Discussion between Jayson Walker, CEO and Director of Tribel, and Paul Nelson, Managing Director of BrandMatters. You can view the video interview on our YouTube channel here or scroll down to view it at the bottom of this article.
PN: I thought we’d just start by talking about the Tribel story. You built a business out of Aon and brought a number of your team with you. It might be scary for some people having stepped out of a very large organisation like Aon. What led you to do that?
JW: Very scary I must say. Bringing a team of very capable, passionate people in the financial advisory sector during a period of significant change as a result of the Royal Commission, to embark on exiting a large global corporate like Aon was a very challenging thing to do. I, like the rest of the team, am passionate about financial advice and the wellbeing it helps provide to the broader community. It wasn’t actually a difficult decision to make. The scary part was concluding the transaction in a management buyout with a large global corporate, but more importantly, engaging the team who were going to come along with that transaction to be part of the journey.
PN: Your product is your people. It’s absolutely critical and you’ve done a sensational job doing that. Despite doing so well, the market is still highly competitive. It’s very crowded and you’ve got to cut through the clutter of all that change and bring clients on the journey. How are you doing that?
JW: It goes back to the start of the journey that we set in place for the first three years. Funnily enough, the first of May this year, 2022, will be our three-year anniversary of the management buy-out. That was all about making sure that we provided clear, concise communication to our clients. We had a clear, clean brand, which although had some references towards our global parent, was able to set us aside. There’s lots happening in the financial planning industry. It’s about making it simple for the end consumer to understand. The market has moved into that space. It’s now providing clear, concise messaging to help people get educated and understand more so that when they do come to us, we’re a facilitator of the end outcome, which is a better financial wellbeing outcome over time.
PN: What about the process of moving your clients across from the security, safety and familiarity of Aon through to Tribel? How did that go for you?
JW: We spent a lot of time in the way we positioned the brand. Gratefully, the journey of the team moving out of Aon into the new environment meant that from a client point of view, the core factor of their relationship with Tribel, (as with Aon), was as an individual and those individuals came with the process. Because they were part of the journey, they were the ones who helped create the brand, the name, the vision and what we want to stand for. The conversation that they were having with clients was passionate, heartfelt, transparent and honest about why. I think that made it easy for us.
PN: Building trust and meaning in this environment is so challenging. Talk to me a bit more about financial wellness, what that means and how that turns up as a benefit for your clients.
JW: Wellbeing overall has a number of pillars to it. It can be five, six. In my world, that’s three. One is social wellbeing. The other is physical wellbeing. The other is mental wellbeing. What sits behind all of those is financial wellbeing. There’s lots of research in the marketplace that if you manage someone’s financial wellbeing, it helps deliver on those other three pillars. It gives people more time to focus on looking after their physical wellbeing. It relieves the stress and pressure around their mental wellbeing. It takes away all those challenges. We’ve all heard statistics of how many people get divorced and the underlying factor in divorces these days is generally financial.
If you start to look after those things, then you help people feel comfortable in their life. This isn’t about making people wealthier than what they can naturally be with their capital contributions through income. This is about making people feel comfortable and not stressed. Research around the globe shows that if you can focus on financial wellbeing, it underpins those other three pillars and helps someone become well totally, in all of those areas. We focused on that. It’s about making sure we deliver on their financial wellbeing to then help people with those other factors in their life.
PN: It’s managing the whole person, isn’t it. Rather than just their own personal balance sheet or being their personal CFO, you’re actually thinking about their goals or aspirations, their functional needs and critically their emotional needs as well.
JW: We’ve still got a bit of a journey to go. We’ve now built that solution around financial advice, accounting and finance. The next stages of our growth will be, how do we enhance and help people in those other wellbeing areas such as the social, emotional and physical? That’ll be a journey we look to go on over time.
PN: Let’s talk about the financial planning industry. Over the last three years you’ve traversed a phenomenal amount of change, lifting out a team, setting up your own practice, building that out and dimensionalising that beyond financial planning. What are the broader challenges and opportunities the financial planning industry itself is facing? We know about the Royal Commission and the impact that’s had, but that’s only part of it, isn’t it? What about the other challenges and opportunities facing the industry?
JW: There really needs to be a considered view about a total restructure of the industry in my opinion. If you look at its complexity from a compliance and regulatory point of view, a bit similar to our tax system, it’s a patchwork of fixes that have been put over problems for decades and decades without a fundamental restructure of outcomes that deliver to a client’s need. Cost of advice is unachievable for most Australians. Why is that? Well, we have a compliance and regulatory framework that costs significantly more money than it used to. Ultimately, the end-consumer has to pay for that. I think there’s definitely a position for regulators and legislators to think about how financial advice is reconstructed. Ultimately, in my view, it’s a liability issue. Today, we have independent financial planners who have their own licence. There’s then aggregated financial licences which we’re a part of who provide services.
How do all of those individuals provide comfort to their consumer or their client that in the event of an error occurring that there’s fundamentally a support system that provides compensation for that? Today, it’s all positioned at an individual financial advisor level. As a result, that stops attracting individuals into our marketplace. They think, “well, if I’ve got to be liable for 100% of everything I do and there’s a cost associated with doing that”. That detracts from new entrants thinking about joining our industry. Whereas you have mid-sized firms like ourselves, larger firms and boutiques where the business should be wearing the liability for the advice provision to a consumer, based on the infrastructure it supports. I don’t have all the answers naturally, but there’s a need to think about a total reworking and structural change for the industry around how consumers access advice affordably and remove a lot of the historical legislation and regulation that provides no protection for the end-consumer.
PN: You’ve done a sensational job of attracting and retaining the best and the brightest across your firm. As we close, what advice would you provide to anyone who is considering a career in financial planning? From my point of view, it’s such a critical, fundamental plank in people’s futures and financial planners have a critical role to play. If someone was thinking about a career in financial planning, what advice or guidance would you provide for them?
JW: It’s an interesting question that you often get posed. The conversations you have with individuals is firstly choose a career which is about helping people, supporting individuals who do not have the knowledge, capability, or experience to put themselves in a better financial position and achieve their lifestyle goals. And secondly, look at our profession for what it will be, not what it was.
If you look back in history, it took 475 years for accounting to be considered a profession. If you look at financial advice in Australia, it started with the life insurance days. It’s only around about 75 to 80 years young, and we are on the cusp of being considered for all intents and purposes, a profession. There’s hallmarks around a profession and that’s education standards, associations, regulation and oversight by regulators and legislators. We’re not far away from that. What I would say to individuals considering a professional career is look at where we will be and jump on that journey. Don’t look where we’ve come from, because in any industry that has had a journey, you can always find areas of turmoil and challenge that they’ve been through to get to where they are today.
PN: Your final answer there basically summed it up in terms of your future focus and what you’ve already created and certainly what you will continue to create going forward. Jayson, we really appreciate your time today. Thanks so much for joining us.
JW: Thanks, Paul. Nice to be with you.
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