November 22, 2017

November 22, 2017 | Risk Pulse

Adviser and Practice of the Year winners share their secrets

It’s said that major life events influence the core behaviours that affect the financial decisions we make for the rest of our lives. For financial advisers, this is no different.

Charlie Fraser, Shadforth Financial Group

2017 AFA Adviser of the Year, Charlie Fraser’s mantra is, “You need to be something to someone”. True to his word, he has built a successful career as a financial adviser, providing comprehensive financial and human services – which he likes to call ‘wellbeing advocacy’ – to help families of people who have had catastrophic accidents manage their very complex affairs. We sat down with Charlie to find out more about his award-winning advice journey.

Charlie, what did your career look like prior to applying for AFA Adviser of the Year?

My background as an adviser had been at Perpetual, working in High Net Worth advisory and personal injury finance management. So when I left, I didn’t have a view to setting up my new practice, it was just more of a ‘Jerry Maguire’ moment I think, where I just went “I need to do something different.”

I went through a process on my gardening leave of looking at the personal injury space and asking myself the question of, “If you were going to recreate this space, what would I it look like if we did it starting from a client lens and working backwards?”  

What types of clients did you decide to start working with?

The pointy end of the work I’ve chosen to do is with people who have received compensation for personal injuries, typically catastrophic car accidents or catastrophic medical negligence.

They are the two main segments but can also be two types of clients; those without capacity to manage their financial affairs, or clients who still have capacity. And that process of discovery for me was the realisation that as a financial adviser, there’s really only a minimum input that I can have on their lives.

How did your business research help shape your advice philosophy?

What I tried to do was take out a whole lot of butcher’s paper and map out every single conversation I’d ever had as an adviser over the last 11 years, every issue that I’d seen, and then tried to put some context around that. I started asking myself questions like, “Who would have been the right person at that time to solve those issues?”

This was because I’d felt a lot of professional frustration in the past, in the sense that I had a lot of empathy for clients but I didn’t have the skill set to help those people who’d suffered huge amount of trauma and with families who had suffered a great deal of trauma throughout the process also.

I ended up reading a lot of medical journals and there was a lot of interesting information coming out of the US and UK for example, which overwhelmingly confirmed the need to take a full-family approach because often it’s not the client that needs to be taken care of, it’s actually the family of the injured person. The greatest asset the client has is not their money, its’s the support networks around them.

How did you come to the decision to include a ‘Wellness Adviser’ into your business?

After I’d realised the importance of the clients’ family, I decided to engage my long-time family friend Sarah Grealy to step in and join me in the research process. She didn’t have a financial background at all, which was actually very refreshing in fact she’d most recently been working for 15 years in asylum seeker advocacy.

So, once I had mapped out the client journey, I asked Sarah if I could test it with her and asked “Does this make sense?” and over a period of time, it started to make sense from Sarah’s point of view and probably just coincided with a point in time that she was ready to make a change in her career also.

So Sarah, there is a parallel there in talking about your clients and asylum seekers, who’re often both people who can’t advocate on their own behalf. 

Sarah Grealy: Yes, I think that was a big surprise for me because I don’t have a background in disability. However, most of the clients I work with are pre-settlement and this can sometimes take up to two years, so I quickly realised how similar this was to working with asylum seekers and refugees. As they’re waiting for their legal matter to settle, I needed to constantly update the Department of Immigration on their dire state and quite frankly, how tough their life is, and it’s no different with clients who have suffered catastrophic personal injury. So that helped me focus this role on emotional support, as well as practical support, because they can’t start healing until the matter settles.

Ravi Agarwal, Managing Partner, MEDIQ

The 2017 AFA Practice of the Year, MEDIQ, is a successful, multi-disciplinary financial advisory practice dealing exclusively with doctors across Australia. We sat down with Managing Partner, Ravi Agarwal to find out what makes an award-winning advice business.

Tell us more about your motivation for starting MEDIQ

My father was a GP back in England where I grew up, and very similarly to what happened in Australia 10-20 years ago where there of a chronic workforce shortage in the medical space and the government opened up the borders and requested for doctors from all over the world – the same thing happened in the 1960s in England and my father went over from India and set up a practice in a country town.

So looking at the journey that he’s been on as a doctor and someone who was new to the country, he didn’t always end up with the best financial outcomes. And for doctors I’ve found that it can be quite disproportionate to the efforts that you put in and the community involvement that you have.

What sets MEDIQ apart from other advice businesses?

We are an extremely focused team. We know exactly who we want to work with and what we want to achieve for them. Essentially, the aim of MEDIQ was to help doctors manage all of their financial affairs and administer them in the most efficient way to give them back time so they can focus on their families, and of course, their communities and giving back to their patients.

We registered the company in 2010 and got our first client in April 2011. Since then we’ve grown organically to a team of 26 in Melbourne with financial planning, accounting and taxation, insurance, superannuation, investments, and an in-house legal team and real estate division. It’s really full-service because while we all think we’re time poor, it’s doctors who bring it to a whole new level to the absolute lack of any time in their life.

Similar to Adviser of the Year, Charlie Fraser’s motivation for his business, was the decision to start a practice that specialises in medical professionals based on a deeper personal experience for you?

Yeah, there’s a famous saying along the lines of, “The only people who go into business are either crazy or they have a massive motivation driving their ‘why’ to do it.” Seeing the journey that my father went on, every single one of his friends is a doctor. He doesn’t have any non-medico friends and the reason why is because if you’re a first-generation migrant to a country, you don’t have a huge amount in common with other people in the community, in additional to this you are working very anti-social hours and night-shifts and don’t have a family network.

So, the same thing happens to doctors here. If you’ve been to a hospital in the last 18 months you’ll see most of them are first-generation Australians and that brings a whole set new of challenges and financial issues. Generally, they don’t have superannuation savings, they don’t understand the tax legislation, they’re just focused on giving great medical care. That’s why they need advisers and businesses like us to manage everything for them, to give them back time.        

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Are you independent, impartial, or unbiased?

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