November 8, 2022

#358 Vanessa Stoykov – Transcript

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Ben Nash
Hey guys, Ben Nash from the XY advisor team. And today I’m here with Vanessa Stoykov. Vanessa is a money educator, and CEO at evolution media. She’s also an author and just released her second book, which I’m keen to chat about, which is called the Five conversations about money that will radically change your life. Vanessa, thanks for joining us.

Vanessa Stoykov
Thanks for having me.

Ben Nash
Look, I thought we’d start with the book, seeing as it’s just come out. What’s it about? What led you to to write it? And I suppose as advisors, we’re all interested in these important money conversations so keen to learn?

Vanessa Stoykov
Sure, yeah. Well, I’ve been encouraging people to have money conversations for a long time. Now I’ve run evolution Media Group for 23 years, so and I found myself telling the public through media that I’m a money educator, and people go, Oh, does that mean, you’re a financial adviser, I’m like, not at all. What I can educate you on is how to talk about money, how to understand what people who are in the money industry are talking about, and how to educate yourself. So you can empower yourself to connect with the financial advice and the investment in superannuation industries. So you know, when I go to write a consumer book that’s outside my b2b realm, because I have worked in advisor land, I guess, in a media perspective, for a long time, I found an MP education and then sold that business. So I guess when I wanted to write a consumer book, I wanted to do something that would get people opening a dialogue and lose the taboos of talking about money, because the world’s shifted so much, that everyone needs to what I call get real and just be authentic about their money situation, because there’s going to be people who you can learn from, there’s going to be people who can point you in the right direction. And I think the more the dialog opens between people, so my book is the five conversations about money to radically change your life. And it’s published by mango, which is an international publisher. So it’s published globally, it’s not out in the UK until the first of November in America. It’s out it’s released, and places like Walmart have picked it up. So it’s not a small initiative, I wanted to do something global and have a global conversation about the five conversations in the book, the conversation about money with yourself, where are you at? Are you happy? What’s going on in your life? What are you disappointed about? You know, what are you sick of what do you want to change, and then talking to people about identifying their own financial Flashpoint. So that’s something that I’ve coined, I did a lot of work with a very smart firm in the education space called the ID crowd, and they were recently bought by Deloitte. So and there, I did a piece of work last year on what is my learning style, because I needed to understand and framework where I fitted into the landscape, compared to financial advisors. And compared to money experts alike and compared to people in the media, like an F is our horse or an a cold person McKinnon. Like, there’s so many amazing people that, you know, the public can learn from what, what seat at the table do I hold? And really, the one I old has always been I started as a journalist, and I’m a storyteller. So me telling stories for people and getting them to understand their own money story is where I add best value. And so, you know, where do you come from? How’d you grow up? What’s holding you back? Now? Like, what do you want to do that you’re not? How do you change? You know, there’s a sort of a seven year cycle isn’t there where you meet, or you have kids or you don’t, and you have your career, and then you’re not and I’m heading towards 50 Now next year, so you’re everything changes for you again, so urging people to say, what’s going on with you? What’s the relationship with money? What’s these flash points that I was talking about, that I worked on with a learning agency because flash points, financial flash points in your life are times where things go to shit, things happen differently, something happens or COVID pandemic happens, whatever it is, shit happens, as they say on Forrest Gump.

What do you do? What decisions do you make that affect your financial outcomes? Because most people make decisions based on emotion and then 10 years down the track realize shit, I never should have sold that house then or I should have bought something different in the divorce or I should have given my kids that money and they would have had that business or whatever it is hindsight. It’s a beautiful thing. Whereas I’m trying to teach people to identify when they’re in a financial Flashpoint. In that first conversation, what’s the flash point? And what are the things you can do now to make decisions that are also going to be good financially in 10 years? So is that talk to an advisor and chapter five? I have of the five conversations is connect with your advisor. So this community of people, not just in Australia, but around the world. I’ve always believed financial advisors are the frontline to education, not not teachers when it comes to financial literacy. And I know that’s controversial. But until the school system changes, I honestly believe that advisors have this really big role in actually helping people understand how to make strategic financial decisions. And, you know, like, I believe that with all my heart, but I need people to think that they want that and need that. And so activating them through this story and through this call to action, is what I’m doing with the book. But I’m also putting stories in it. So I recently released my first five part series, that’s a podcast, and it’s called the Vanessa story Cove podcast original I know. But it’s called series one, The Breakfast Club. So the first book I wrote was about five fictional characters who go to their school reunion, they smoke a joint, they drink tequila, and it comes out that mostly their lives are short, and a lot of it’s to do with money. So it’s a fictional story, but one of the gang is a financial planner. And I know many of your audience would have read that, because I’ve had so many people come and say to me, thanks. It’s the first book I’ve ever read, where there’s a financial planner as a hero. And the only other thing in the media they’ve got to compare it to is either x, y, y, I also extend a little bit of this book. But you know, the fact is, you can write into a storyline help people give sage financial insight, and people go, Wow, like, I never thought of that. And they’re all smart people in their own way. They just didn’t think like, so I call my financial advisor in that, Ben, ironically, there you go. And Ben has extreme emotional intelligence, which is his superpower. So anyway, the book is called The Breakfast Club for 40 Somethings. And the podcast is series, one of the Breakfast Club. So I have got this team together with this guy. Darren Lake, who’s an aria award winning very cool producer, like I love working with creatives that are just cool. And they helped me do a scripted narrative with voice actors and everything in this podcast. So it’s actually the characters from my book bought to life. And then I explore each other’s this advisor talked about, and then I get a person from financial services or CEO, one of my friends to sit and chat about that character. So one of the characters obviously, is Roxy, that, you know, you’re you’re chairman and all round, good guy. And he talks about Jasper and he’s like, why did you give me Jess because Jess was the loser that lives with his mom and sponges off everyone for beers. And everybody loves Jasper in actual fact, he’s the most lovable character in the book. But that’s a freebie. I would love advisors to listen to it and to tell their clients about it simply because I paid for it myself. And there’s no advertising on it. Because I wanted to do it. I wanted to give another dimension to these characters. So people could understand the concept of strategic financial advice and the concept of financial flashpoints, and how other people have grappled with it. And for years, I’ve tried to get around. I mean, I used to have a financial services license, when I own no more practice, and that cost me a bloody fortune. I’ve always own my own business. You know, I paid all those costs, I was so happy to get rid of that license. So, you know, I’ve had to find ways as you guys, you know, live by that law, I’ve had to find ways to tell stories that don’t contravene compliance or laws. So fictional characters have been really powerful for me because you cannot be blind for giving fictional characters fictional advice that they may, you may or may listen to or not, you know, it’s the perfect storm because finding case studies in our industry and media is hard, because who wants to go on camera and talk about the financial situation? It’s hard to make people do that. It’s actually really quite hard.

Ben Nash
Yeah, absolutely. We’ve done a few clients stories with our clients in my financial planning, business people wealth, and it’s, yeah, it’s a fine line to tread because people generally like, Okay, well, not all people, but some people are okay to talk about it, but no one really wants to talk about the specifics. So it does, it does make it challenging, but that look, there’s a lot there. I think that from what you said that it’s I’ve found that there are more people talking about money more I think, actually, Barefoot Investor, I think has opened up a lot of conversations around money with it being so pervasive across the, across the, the Australian Consumer sort of landscape and got a lot of people Thinking about their money and understanding that some things are possible. It’s great to see people talking more, I think we do still have a long way to go. But I also think that the emotional part of of monies is so big and so powerful and often sits below the surface that you see people that they, they, there might be smart cookies and pretty logical, rational people. But when it comes to money, they do irrational things. And I would wholeheartedly agree with what you said there about advisers being the right educators, because it’s not just about the theory, it’s not just about the rules, or the economics or the you know, the financial markets. It’s about balancing that, that emotion that we’re just talking about, against the financial impacts of the different pathways in front of people. The emotions are important, the numbers are important, but what’s really important is finding the right balance between the two. And I think the advisors role is really to play both sides of that with with our clients to help them understand the emotions when they it’s not sometimes subconscious, then understand the numbers and find that balance. But I think that the emotional side is something that we probably need to talk about more because as an advisor, you sort of get a sense of it with your clients. But it’s also not something they don’t teach you that when you do your RG 146. Or you go for your accreditation, and it is starting to creep into a little bit more PD, but it really largely is ignored. So I think the more tools that we can have there, it’s just going to help us have better conversations and have more of an impact with with our clients. What’s talking talking about content, though, and getting people to engage obviously, your business as you said, You’ve been at it for a couple of a bit over a couple of decades? What some, what are some of the big lessons that you’ve learned about creating content that gets people to actually engage with their money?

Vanessa Stoykov
That’s a great question. And I’m still learning. And I’m experimenting with all types of medium. You know, when I do a book, I’ll do a global now when I do a podcast, it’ll be across every platform. And it’ll be something that’s not like every other podcast because I’ve stand apart in how I craft content. So for me, what I’ve learned is that it’s one thing to curate good content. And I think a lot of the time as an advisor, your job is to curate good content, because your job is not really to be content creators the way it is for someone like us who’s a medium business. And you know, I think it’s what I’ve always tried to do is create things that advisors could put their own sorry, that’s someone else trying to give me advisors could put their own brand and their own ethics across like books and things that advisors could go have a think about this as a third person, you know, as someone else to give perspective before they come back and ask those questions. So I feel like with storytelling, what I’ve learned is to craft things and to make them interesting, make them beautiful, make them I’d say engaging. Everyone says engaging. And it doesn’t mean I mean, I’ve got financial advisors writing romance stories for me, for example, Shane Sandler, and she’s now getting, you know, people doing podcasts about her about her romance stories, because they’re learning science based ones around a theory that here’s how it’s proven that behavior. And now, let’s write a romance story around it. I’ve had animators who are 75 doing me Aesop fables in animation, like my website has a whole bunch of different style of storytelling, you can go and have a look in my blog, and in the videos section. And more and more, I’ve learned that it’s a craft storytelling is a craft and advisors need to learn their own story. And they need to tell it beautifully. And that’s something I’d say we could really do a lot of work on. I’d love to see advisors working more on what is their own story, what do they stand for, and building their own brand in that sense. But as far as creating original content to engage people, like try and outsource as much as you can, is what I’d say to advisors with something that you respect and love in curation more than just doing it all yourself, because content is a big beast, and it’s a hungry beast, and you would know from doing this. It’s a labor intensive, time consuming beast.

Ben Nash
Absolutely, yeah. I know from the work of x, y, and in my financial advice business, I’m sort of the head of head of content as well and it is all consuming and there’s there’s so far that you can take it interested though, to pick up on what you mentioned there about the advisor story. Where do you see that? Like, why is that important? And and how and where should that be used by advisors?

Vanessa Stoykov
Well, I think it’s a process of self assessment to say, what are my brand values? And what are your brand values, for example, my brand values are authentic authenticity and getting real. So just cut to the chase. That’s one of my brand values. Another one, which I thought was amusing that my brand experts came up with, for me was appropriately inappropriate. And I work that somehow and instilled in there, but I liked the way you’re thinking. So what I want people to do, and I don’t think you can do it yourself, I would suggest advisors go and spend some money on someone who understands brand to help them define their brand attributes. And they come out of understanding your core values, you know, and sometimes that sounds such a glib thing to say, but it’s me a lot of years, and I worked with a guy called Glen Campbell from Braveheart. And if people wanted to look him up, it’s a process you go through. And it’s not inexpensive. It’s over five, it might be five grand or something. But at the end of that he sort of comes up with what is your essence as a person, as a professional as your purpose and mine ended up being a storyteller and when I came to that, and you go to breakfast with him, and you do stuff, and there’s a journal like it’s actually a process, and you paid for it, so I paid attention, but it seemed very simple to come back until Vanessa story called she’s a storyteller when I’d studied journalism at uni was what but it was for me quite profound because I had grown a business I was a leader of staff I was, you know, a whole bunch of things stressed about cash flow always all the things in a business that you know, made me not want to run one for a while there. But also remember what what, to be brutally honest. But what lights me up and it’s telling the stories I am an I am a storyteller. I was the kid with the torch under the dooner in Canada I growing up reading after hours, like I was the one lying in front of the fire. My parents bought Encyclopedia Britannica. And with that you got all these big, beautiful hardcover books because someone sold encyclopedias to them door to door and that inspired me and all the storytelling books had all the fairy tales in them the Grimm Brothers and Aesop. And yeah, I grew up reading those books and just being in heaven and loving being in that world. So it’s an interesting thing, because I’ve gone down the Ribeiro now, I’m falling in love with that telling you how much I love it again. But, you know, you’ve got to love your own story and your own purpose. And if you’re an advisor, and you’re helping people financially, what drove you to do that? Like, where do you come from? What What are your views on money? What what do you is financial contentment, like I think advice never led on enough about their own life, because everyone expects advisors to be really rich, because it’s like going to a hairdresser with a shit haircut. You’re like, No, thanks. So what a reality is, like, advisors, building small businesses. So I think it’s okay to tell people how you do things. If you’re young, I’ve met lots of pretty switched on cool young advisors in the shows I’ve done. And then, you know, I’d take financial advice for them, but my business would make more than theirs. But that’s not what I judge in on, you know what I mean?

Ben Nash
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And so practically for you, what changed after after going through that brand exercise and coming to the conclusion that the big part of that was the storytelling, what impact did that then have on, on the content work that you were doing all the work that you were doing in your business?

Vanessa Stoykov
Well, it made me make a decision to sell the bigger business I had called NMP education, which I started as noble practice, and I sold that business in 2018, to one view. And so I commercialized an idea and I got a payout. I got 1.6 million in cash for that deal. And I mean, it could have been a lot more, but unfortunately, I mean, if you Google one view, my advisers will know like, Sargon. stiffed them, there were a deal went down, things happen and you know, every landscape changes on deals. And that’s something I’ve learned in my time as a small business owner, really, on you know, and I would say to advisors, be ambitious and think about yourself as a small business owner and how far you can go and having a brand profile that people respect and hear your opinion and know what you stand for is valuable. It’s a valuable asset to your business. So in some way, I’ve known my whole life, but my business for 23 years has been evolution Media Group, but it’s only me stepping out in the last few years from behind my business to become the brand Vanessa StoryCorps. Where my books connect where I can do things that I am an individual, not just a business. And so that’s something you might cite as an advisor. That’s where I want to get in my business one day where I’m the mouthpiece for it, and all the brilliant team under me that love working for me, I can make this advice process work. So I don’t know, I think actually, it’s a bloody brilliant time to be a financial advisor.

Ben Nash
Yep, I would tend to agree with you there. And I know that you’ve done a bit of content recently about the declining advisor numbers. And I think that that coupled with the the increased awareness of money, the increase in quality overall across the industry, leading more people to get more advice is meaning that it really is a purple patch for for the good advisors that have good models out there. And I think that that good model is all important. When we were chatting just offline, you mentioned that you’ve got this new project that you work on wicked problems, visionary investors, and you were just recently talking about those declining advisor numbers and how with 16,000 advisors were supposed to look after and cater to the needs of all the people that want need and would benefit from financial advice. What were the key learnings for you from that?

Vanessa Stoykov
Hmm, that was super interesting, actually. So that concept, that program is a new initiative, I’ve got up with Osbornes who are Australia’s only live streaming channel for markets. And a lot of advisors were already know I was busy and David Koch owns a piece of that it was started by Carly Merritt, who’s, you know, ran Sky News for a long time very well respected sort of news journalist. And the concept being that there’s all these wicked problems the world needs solving, like sustainability advisors, access to them, all sorts of things, but and there are industries like Investment Industry deploying capital to do that, and superannuation. How are we doing it? And where are we at and how can we progress this we could problems so that we can give people you know, Lex next level information on where we’re at with it. So, the first one, we invited Sarah Wooten from the FPA who’s incredibly impressive, I have to say, I’ve known a lot of people in my 27 years in the industry running industry bodies and she’s one of the best I’ve seen. She’s a philosophy student at heart I think which makes her super interesting and also a servant leader, which is something our industry needs and she’s very conscious of being a servant leader and I really think that’s going to be successful for our industry. So she was interesting to have on and we also midwinter bravura supported it so I had to go out and find partnerships to make the show work and bravura did, in helping advisors augment digital advice in their practices. So we talked a lot about the quality of advice review, and then the fact that, you know, now the sort of permission given for advisors to go forth and implement solutions that perhaps before may have been huge compliance issues, but it’s still who’s gonna need and how they do it. So it was a really practical discussion around where advisors should start thinking about that how we can inspect is span the reach of the existing 16,000 advisors we’ve got, because growing them, scratch takes a long time, you cannot grow a financial planner quickly. I mean, the FDA is doing a lot to get more into the profession. And I think there’s other players doing that. And you guys would know that way better than me. But you know, it is kind of going to be a cool profession in the future. I think now, financial planning, but

Unknown Speaker
wasn’t already cool. What do you mean?

Vanessa Stoykov
It’s been cool forever, dude, but now many people are listening to me. Oh, I’m trying. But I didn’t know. There’s an opportunity for digital to work. And then. So the partner to digital is content. And hence, you know, my interest in that we could problem being solved that way that’s coming out on those bees on Thursday, episode one of that, and I’ll get the team to send you the details. We’d love advisors to watch it. It’s free to watch. I think you just have to register on us because and advisor ratings are involved too. So it’s really good. Like, it’s for the advice community and it will help advisors talk about the next one was sustainability with Schroeder’s and the one after we’re filming this week is on protectionism. And are we really a global investment community anymore with everything that’s going down now? It’s a really interesting topic, right? Because, you know, yeah, I mean, there’s so much and that’s with Amanda Gillespie, who runs perpetual and she’s brilliant. And I’ve had her she was one of the judges on the investment series. So she’s been doing projects with me for a while. on time. And so there’s a lot of good stuff coming out that I’d love advisors to watch, I would ask advisors, tap your wallets, my friends, please buy 10 of my books at least, and give them to potential clients and see what happens. And if it works, come to me and say v you are right now I’m going to buy 100. But please use my stuff as marketing materials for yourselves, because what I’m doing is writing you into a storyline that people will understand the value you bring.

Ben Nash
I think that the point on, you mentioned earlier about being content curators, there’s so much great stuff out there, at the moment that it can be a path that’s just as effective as creating your own content, but with significantly less time. So I think, understanding that I know, and you would very well know this as well that in business like you can only do so much and the right move at the wrong time is still the wrong move. So I think there’s there’s probably this perception out there that you have to be able to nail it all and nail it yourself. But sometimes leaning on other people and the great work that they’re doing, as I say can be just as effective without the timing input. Vanessa

Vanessa Stoykov
Nash, I also love that you’re encouraging advisors to collaborate. And what you’re doing with this community is super impressive. So congratulations from when I was on this podcast. Whenever that was my gosh, way back. My kids were little then. And it was the first one on video and my head was like a big planet, it was so embarrassing. But I’ve just impressed with how far you’ve come. So congratulations.

Ben Nash
Well, I think the as we were just talking about with the the number of advice consumers out there, and the number of advisors like this, there’s plenty of clients out there. And I think that the My experience is that clients resonate with sometimes the same thing being said in different ways or, or different values of advisors as well. So I know that there are clients out there that are great financial advice, clients that wouldn’t gel with my model or the model that we run in our business. And that’s fine for them. I don’t want them to not get advice just because they don’t want to get it from me. And I think a lot of advisors are the same. I know that in our content work there. I’ve done a bunch of partnerships with other advisors and finance professionals, because I know at the end of the day that someone might connect with the way that I say something or the some another advisor just as well. And it’s not like we need to be greedy. It’s just about getting the message of of good advice out there. Vanessa, I’m keen as someone that’s been in content for such a long time, as much as he talked about the fact that you know, that curation piece is something that’s definitely worth people, considering for people that are creating their own content. What do you see is the big no no’s, what doesn’t work from a content perspective,

Vanessa Stoykov
a lot of detail, a lot of words on a page, break it up with a picture or pullquote a lot of talking at. So a lot of not taking the cues in a presentation even to tell a story of if people are bored or looking at their watch, or you know, look in people’s eyes, as you’re telling your story, you’ll see if it’s working or not. It’s awkward to do. But you’ve got to read the room, read the room as a storyteller. And if the story ain’t working, move on. Because you’ll lose people. So that’s a really good tip. I do that whenever I go anywhere, or I’m presenting on stage or I’m just talking to people in a room. And I guess that’s part of my skill set, right, because I’m a communications expert. I’ve always looking at that. But I saw this really cool video my husband pulled on your Facebook or something crappy, but it was how to train, how to look at situation and analysis of people in bars because we’ve got three sons who were all like 1917 and 13. Older now, when people find the aggressive or how to spot someone who’s gonna be explosive, and how to either get out of the way or defend yourself because you know, you will have the fear of your son getting king hit or whatever, out there when they’re young. And like it was really good because it showed it showed body language like watch, watch them who’s waving their arms, who’s invading other people’s space. And it asked all these things and it was real video footage from guys who ended up getting in fights and stuff so and I thought how cool like advisors should think about that too. Like because there’s so many cues like the husband and wife arguing or the, you know, like you’ve pick up on emotional cues and storytelling cues and like how do you read the room like that? It’s a really important skill. Just be conscious of it, I think be conscious of it and you’ll become a better storyteller yourself.

Ben Nash
I think that works in Read formats, but it works just as well as in one on one meetings or you know, where you where you’re working directly with a couple as well, I think you, if you’ve got someone that’s not engaged, it might be something that’s unsaid or something going on. And that’s just going to take away from the advice process and the advice experience, I think that’s definitely some sage advice there. Vanessa, my last question for you is, if you could go wind the clock back and go back to you know, day one of you going out into this content space in your business and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Vanessa Stoykov
I got asked five of them. And I came up with some really good ones for this article in America for this morning. But one that I stuck with that I think advisors will appreciate is it’s not a deal till it’s in writing. And until the signatures done, so if I’d have done that, again, in my time, I would put things in writing earlier with people rather than leave them to be shades of gray. Even anything, a collaboration anything like yeah, I guess just being clear, I guess that’s clear communication, but in writing in a way that professionals can understand and go, Yep, I understand my commitment.

Ben Nash
I like it. And so for people that that are keen to learn more about, you know, what you’re about, or some of the bits of content that you put out over the last little while, where should they go? What’s the best place for them to learn more?

Vanessa Stoykov
Yeah, well, I’m all over the place. I’m on social on LinkedIn evolution media’s got a page. So you’ll see sort of projects coming out of the firm there, what content we’re working on. And then I’m there Vanessa is on LinkedIn, you can link in with me or Insta, I’m on a bit, but that will sort of more social. And I’ve got a website, Vanessa story called.com That shows a lot of my personal projects and speaking and how I’m working. And then there’s an evolution Media website, again, for content projects. So don’t say you can’t find me because by God, I’m a lot of places.

Ben Nash
I love it. Vanessa, thank you so much for taking the time. Really appreciate it. Good luck with your book launch. It’s great to see that coming into the world. And yeah, thanks again.

Vanessa Stoykov
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

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