Practice of the Month: Seeds of Advice

21-Jun-2017

By Megan Tran

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With the financial services industry on the edge of change and redirection, there’s never been a better time to start a business in the sector, according to financial planner Susan Bryant.

The principal of Queensland-based practice Seeds of Advice says the industry is one of the most exciting to work in and with the pace of global change increasing in areas such as economics, markets and technology, Bryant believes the advice business is perfectly placed to take advantage of opportunities in these areas.

Bryant’s venture into financial planning came by accident 30 years ago, when the divorced mum of two had trouble seeking advice herself.

“I was not getting what I was looking for and I was patronised,” she recalls.

After engaging veteran financial planner Virginia Dowd at Brisbane advice group The Women’s Investment Network, she began to understand the value the profession could bring to people’s lives.

“I found a woman who had been in my position, she got me. It was a safe environment to plan and grow,” she says.

After a few years as a client, Dowd offered her a role as a planner - a job Bryant says changed her life, although it was a controversial choice at the time.

“In those days, everything was commission based with no salary [so] it was a huge risk - I left a stable job which paid $17,000 [per year] and my mother didn’t speak to me for months,” she recalls.

The product focus of the planning industry in the 1980s and 1990s didn’t appeal to Bryant, so after a long career working with Dowd she decided to embark on her own business, an idea that stemmed from personal events.

“When my parents died there was friction in the family - dad didn’t do any good planning, which continues to be upsetting to this day,” she says.

Having encountered clients who were stuck in similar circumstances following the global financial crisis, Bryant says she decided “there had to be a better way” to approach financial advice.

After a stint in Sydney, she returned to her home state of Queensland with the idea of providing niche planning services specifically for farming clients.

“I spent nearly 20 years working in Towoomba, then in Sydney. I learnt interesting things working for wealthy families,” she says.

“These two catalysts helped me hone into working with farming families that are multigenerational with special needs.

“It requires commitment not just for one but for subsequent generations.”

Given most of her clients run family businesses they want to protect for future generations, Bryant focuses strongly on capital protection and outcomes-based strategies in her advice to clients, ensuring she steers them away from “just putting money in a shoebox”.

“I am an outcomes-based adviser and I know everyone says that these days, but what it truly means is that I help clients to clearly define the exact outcomes they want to achieve and then that becomes the benchmark for allocating their risk budget in their portfolios, not some five-minute risk questionnaire,” she says.

She adds that rather than finding the best investment and hoping the returns are sufficient, she encourages clients to focus on the risk in their investing first and foremost.

While this approach may not work for everybody, she encourages fellow planners to be specific about their target market and tailor their strategies and services to fit a defined niche.

“Everyone needs good advice, but you can’t be all things to all people. Work out your market and your clients as a base point, then work from there,” she says.

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