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#13 Marc Sydow – Transcript

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SUMMARY KEYWORDS

clients, work, planning, financial planners, conversations, people, financial planning, money, bank, industry, numbers, point, mark, investment, assets, asset manager, earn, leads, return, product

SPEAKERS

Marc Sydow, Louis van der Merwe

 

Louis van der Merwe 

Welcome to another episode of financial planners, South Africa. Today I have Mark signed out with me. Mark is based in seapoint in Cape Town after his move to Cape Town, he is a lifestyle financial planner with a really exciting history. He is vocal about pricing structures and super active on LinkedIn. Mark, lovely to have you here today.

 

Marc Sydow 

Thanks, Louis. It’s a pleasure to be on your show. Congrats on what you’re doing. I think it’s a much needed in our in South Africa and especially. Yeah, and it’s like it’s every Saturday.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

Yeah, thanks for being here. So Mark, I mean, you you’re super vocal on the pricing structures of financial planners and you know, delivering more value. But before we get there, give us a little bit of a background of how you got into the industry. What were those first steps that you took?

 

Marc Sydow 

I think I always kind of tell the story. And I think a lot of people can resonate with how we get into this industry. Our was asked advice T and my dad was kind of like what are you doing with your life where you going? I was working as a rental agent, you know, making easy money. And he was like, No, you got to go see my friend. So I went to go see this guy and he was the head of sbsc center bank financial consultancy. And he asked me, he just asked a simple question, what do you want from life? I was 25 at the time. So I was I wanted to not pass the point of not call. And I want to pass Wow. And he was like, well, I’ve got the job for you. You got to come work as a financial planner. So I did like a month or twos training with the the FPC Academy, really just product stuff? No, no real actual training. No real financial planning, training, put it that way. Product stuff, and then after that they kind of dropped me office, extend love and said cuca be a financial planner. Which is like Okay, wow, wow. Okay. All the all the products stuff I’d learned happened to be Liberty product stuff, which didn’t help me sitting at standard, because you noticed that the last company versus a unit Trust Company or asset manager? Yeah. And that’s really, really how I started sort of the standard standard that don’t actually have a license to provide advice. If they do have a lot of this is a terrible phrase I industry has coined, often clients, that they’ve still got an obligation to look after the orphan clients, but they can’t do it. So I was sitting at standard looking after the orphan clients, walk in clients stand up at that point, tell them at a massive orphan book, another terrible word in our industry, your book. Your book of business is basically clients labs, whittled down to sums of money. But yeah, that was my job to sort of reintermediate these people and go and give them financial advice.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

For second markers. I can only imagine how difficult it is having a conversation with a client that’s essentially been neglected or haven’t received any service and now you are starting to have that conversation firstly to calm down and probably ERate client And then to essentially, you know, monetize this so that you can make a living as well. How would those early conversations with those often clients?

 

Marc Sydow 

Yeah, Louis, you, you hit the nail there. It was, everything was on the backfoot. You know, I got a phone up and say, Hey, a small component from standard. And now they’re like, stand up. We haven’t heard from you in how long? How many years? Since I’m defending, you know that, you know, I apologize. No one’s looked up to you. But but we’re still here to correct that now. So it was tough. Those conversations were hard, like, it was a tough in. But, you know, I think you get a thick skin pretty quick. And you sort of, you figure out a script, and you know what to say? And you deal with it, or I say, if it wasn’t, it wasn’t easy. Yeah, going to see, see the class, as a game plan. It was okay, I’m gonna call you, I’m going to apologize, I’m going to let you hurl abuse at me for whatever long you need to, and then I’m going to try get an appointment to come and sit with you and sort of reintermediate you, even at that stage. So looking back, you know, the re intermediation kind of speaks to what you said, like I needed to make a living out of this, I needed to earn the money. Even then I just I kind of I went for the low hanging fruit, which is, which is also terrible looking back now. But I just identified people who were, who were in, in a money market fund. And I just looked for alternatives, right? So old school financial planning, let’s go let’s do a risk profile. Mr. client, you’re sitting in money market, you’ve been here forever. This is the return on to that horrible, same question risk profile that we used to use back then. And then what I did when I was sitting at standard, is I learned, I learned all of the unit trust funds that they offered. I just went through all of the conservative, the moderately aggressive and moderately conservative and moderately aggressive. So that got, I feel like I knew quite a lot on the funds, which helped me in those conversations, because it gave me a bit of knowledge, I could speak to the different things. Not Not enough knowledge looking there. But it gave me enough, right, I could sit there and say who you’re in a money market. This is what you’re doing. You’ve been here forever, if you move to x, y and Zed Fund, the sort of the risks attached to it. And this is what what’s your return could be looking back again, not fully knowing what those risks were. Right. You know, my mind moved from a money market fund back into an Income Fund. It was a logical move low that they both get quite as low risk. until until African bank happened. Sure, if you remember that. With your I had, I’d moved a lot of clients from money markets to income funds. And then African bank happened. And a lot of people lost money or I lost money in an Income Fund, there was a 10% haircut I’ll never forget it. 10% haircut, stellar call the big meeting. And then the next day, they told us everything will be fine. And then the next day they thought pocketed 10% of the fund as well. Oh, it was terrible. absolutely terrible having to go to class and say you’ve lost 10% in an Income Fund? Should I move on money? Mark? No, no, no, it’s fine. We’ll keep a day we’ll write a doc. And then the next day they go and take I think it was actually more than 10%. But they took all the assets that were linked to African bank, and they put them in the side pocket which clients couldn’t even access. So yeah, it wasn’t, it wasn’t great having those sort of conversations. Without that that’s kind of hard dealt with it. And, you know, those are some of the negatives, but the positives Is that you, you learn a lot in that sort of environment. Like, like I said, I was forced to learn the different products that have been unit trust funds, how they work, you know, what they made up of, and you get exposure to a lot of different people, they can build your confidence, always admit that it was a great place to learn, maybe not learn all the right things, but a great place to learn.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

Yeah, I think we have to give credit to the large insurers and asset managers, it’s it’s a great training ground, I don’t think all of them have figured out how to remunerate the advisor correctly. But, you know, this is all about the evolution and to get there. And on your point around income funds. I’ve got a colleague that says your conservative client becomes a very aggressive, physically aggressive client, when these things happen, and, you know, part of being in the market is that mark, looking back on those early years and with the knowledge that you have now, what would you have done differently?

 

Marc Sydow 

So, let me tell you what I did do differently and how I sort of justified the difference right? So initially, when I started commissions with the still the norm, right, you know, you sell a 15 the 15,000 Rand recurring premium investment and you know, you’ve got two options you go to an asset Manager where you got your last company, the last company is going to pay you three and a half percent upfront on your premiums, you know, into perpetuity. It’s robbery right in the beginning. But right up front, I said, I had a couple of guys that I looked up to a center bank, who did incredibly well, financially. And I remember sitting with some of them, and they were like, you know, the move is away from commissions, the movers to a ump. So do the right thing, don’t charge don’t put them into these products. And don’t charge upfront fees rather, take a UMTS as and when commission. So that was my first sort of justification in my mind. Okay, Grayson plant, I’m going to not put you into a a endowment top product, I’ll put you into a pure Asset Management product. And so to this day, that’s my thinking is this asset managers run the money, let the insurance guys look up to the insurance product. So that was kind of what I did in terms of the move. It’s a big difference in earnings. And it was, but again, it was like, well, this is a long term play. You’re doing the right thing for the clients. No penalties. No, no, no callbacks, no arguments with clients when they need to access their money, because you’ve sold the muscle them something for your own interest. Yeah, I think one of the hardest things, when starting in our industry is how do you earn that living while trying to do the right thing? Because I think back then I wasn’t delivering, you know, the best financial planning proposition. If I look to where I am now, that like you said, that’s an evolution. But it’s just very difficult. You go in and you earn your nothing, there’s no salary, there’s no anything, you you earn a un fees, it’s like 50 grand a month. You know, and then you forget to share that with me, you work with tech tools. It’s it’s very hard that the the remuneration mechanism is probably one of the biggest problems, I think people coming into our industry.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

So Mark, if I understand you correctly, you were saying what’s the most important for the client to have access to the money and clear fee? proposition, you know, and being the technical expert, helping them guide them through their process. And then over time, that recurring income stream grew and grew and grew and meant that you could actually make a living. But the early days, it is impossible because you starting on on zero? What kind of what were the next couple of years after you doing that? Like, what does that look like?

 

Marc Sydow 

So I was at Stanford, I started in 2010. Based on standards, I’ll never forget, it was right after the Soccer World Cup. And I was at this is the best job in the world I love don’t have to apply for leave, I can just go to the one that was like, the good with the bad. Like I’m not I’m not earning so much right now. But I look at the guys in the industry and the ability, the huge turn. And I get to take leave whenever I want. It was great. So anyway, that’s just a little side story for 2010. I was basis, Dan Loeb until 20 2013. And I was getting a bit frustrated. Because I wasn’t you know, I also started my I think I got my CFP in 2013. So I then got some sort of exposure to comprehensive financial planning. Whereas in the beginning, it was just sort of selling investments. So I was getting a bit frustrated sitting at standard, the clients that I saw weren’t interested in doing everything with me, they kind of just looked at me as they investment Gar. And then they had an insurance guy, and he doesn’t really have a financial planning guy. They’re just that individual people. So I spoke to my boss at the time, and he sort of moved me. He lets me work in tandem between stanlib and one of the standard bank branches, which then gave me exposure to a whole bunch of different people who actually needed comprehensive, comprehensive planning at that stage. I did that for a year. And then I moved into a private banking suite with within work with with private banking clients, and that was delivering comprehensive, well, supposed to be comprehensive lifestyle plan on a comprehensive financial planning, but definitely.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

So more than just the investment component. You were looking at other pieces, you know, the insurance bonds and that, yeah, one thing that often comes up is the access that advisors that are tied to a bank have access to the obviously the clients of that bank. How was that approach? Like? Was it really a kind of a cold calling reaching out to them or was it more inbound, saying, Hey, I’m a client and I need a little bit of guidance or financial planning.

 

Marc Sydow 

So I would say it wasn’t cold calling or you’re working in a in a bank. You’ve got access to the banks glands working In private banking, you’ve got access to the bank’s luck, second tier of top clients of the private banking, its wealth and investment. But you’ve got access to to wealthy wealthy people. And the private bank is part of the mandate was that they had to give us leads every every month. And the numbers were, were actually ridiculous, do we like, I think they had a target of 50 leads that they had to provide each penny per month per private banker. So it was, it was good. And it was bad, because it’s unrealistic to expect them to provide you a 30 leads, so they’re just giving you everything, you know,

 

Louis van der Merwe 

deposit a little quantity.

 

Marc Sydow 

Yeah. Do you have an RA? No. Okay, cool. Mark has a lead, he has an IRA lead, right? So So you’ve got a whole bunch of that stuff. But you also got access, I can say to people with with a lot of wealth, which again, is a good and a bad thing. Because you start to view the people as numbers. And very quickly, you you there becomes a disconnect with the value of money, I think, because you know, you’re working with somebody today who’s maybe got 100,000 round who wants to invest tomorrow, it could be a million, it could be 10 million, could be 20 million, you know, the the numbers to stack up and, and then you start to earn off the back of those numbers, which is, you know, something else your earning potential helps with when I was able to cough up the st was the number that that’s kind of what you went in, and it was fun, everyone was doing all sorts of things. But now you’re only half a percent of 10 million in 20 million and you just adding, you’re constantly chasing assets, because the more assets you get, the the more revenue you make. But it is a great place, again, a great place to learn, because you are getting exposure to a whole bunch of different clients a whole bunch of assets you can grow, that, again, you’re working, you’re working for a bank, you’re working for a corporate and your corporate have sales targets, I guess yeah.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

And you touch a very interesting point, Mark, that concept of financial planners losing sight of the value of money, because we’re dealing typically with large numbers, right? How has that impacted your own finances, and you know, we don’t have to get too personal, but has it had an impact in terms of how you manage your own money looking at someone with 10 million Rand or 20 million Rand in investment portfolio, this is this is your own assets, kind

 

Marc Sydow 

of saying I don’t know 10 or 20 million Rand in investment assets slowly. Getting, I don’t, in the beginning, it was I would say negatively impacted me because like I said, I lost sight of the value of money. So when you know working in the bank, your your income scales very quickly, because you’ve got access to these, these these clients with sizable assets. And with that the psychology that you get exposed to is pretty negative, because you go from earning, say, for example, 100,001, year to 200,000, next year, to 400, the year after you know these numbers, it’s not unreal, to expect the numbers just to double, they literally can just double, you know, so your, again, your value. So what you’re buying this year versus what you’re able to buy next year, is exponentially more. I remember, this is a bit of a private, but I remember one year, one of my mates, kind of said to me, like Mark, nobody cares how much money you’re earning, right? It’s not, it’s not enough straight. And that’s kind of hit home, like really hard with me. Because like I said, I’ve lost that the value of money, clients money, you exposed to all of this and also your own in terms of what you’re earning. And that was one of the one of the turning points in my career. I think that that sort of pushed me away from that environment.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

That’s a punch to the gut. Actually, when you think about having your business hat on saying we need to target clients with more money and more assets. Yet, you can’t remove yourself from that business, you know that that mindset often spills over. So it’s an important point that you mentioning, trying to remain in touch with the value of a person and not necessarily the value of money engine, one of the turning points, are you able to share some of that other turning point in your career with us? Yeah,

 

Marc Sydow 

I think, personally, that that was a that was a big turning point. But professionally, like working in in the bank, I had a lot of mentors. There was a good group of guys, they’re a lot older, they’ve been an industry for ages. Some of them were doing lackluster, in my opinion at the time, the best that they could do. And they were willing to share which is also very rare in our industry right? Nobody wants to share nothing. Well, I think that’s changing now, but but in the old question, nobody wants to share, nobody wants to tell you the secret, because then you potentially could earn more than them or get hold of their clients. And anyway, I thought it could do things better from a planning perspective. So we had some tools at the bank, which which, which were semi decent before they stopped, but I hit like a stumbling block in that I couldn’t do more like I can do some planning. But if the planning didn’t lead to the sale of a product that was almost irrelevant in in my manager’s eyes, or whatever it is, because you’re ranked on sales. So that was a thing. It was like, I want to do more, but I can’t do more people would sort of bring up and say, can’t we pay you, rather than you earn from our investment. And there was like a no. So it was a bit of a wall the whole time, there was this entrepreneurial side, which was I wanted to come up, but I couldn’t do with the within the confinements of the bank. And then the, you know, the last sort of turning point was after I left the bank, and I left the bank in 2015. And during the advice work, which was great, you know, they had some, some really nice and still do cash flow, cash flow planning software, which was, you know, now my my selling point, and I’m not going to sell you products, or whatever, I’m going to sell you advice off the back of cash flow planning, that just coincided with with a terrible time in the market. So my whole career leading up to that point, the equity market was in a bull run, right? So I didn’t have to do anything, I could put a balanced fund in front of you, and you would get 15% a year, and clients will act. They love that. And exactly, and I did nothing wrong, but I took all the credit. And then I moved to advice work. And then the markets sort of topped out, they just were went sideways for the next three, four years, which I don’t know what’s worse, I think a crashes is better, because it’s like, immediate hard impact. Okay, let’s deal with that. How do we move forward? sideways, you kind of like having the same conversation every year, like doing what we can a supposed to be better, it’s going to get better? You know, I’ve got no control over whether it’s going to get better or not. But I bought the value proposition at this point on the back of that. So yes, it’s going to get better. No, it is these asset classes. And if they do this less, this is what’s going to happen. And we’re talking like a fund manager, which I wasn’t. But I had a conversation with a with a client who we’d been working together for, I think was about three years, he was post retirement, I sort of again, another other bad terminology, but I’ve got him kind of just before he retired. And and he had a decent pension pot at that stage. And he was still he I think he had two good years of the markets and he was fully invested in which is probably in a terrible thing for him because he you know, he had an auto 17% a year returns in those two years. And then we just went sideways. And now he was used to 17% returns going sideways. And every meeting like he would call me regularly, and we would have such horrible conversations. post those two good years, because he wasn’t getting what he wanted. What, you know, the blame that I’d originally put together for him was delivering more value was was sitting on the back of that plane, which wasn’t doing what it means was meant to be doing. And every time I’ll just kind of speak to him. And it was like No, but the mandate is we’ve got to do this. He said, we’re going to do this and there’s nothing I can do that this is not me, it’s the market. And then I even felt myself saying shock mark. So in the good times it was you. But in the in the not so good times it was the market. And as foot there’s got to be got to be a better way to do things. From a planning perspective, from an earnings perspective, there’s got to be a better way. Like, I don’t want to be having these conversations all the time. Like I’m prepared to not take the credit when the market runs really hard to not have to have these horrible conversations when the market does nothing.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

So I’m wondering what part of that conversation was the clients expectation in terms of what was being delivered and what is just the industry norm you know, we get and even as clients you know, we know what to do when there’s a market correction. You sit tight, Tz but no one prepares you for a sideways market for five years or 10 years in NSA equity. burnin so my guess my question is, what do your clients expecting when they were engaging with you? Was it that like, Hey, I’m here to deliver better returns for you at that stage?

 

Marc Sydow 

Yeah, so I think like, you know, I’m pretty open about their expected what I sold them or told them in the years leading up to that and my value proposition or Was investment returns. And these are the fees that I’m going to charge. I’ll never forget, I remember sitting with the, you know, my, my proposal was always like an investment proposal, I remember the everything there, I’ve liked the fees that this guy is going to get this much. And this one is going to get this much. And I’m going to take this much. And here’s the blame that you can expect this much return. And you will see cost will go down to that graph. And if they look, they if that return looked acceptable to them, then they were comfortable with paying your fee. So now you’ve like I conditioned them to think that they will get that return. And for that return, they’re going to pay me that fee. So you have to take responsibility, and that that’s the value that that we put on the table. And so that’s what they thought that’s what they expected. Those are the conversations that they were used to having. And those were the conversations that I was happy to have. When the markets were doing well. Yeah.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

So how do you decouple that? How do you separate investment returns from advisor remuneration? Sure. So

 

Marc Sydow 

I think it’s, it’s really hard for existing clients that you’ve now conditioned to think in this way. But it’s, you know, I’ve been waiting about exploring what’s out there. And it’s just, it happened, Ellen gray had a webinar, and they had Brian foster on. And he was talking about the evolution of financial planning. And this just that resonates with my whole career, like this point, this point, this point, this point, was like, yeah, that’s me. Right. And that’s the whole thing was, the separation of services that we provide, at that point was okay, so I’m not just responsible at that point for the investment returns, you know, there’s a there’s a planning component. There’s an implementation component, and there’s an investment management component. At that stage, I was still sort of saying, Okay, well, I deliver all of those. So we do the planning, and we sort of get paid for the planning, we implementation, as you get paid for implementation, and then investment management, and we’ll get paid for investment management. It was just breaking down the process at that stage along with the potential remuneration structure at that stage. Yeah, still not so flawed. I guess. I look back now, because that’s kind of our sort of breaking it down

 

Louis van der Merwe 

the interest. So there was a nudge in the direction to say there are other options out there. Like, what are the other things that you explore that that times you were listening to Brian and him preach about? The future of financial planning? Like, what are the other resources that you were looking at at that stage?

 

Marc Sydow 

Yeah, so Brian was a was a huge influence. I podcast Back then, I guess. So Michael kitsis was it was was massive, still is massive. Like, you know, you’ve just got so much wisdom and knowledge in the summit and in the industry. We, like I said, when I joined advice works, they they’ve partnered with, with old mutual wealth, and the integrated wealth planning, which, which is also like, you know, cash flow planning my first exposure to cash flow planning, which is also great, you know, that you can, I don’t think you can hang a value proposition just on cash flow planning, like a tech fits in some way. It’s, it’s way better than what we were doing before, which has exposure to that, and I’ll need to wipe out some really great coaches that come comes along with that. Yeah, so so there was that exposure. But I think the big thing was, like I wanted to separate, I wanted to separate what I do and what I can control from what I can control and what I don’t want to do. So if I look, now, I’m very clear with with clients that that we look after you and your last plan and your financial plan. And yes, there’s an investment plan, which is sort of driven by your last plan that you’ll have that will dictate what your investment needs to do, if I need to do anything. And then somebody not me, will fulfill that role. You and I will select who that person will be, yes, I’ll put recommendations forward of who I think is, is great at doing it. But ultimately, it’s your decision along with man. I’m not gonna skirting the responsibility there, but I’m not responsible for managing the money. And when we have the conversation with with the portfolio manager or the asset manager, whoever it is, it’s also on those terms, and I like to position it to the client that I’m sitting on your side, and you and I are sort of interviewing the people that are going to manage the money isn’t going to manage the money, you get a return objective, based on the client’s financial plan. So clients need 5% 10% 4% whatever it is, how are you going to deliver on that? Can you do Later on there, is it? Is it reasonable, if not reasonable? And then sort of talk us through your process?

 

Louis van der Merwe 

So mica, how has that changed the discussions that you now have in sideways years or negative years with your clients? Like, what is the difference between when you will remunerated purely on the assets? Yeah.

 

Marc Sydow 

So look, in a think the accountability that this particular client that I mentioned, you know, I’ve kind of had to say to him, okay, so in the sideways negative years, what what else can we do from a planning perspective? How can we, what other leavers Do we have available to pool. And so it’s hard even for me, because, you know, traditionally, the only lever was get a better return. And now I have to say to them, well, there’s no better return at the moment to be head, and there’s too much risk to go in search of a higher return, what can we do in your life? And it was so scary even saying it now. Like, I feel like I feel a bit. I don’t know, insecure, almost in that short now, I’m going to say will change your lifestyle, because I’ve gone to live on the return. But that’s basically what we did. And it was he was super receptive to that conversation. I remember him and his wife came in. This was the first time I insisted that the wife come in because she needed to know what was going on. And I said, Well, what else can we do, guys, if this if this is easy to carry on with the cash or pending? Now, this is what’s going to play out? Because the reality of the story? And they kind of say, Well, you know, maybe we could talk on the basis of it now. So Wow, yes, let’s look at this guys. Can we do this, we had a detailed budget, I love doing detailed budgets, especially with cash flow planning, because it kind of gives you there’s no room to hard, you know, when it gets to how much you spend per month, the guy says 50,000, or the guy who has a land item 50,000. You can’t hard in this. And so it’s like, okay, go through the detailed budget, we can cut here, we can cut here we prepared to cut here. And then having those conversations that are left there thinking, Wow, this is amazing that these people are open to it, that they’re willing or willing to talk about it. And I think that these are the types of conversations we have to have. Maybe in hindsight, if you could have those conversations with clients before they invest their money, it would be super beneficial. So go through the planning and say great retargeting this, what are we going to do if we have three negative views? But what can we do? Just Just so that it creates some sort of expectation that could happen? Not saying it? Well, I’m not trying to scare you. I just want to roleplay that scenario and say, what are we going to do?

 

Louis van der Merwe 

You’re kind of pre empting, those negative years, because they’re all coming? I guess that’s one of the only things we can guarantee that there will be a negative return at some point. Mark, I want to just rewind a little bit. there’s a there’s a sense when you speak to a lot of financial planners that they don’t want to do budgeting because it’s either too intrusive or it’s too much work. How do you tackle the actual budgeting exercise with a client? Can you maybe talk us through that?

 

Marc Sydow 

Yeah. So in my in my process, I have an introductory call, okay, I’ll be a good fit. You have a problem that I can help you. So yes, no, if you if we go to discovery meeting, and in then, you know, I like to get all the information, I could talk about you and your laugh and everything, and then sort of back that up with the numbers. So in that meeting, I’m, I’m pretty honest and open about it. And I want to know, I want to know the numbers, right? Like, if you’re, you’re involved in committed and you’re planning, then then we need to know the numbers. So I’ll just kind of speak to you about it. So I’ll ask you, do you have a budget? Yes or no? If yes, is a detailed? Who can you bring it up? Bring it up on the screen shared with me, so I can have a look at it. And also like if clients aren’t willing to share that information with you? How invested are they in their planning? That’s kind of my approach is we need this detail. So we can help you build your plan, we can help you do the things you want you say you want to do. So let’s let’s sort of have the conversation. So we’ll go to the extent where sometimes you feel like you really have been meaning to do the budget. I’m so glad you brought it up I just had done at the time. So we’ll start off shame. I remember my my previous assistant, Judy, we used to get some of our clients to send us three months bank statements. And we would do well I say we Judy would do it. But you would go through it and we’re just stuck at things, but a part of the service to clients. And then we would sit with them afterwards and say okay, well, this is what we’ve taken from your spend. How does this resonate with you? Again, there’s no room to hard, you know, you can’t say we’re showing you you’re spending X amount on your food. Constantly. That muscle said Well, that’s what the numbers say, guys. That’s what you Spending, right. But also with the the cash flow planning, we use it to plan often, you know, it’s this, this, this, this, this, everything is detailed, and everything’s linked to an asset, it’s linked to a stage in your life that’s linked to your kids expenditure. So you can turn those things on and off. So so you get, you get a really good picture of where your money’s going, how long it’s going to go, therefore, and after a certain point in time, is there going to be more luck, is it going to free up cash is not going to free up cash, or don’t lock, just the lump sum number doesn’t help. But it is it is work for clients. And it’s also something we’ve prepared to do, we’ll sit with you will have the budgeting meeting, if you want, bring your statements, let’s go through, let’s identify what your spending is part of what we do, I guess

 

Louis van der Merwe 

that’s part of that financial organization, and also awareness, this this concept of inner show me where you spend your time and your money. And I’ll tell you what your values are. So wondering, like, how does that look like when you’ve gone through someone’s goals and what they want to achieve? And now you look at the budget, and those two are kind of completely worlds apart?

 

Marc Sydow 

Well, I think for me, it’s, it’s, it’s playing to see, I think that it’s harder for the clients to see us, right. Like, we can position the stuff they and it’s not I can talk and communicate it to most people will things are. So it’s putting it out there so that you know exactly what you just said, you’ve seen this as important, but this is where your money is going. And sometimes you don’t even need to say that, you just have to just put this stuff on online and let them look at it. And they’ll identify with it. You know, that’s when you’ve got to do some work as a client. Right. And again, I think there’s this conception, or perception of bad financial planning and financial planners that we have to do all the work, and we can do all the work and we present all the solutions to you and and then it’s done. But it’s you know, it’s a two way street. There’s a lot of work that the clients have to do, they have to be prepared to do. And that’s also one of the tough things is contact to be invested in their planning, you know, you can tell me, it’s important to do A, B and C. But if you aren’t prepared to spend less here or save more, whatever it is, well then how important is it really to you know, and we’ve got to have those conversations. It’s not just about us coming in making everything happen, because we can’t do that, right? That’s a relay,

 

Louis van der Merwe 

those 30 leads that you were supposed to get from the from the bank, I can’t any of those clients were willing and able to actually work with you, you know, compared to where you are now, if you would have just take a stab on kind of how many clients you’re taking on board now versus the kind of 30 leads that you are getting, like, what would that number be roughly at the moment?

 

Marc Sydow 

No. It’s way less, you know, just on those 30 leads, we’re getting per per profit bank per month, it was a lot, right, like just trying to manage that lead system was a lot. But what made it even worse is that the clients sort of felt obliged to meet with us. So the wind just leaves, they became appointments, because now they’ve got a relationship with a private banker, and the private bank set up just meet with Mark, he wants to talk to you about retirement. So I’m going to spin off an hour talking to you, and you know, you don’t want to do anything anyway. We thought that one of the like, I can walk in, walk into the little meeting room, and I can just see I’m like, really, I’m not gonna sit and have the spiel. But you do it anyway. Now it’s, I would say liquid, we’re probably we’ve got growth aspirations within the business, where we’re trying to, to grow three new clients a month, which is the three doesn’t sound like a lot. But it’s, it’s pretty tough in a, in an online world, in a fee based world in a in a niche of the female executive in finance, who don’t know you. But the offer so we’re asked to, we’re trying to grow at three new clients. I think capacity was the amount of work that we do and prepared to do. And given the hours that we’re able to do. That’s all we can really grow. For now. We do have an existing client base that we’re looking after, you know, so it’s, it’s a thin line of practice. My days are pretty structured. I’m very structured in terms of how I do things, but you know, I’ve allocated hours for LinkedIn and clients and all of these things. And then I’ll sit there and sometimes I’ve got to Remember, you know, we have to look after the existing clients as well, right? Because the planning is just as important. And they’ve sort of stuck with you all the time, versus, you know, trying to engage online. With prospects,

 

Louis van der Merwe 

your thanks for sharing that mark. And I think that the point is that you don’t need to get 100 new clients every year, it can be a smaller number, because you’re adding tremendous value to those clients lives and in turn, they’re willing to pay you a fee for that. I’m wondering how did you how did you structure your day kind of what process did you go through to say, Hey, this is the block that I’m going to work with on LinkedIn. And this is the block that I’m actively not going to work that balance between life. And work is something financial planners tend to struggle with?

 

Marc Sydow 

Yeah, so I think a big big influence in structuring my day came from Robin Sharma, his book, The 5am Club, that I think I started with that in 2019, or 2018, just during the mornings. And back then my day was very haphazard. It was like, see a client Yeah, trust question planning in here, maybe do a little bit of social media there. And then when I moved to Cape Town, my plan was to fly back to Joburg once a month, for a week at a time. So then I had to, I had to get structured, right, because for that week that I was going to be in Joburg, all the planning had to be done a week in advance, we built this massive structure in place. And that really gave me all the structure that I needed. So get up at Thomas fall, do the morning thing, which is all that personal stuff. And then start God at eight. I’m a morning person. So I can’t work late into the evening, I don’t want to work past five. But eight to nine is my my LinkedIn block every day. Every day, I do LinkedIn then. And then I have to actually go and close the browser so that I don’t look at it. When I need to do my planning slot, once a month, Marcus and I my assistants paraplanner. We sit in Well, our meetings are planned in advance for the for the upcoming month. And we then go and sit and say, Okay, cool. So I’m seeing clients. Today, I need the planning done the week before from his side, then I can go put that literally Tom block my calendar, everything is time blocked. That way nothing falls through the cracks. There’s no last minute planning is my worst. When I would get to a meeting. And it’s rushed, a plan is rushed, I don’t have I can’t deliver on the promise that I’ve sort of the expectation that I’ve saved for the client. So to avoid that we can block some blog post planning, pre planning summaries. Everything’s done blocked in the calendar.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

That sounds great. And I’m wondering, you know, distractions and interruptions tend to be the norm of most people days, like, how do you manage incoming distractions? Or even let’s say it’s a client call, right? Kind of how do you filter that process, given that your day is also structured

 

Marc Sydow 

her clients? For me, you know, our proposition is, you know, we put forward depending on on the service level agreement is the the full six meetings or to fix meetings. But outside of that, you know, we’re available to 24, seven, we’ve got a good example now is client advisors going through a divorce. It’s very messy. And we’ve been issued with the subpoena, to provide documents, we’ve provided all these documents to her attorneys. But now we need to provide it again to his attorneys. So when client things come through my expectation on the practice is kind of drop what you’re doing, and do it. You know, if an email comes through takes two minutes to respond to an email, I can respond and say, Hey, Louis, got your email, I’ll do it whenever it is. But just respond, lets you know that I’m on it. Like the subpoena thing. It’s dropped what you’re doing, manage it. And the same expectation with with Marcus, it’s emails, just acknowledge the client, you don’t have to address them straight away. But let them know that they so clients, I don’t view clients as distractions. I get what you’re saying in terms of like the structure, but you know, the client wants distractions, distractions, they laugh is what we care to help them manage. And so that’s, that’s what we got to do. Right?

 

Louis van der Merwe 

It goes back to your earlier point where you said, this is the lifeblood of your business, these existing clients and you have to keep them happy. So it’s great to hear that that is your that is your approach. Mike if we think about the future of financial planning and the skills that we need to be work on and working on in the things that we need to be consuming and you know, in terms of knowledge is one of those things that you are working on at the moment. So

 

Marc Sydow 

I think like the for Me, understanding the human behavior, why people make financial decisions, the way they do is important. It’s really understanding the person behind the money. That’s kind of my focus. We’re doing a bit of coaching, I think there’s, inadvertently, we do deliver coaching in the work that we do. And I just want to make sure that I can do it correctly, you know, the sort of tools that, that we’ve got available, you know, previously, we people referenced us as having lots of toolkits, you know, like a belt, and it was that you’ve got your RA, and you’ve got your, this product, and that product, and all of the stuff that you can bring out when you need it. And now it’s kind of like, Alright, well, let’s understand, understand the person or after so what’s the money story? How is money shaped them? Why do they behave the way they do? How is it making them show up in the world today? These are the, that’s the new toolkit, that I think, if you’ve got at your disposal, really be able to help clients achieve the things that they say are important to them.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

So you’ve taken off the product toolkit, and, you know, put on the psychological toolkit where you can have these discussions about the history and how that shaped them. And also, you know, the impact that that there are now,

 

Marc Sydow 

yeah, definitely, there does seem to be a shift in the industry or profession, whatever we want to call it, but you’re understanding the client, you know, that the client is the client, not the clients money. So show your toolkits around the client, and you’ll be able to better help them. So ultimately, that’s what we here to do. My thing is, I want to live an amazing life. And the way that I’ll be able to do that is if I help my clients live an amazing life. So I can do that for them inadvertently, I’m going to be able to do the same for myself, which means we’re all we’re all living good labs.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

So that first question of what is an amazing life look like to you actually was quite impactful. But it sounds like the answer was very, would be very different now. As opposed to Yes, years ago.

 

Marc Sydow 

It’s actually so funny that you bring that up, you know, I’ve got I’ve got what is my my perfect laugh written on my I work from home now on my just use our sliding doors as as whiteboards. But it’s there, right? It’s, it’s what schools we want to send our kids to how many days a week we want to be, I want to be working the holidays, we want to take the number of clients that are actively want to look after, it’s all detailed, and everything, everything that I do is focused around that. You know, I don’t know who said it, but you’ve got to say, got to say no to the wrong clients, and things to be able to say yes to the rock clients of things. So this, I think financial planners typically have a scarcity mindset, you know, I don’t want to say no, just in case, just in case, you’ve got something here, you never know, he could have a big pension fund that one day, I’ll get you know. And it’s like, no, does that fall my mandate? Does that help me achieve the things I want to achieve? You know, you’ve got to say no to it, to kind of get to where you want to be.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

And you believe we’re in the right industry for you to be able to take these life goals. Sure. Yeah, definitely.

 

Marc Sydow 

I think it’s, we may be a little bit early in, in what we’re bringing in terms of what clients because clients don’t necessarily know what it is that lifestyle, financial planning, or what the realm of what we can help them with. So there’s a lot of education that has to go on there. But definitely, there’s no other industry that I think that could help me achieve the things that I want to achieve in life. And given the freedom, the flexibility, the ability to talk to clients to get involved in their lives, and help them unpack these things. It’s super fulfilling work. And it’s cheesy, but you know, there’s, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Like it’s really true. Like, I feel like, you know, what we do is it’s an awesome, it’s an awesome job. And it’s got all these perks on top of it. Yeah, back when is the last time you put a leave form in either industry in Korea for me, brilliant. Mark,

 

Louis van der Merwe 

I want to thank you so much for being on the show today and sharing your passion. You can see it, the way you talk and the way you describe working with your clients and the impact that you make. And I definitely can attest that your clients would say exactly the same thing. If people want to reach out to you and get hold of you what’s the best place to do so?

 

Marc Sydow 

Yeah, thanks. Thanks a lot. We enjoyed the conversation. Yeah, I do talk a lot so it’s nothing natural for me. Yeah, you can go to my website Mach sato.co dot today. Otherwise LinkedIn Masada CFP professional, but vocal on me. Yeah, I think those are the two best places to to link up.

 

Louis van der Merwe 

Thank you so much

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