn on the job as I went, but importantly, just made sure that I had the study behind so fill it up. So did the DSP and then the CFP and continued moving through the the ANP world for a period of time but realize that institutional lands, put blinkers on what you could and couldn’t do. So at that point in time after winning a number of their awards, decided it was time to get out and go broader. So joined a large accounting firm, big national group who had a local branch 10 partners at staff headed up the Financial Planning Division. And look for as much as I learned through Deakin University, I have to admit, that’s probably where a lot of the real education began, you know, actually been in amongst with candidates dealing with some complex cases. And also, just that, you know, the corporate politics is a learning field in itself. After a period of time, left, the left, the accounting firm, decided to get off that corporate merry go round. And started, started a business eventually undermined branch. And a couple of years ago, a few years ago, now just merged with the LA Convention, register from the Townsville group, join our two firms together, and we are loving it.

Ben Nash
Well, I have a little bit of insight there, but into what you’re doing it, I feel like one of the strengths of you guys as a business is that you totally crushing it with your referrals and centers of influence in particular, and coaching from that accounting firm, where, what you told me you were telling me offline that, you know, it was a real struggle to get that actually moving to where you are today, I’m keen to unpack that a little bit more like, how did you tackle it? What What were the things like? How can we be doing better when it comes to pumping our centers of influence? Because I know, everyone talks about this, but like, for me, it’s a code that I’ve just never been able to crack?

Ian Byrne
Yeah, yeah. Look, that’s a great question. I suppose the first thing you got to realize is particularly particularly accountants are different species all together. The very cautious about the fact that all their roles relatively relatively great in regards to taxation and structures and planning from that perspective, when it comes to actual financial planning, to a large degree, most of them don’t have any real knowledge. But they obviously don’t want clients to be aware of that. So the first thing you’ve got to do is, I suppose prove that you’re not going to be a threat that you’re not going to expose aspects that they may not know. And I can hear you asking the question, that’s fine, but heavier than he actually even get to that stage first. We’ve found in the past by actually making a few referrals to a firm to an accounting firm first, and then following it up with a you know, a letter or an email or a quick phone conversation saying, hey, look, I heard great thing was bad to send a few clients across the keynote catch up for a lunch or, or coffee at some stage, let me know if you’re free. I mean, who’s going to knock that back? Right. So if if you want a referral, initially, you got to prove that you’ve got some kind of value to give. And, particularly with the new relationship with an accounting firm, we tend to baby them in the fact that I’ve got a copy of our file notes, they’ll get a copy of the statement of advice, they’ll get a summarized version as well. And throughout the statement of advice, if it’s relevant, we’ll actually mention the accounting firm a number of times as well. So that way, they see that, hey, these guys know what they’re doing. They’re not all about the glory, they’re about giving the right type of advice. And professionally, they look good by making that referral across to you as well. Hmm.

Ben Nash
I love that. I think it makes sense. And it particularly if obviously, you do your due diligence beforehand, but for any good advice, advice business, it’s like those accounting referrals, like you need that as a solution anyway, it’s hard to find good accounting practices that will look after your clients and I don’t think our clients really have massively high expectations of accounting because we’ve got a lot of good players in particularly in the individual PAYG type space as well. So I like it, as opposed to just that cold email and trying to drum something out that way. You get some runs on the board and, and go from there.

Ian Byrne
It’s also been it’s also about making sure the accounting firms that you want as referral partners or centers of influence or basically just professional partners. They aligned with the types of clients that you’re chasing, or your ideal clients but also From the perspective of having the same ethics and culture fit, and all the rest of it, we tend to find like the guys who do well in that High Net Worth area. Yeah, have great reputation can be very serious can work very hard. But by the same token, know how to enjoy themselves and relax and actually have humor. That’s the group that we love working with.

Ben Nash
Yeah, I like it. Because it’s, that’s the other thing that we’ve really struggled with that you get referred then clients in that don’t fit the mold. And you sort of feel like because they’ve come from a relationship with, with a partner that you that you want to do make sure that that person is really happy so that the referral partner is happy. But it sometimes ends up being non commercial, which which can be an issue, how have you gone about ensuring that you, you do get a good amount of sort of lead flow back from the partners once you do establish that relationship.

Ian Byrne
So we run a few things with their accountants, throughout the year, probably the main one that we do is like a education seminar where we host, their expense will either run the sessions, or we’ll actually get in very qualified speakers, you know, from estate planning lawyers or taxation specialists, and essentially, put them in an environment where we’re adding value to, to them having the bums off their office seat, because, again, you got to bear in mind, these guys charge in six minute increments mostly. So if you’re trying to take the partners out of a counting firm, plus, potentially some of their better professional staff, they can’t help but add up the costs of that. So you’ve always got to be conscious of adding value back the other way. Make sure that you throw on, you know, morning tea or afternoon tea or something after it’s a you can do the meet and greet and the talk and all the rest of it. But again, it does also help if you’ve got one or two clients that you can refer reasonably quickly after that. You know, that that seminar, etc, because then they’re seen value and value and value. Yeah, and we organize lots a monthly meetings, but that’s probably a bit of a stretch, it’s probably more four meetings a year, where we sit down with the accountants in their office for about an hour, hour and a half, and run through our whip to any common clients that we may have. Run through where we’re at with them. But also, importantly, even if we don’t have any common clients at that point in time, because it’s new relationship, talk about very topical aspects that are common across both our professions. And again, once the goal is start saying, hey, this guy’s not an idiot. He knows what he’s talking about his speaking the language I talk, he can relax enough and have a bit of a joke without being an fool. You know, it’s amazing, the guards start coming down there. And once you crack that nut, and you can get a few of these people in the same room at the same time to make it’s amazing the kudos that you actually get from that cross pollination.

Ben Nash
And so do you just set the expectations at the front end of the relationship that you will be doing those those four meetings a year? Is that Is that how Yeah,

Ian Byrne
yeah, definitely look at it. Because one of the things we’re very focused on is, it’s a professional relationship. Yeah. Even though as as time goes on, normally, you develop a friendship. So you might have thrown some social activities. But from the very start, it’s important to show that, you know, without slander and a&p But you’re not just an old a&p age and to make some commitment, because that’s the impression a lot of people still unfortunately have about financial planners. Yes, the accountants are very particular about having that white picket fence around their clients. So they’re very careful about who they open the gate to. And if you can prove that you’re very professional, you’re very upfront, it totally transparent. The advice that to give is actually purely benefit for the client. Obviously commercial, then that gate starts opening wider and wider. I must say to bid like yourself, we still get clients who are referred through who aren’t our ideal client. But we’ve mastered the art of having a great conversation initially with those clients, so we’ll always get them into me. Have a great Conversation provide some general information. If they’re not our ideal client, we’re more than happy to make on referral to another financial planning firm that we think they’ll be better serviced to We’ve very, very particular and very, very specific about who we take on, and where we can add value.

Ben Nash
Yeah, and I think you have to be these days if you want to have a commercial business for sure. So that makes a lot of sense. And what some what have been the biggest shifts for you as an advisor and with what you’re doing in business?

Ian Byrne
Geez, tell you what, what hasn’t been a big shift? Yeah, apart from all the stuff that everyone’s had to face over the last, well, really ever since DFC in regards to the changes in our profession, or industry making us towards a profession, I’d have to say, look, just immediately pre COVID and post COVID, we’ve probably done the most defining and focusing of our business that we’ve ever done. And the great catalyst was when we merged the cans and tangible offices into one primary business because it made both Brad and I sit down and go coke. Where should we be focusing our energy? Where can we add the most value? And ultimately, where are we going to become most profitable and most successful in so over the last three years, we’ve literally changed our financial planning software changed our investment platform added on the MDA service where we’re very active in that area. More recently, we’ve included an SMA service for our direct Australian equity exposure for clients portfolios. Totally transitioned out our reasonably some central risk book, because that’s an area that we decided we we weren’t able to service adequately any more. So we literally pass that out to another planning firm for free, didn’t actually try to sell it just pass it out to make sure those clients were looked after properly. Switched offices. So we designed the new office had it all built, relocated. And the the interesting part, all of that was, I suppose it really brought to the fore most of our mind how important good quality staff are. Because we’re gonna have great plains in the world. But if we’re trying to do all these changes, the farm what we’re doing better focus on our clients better do all those technological and physical changes. But on top of that, also try to service and maintain our current clients plus onboard new clients. Geez, you know, we couldn’t have done it with the without having a maintenance staff.

Ben Nash
And that I think it’s something that I’ve been focused a lot on over the last while since getting after the initial shock of COVID, where our team, our business, my business grew from a micro business to a not so micro business. And I realized how important that piece is, as a business grows. What have been the biggest learnings for you there? And what do you think is really important when it comes to setting your staff up for success?

Ian Byrne
Yeah, yep. So I suppose we’ve always had an open door policy in regards to our staff, and how we treat our staff, which is very easy to say. Because most people, I suppose say that until they decide they want to close the door. But realistically, we empower our staff to look at things think through the problem, and actually come up with the solution before they even present problem to us in the first place. Because if 99% of the heavy lifting is done, and it may not be the solution that we actually implement, but it may it’s already started down the right pathway of how to approach it or think about it. So that’s one of the biggest aspects. The other aspect, I suppose, too, is you have been in the profession for a fair period of time. And for as much as I have learned through my university studies and the never ending ongoing continuous education requirements that we have. It’s also fair to say that I’ve probably learned twice as much from me Working with great clients and dealing with great professionals, it’s really been a privilege for me to watch good people, live good lives, make good decisions, raise good families, and do it in an all in such an effortless, smart, sensible way. That realistically, yeah, it’s really an honor for us to be able to watch these people live their lives in front of our eyes.

Ben Nash
For us, I’ve been lucky to work with a few quite successful business owners. And I found that some of the learnings that I’ve picked up from them have given me like better tips and all the coaches and work that we’ve done in the reading internally as well, because I think like sort of what we were talking about at the start that when you’ve got someone that’s done it before, and learned those lessons that you can sort of pick up a few things that can stop you from having to avoid some of the mistakes on your own.

Ian Byrne
Yeah, and look, our profession. We’ve always got to guard against the inherent arrogance that we can allow to build up within us a bit like the teaching profession. And hopefully, if you have any teachers as a health business, they don’t tend to talk or listen, they’re so used to being in front of the class and instructing or teaching that that becomes ingrained. And because as advisors, we tend to have the answers for the clients. So you’ve really got to train yourself to actually look at the clients in a different way to find out what you can actually learn from them. And when you think about that, how amazing if you’re dealing with successful clients, and successful professionals, accountants and legal advisors, that’s like someone’s open the playbook in front of you and said, Here’s the roadmap. Yeah. How foolish would you be not to be studying that in depth? Yeah,

Ben Nash
absolutely. It makes a lot of sense. I hope my mom isn’t listening because she’s a teacher for 30 years. I could have painted as

Ian Byrne
well. But sorry, Mrs. Mash.

Ben Nash
Mate, what I’m what’s coming up for you guys. What are you focused on today?

Ian Byrne
Today, Oh, geez. We’ve got a couple of couple of big family groups to where we specialize in. Hot ultra high net worth and high net worth family succession. So we’ve got a couple of family groups on the guy who are just amazing people, just wonderful to work with. We’re into intergenerational planning, where the pointy ends now where we’re trying to get a feel or pieces in a play. But also getting obviously, the holly benediction from the accounting firm that we’re we’re closely involved with in regards to some of our strategies. But by the same token, also having the the Estate Planning Specialists who’s popping around tomorrow morning to essentially give us the the go ahead from their perspective, as well.

Ben Nash
Nice and how did you end up in that space?

Ian Byrne
By design, I suppose and by default, to give back to the accounting referral, look, I can’t highlight how important that can be for business. But also the whole ongoing education perspective, in regards to just making sure that you just constantly try to broaden your knowledge as far as possible. It’s easy for us to get caught up in our own world. But if you can learn as much as you can, and I see you’ve got a commerce degree yourself, if you can, try to learn as much as he can, behind the scenes of how the accountants think and how the the state planners think. Then you can sit quite comfortably at the same table as them and speak their language and technical terms and terms that they’re comfortable with. So then, when the big cases or the big clients have issues, they’ve got zero hesitation, Sam across to you. So I suppose it’s a bit bit by design over the years of chiseling away and framing who our ideal clients are, but actually then putting, putting putting proofed it all by shot By the accountants that we can deal with the clients as they send them through.

Ben Nash
And so those clients are primarily coming from the the accounting partners and the centers of influence that you you’ve posted.

Ian Byrne
Yeah, so we don’t do any advertising at all. Literally, we’re 100% referral word of mouth, from existing clients, so existing clients who you associate with, like, with, like, have no hesitation sending friends and family across to us. And I must say, one of the things that we stayed at the outset, when we’re dealing with the high net worth and ultra high net worth groups, is, we fully expect that we won’t just deal with mum and dad, that we’ll be dealing with the adult children, and most likely the grandchildren as they become adults too. And the way we find that is, you know, you don’t go to a to a food court and try to get a Japanese cooked cookie or French cuisine. With an American hamburger on the side, you’ve got a really an overall view of where the family is, and if you’re gonna make sensible strategic decisions, on not only how the wealth is going to pass down, but what the legacy is that you will, the parents themselves, the primary clients want to pass down to the family.

Ben Nash
That also makes a lot of sense, and obviously good for business, if you picking up multiple generations of the clients as well.

Ian Byrne
Yeah, yeah. And look, what a question we ask the primary clients that I suppose most planners don’t ask his aside from the facts and figures, you know, what’s your story? Like? How did you become successful? Tell me your story. Yeah, I’m interested to learn how they met, how they made their money, you know, did they inherited, they make a brilliant business and sell it at a period of time? Did they do it in property, you know, they do direct shares, etc. But then keep digging, and digging and digging, and just ask the questions about them. And from there, the rest of it very much flows out, because they realize they actually taken a personal interest in themselves. And so when we then state look, ultimately, we will become the planning firm, not only for yourselves, but for your children. Because it just logically makes sense for all these plans that you have in place for them, to make sure that it plays out the way you want it to. We have zero resistance. And then we normally organize a family meeting, where the primary clients and the immediate family members, so no, in laws or outlaws, whatever you want to call them, are allowed to come. It’s just for them. And this isn’t only down the track a fair bit, once mum and dad have decided, hey, this is a process. And this is a path. And these are our desires. And again, even a couple of families where we’ve had maybe a little bit of strained relationship with, say, the parents and one child etc. We’ve tended to find by having it all on the table and all rationally explained, and also working out what how and when. Again, we haven’t had any major issues, when it’s ultimately come time for it all to play out. And normally, that’s when Dad or Mum and Dad have both passed away. So it’s a very, it’s a very sensible, logical way of actually easing that into the intergenerational succession of wealth and legacy across the next generation. And then next generation again.

Ben Nash
Well, I think that that that deep care of the individual and then tying it back to what their what their real aspirations are for the family makes a lot of sense, because the the experience that I’ve had working with people at that level is that it is it’s about much more than the money because they’ve got more than enough money. So it’s like, what else sits around that? And I think if you’re if you’re only talking about how to get the best investment return, or how to be the sharpest on fees to look after things, then you’re probably missing a pretty significant part of what’s actually important there as well. Yeah, and my last question for you is, if you could go back and to one thing differently, what would it be?

Ian Byrne
Look, if I was given advice to the younger Ian Byrne, it would literally be to back yourself earlier. You know, to really suppose when he young and you’re you’re trying to achieve things in your life You’re relatively clueless, you tend to join up with groups or you tend to try to go down paths that, like you said before, in regards to, you know, the the commission versus actually paying for a statement of advice, you tend to go down paths that wrong turns. Definitely, when I first left the accounting firm and joined another organization where, yeah, the midst of the GFC, the two business partners I was with at the time, were talking about buying new Mercedes, and we just literally said that the staff there are no pay rises, I look back at aspects like that and go, Yep, the good learning experiences, but realistically, he’s probably wasted a good three years of my life where I could have actually gotten on the road by myself earlier, if I just back myself a bit earlier. So yeah, that’s that’s the aspect of suppose that if you’re a young financial planners starting out, really have a focus on what it is you want to be doing, who you want to be doing it with? And ultimately, how you gonna do it. And if you can do that, and if you can formulate your strategy well enough around that, then just back yourself and go for it. Because in this current environment we’re facing with huge demand and for our services. Yeah, literally, you’d have to be a pretty bad planner, if you’re if you’re not doing okay at this point in time.

Ben Nash
It’s amazing how many times that one’s come up when I asked that question to people on the podcast that yeah, they they, most people don’t regret the learnings that they’ve gone through because it helps them get to where they are, but going sooner on some of the things in backing itself is a common theme. So probably a lesson there for anyone listening in. Make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s, but then go for it.

Ian Byrne
Yeah, yeah. And look like I say to my my own children, you know, sometimes the most expensive mistakes are actually the most valuable lessons in that he turned a negative into a positive. So I don’t regret aspects like that. But by the same token, these would be nice. If if someone just patted you on the back and said, Come on Sunday, you can do it if you go.

Ben Nash
Yeah, I have a few have a few more dollars in the bank account most of the time as well.

Ian Byrne
Yeah, that’s true.

Ben Nash
Ama thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s awesome to watch you keeping those goals and I look forward to rubbing shoulders with you down at the IFA awards in a couple of months.

Ian Byrne
Yeah, definitely made. Hopefully we’ll both be up on the podium at various times. And we can we can raise the champagne glass.

Ben Nash
That’s on me. Well, I very much look forward to that, mate. Yeah, I’ll see you there and team we will catch you on the next one. Excellent.

Ian Byrne
Cheers.

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