Practice of the Month: Story Wealth

28-Jul-2017

By Daniel Paperny

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Gender equality and diversity in financial planning practices is an issue that often escapes the spotlight of media attention, particularly when it comes to the debate about attracting a wider pool of candidates to the profession.

It is this vision of empowering the next wave of planners together with a passion for people that underpins Story Wealth Management, run by director Anne Graham who has been in the advice industry for more than 18 years.

Graham says women comprise only about 20 per cent of Australia’s financial planning sector and believes bucking that trend will come down to sharing more female adviser success stories, reaching out to candidates from other educational disciplines and forming lasting partnerships with universities to cement graduates’ pathway into the profession.

She says there is a great opportunity for advice practices and financial planning business owners to build relationships with educational providers which will leave them in a strong position to get top graduates coming through into their practices upon the completion of their degree.

“I think it’s a great time to be in advice. I know it’s challenging but it’s always been challenging … there’s something quite exciting about it and I think the demand for advice will increase as we move to a more positive time under the new professional standards regime,” Graham says.

“We’ve done some work with Deakin and there are other universities as well that would love to have that connection with the industry so that their graduates had jobs to go to, so it’s a win-win.

“New entrants can come in as young graduates and do it as a second career from a completely different background and that’s great because that diversity adds to the depth of advice you can give.

“Also when you’re looking at competition between the practices, the more diverse the people that make up your practice are, the better the discussions that you have and your [overall] thinking is not so narrow either.”

Led by Graham and her husband and fellow adviser David, Story Wealth is the result of a recent merger between their previous venture, Sigma Wealth Management, and wealth management business Thinc Wealth.

According to Graham, Thinc Wealth, run by Sarah Leslie and Kara Treeby, represents a significant partner for the practice’s own ambitions, as the two women’s comprehensive industry experience and solid business success point to the fact that female advisers have much to offer the profession.

“There are nine of us at the moment and seven are women so it’s one of the things that makes us stand out as a practice,” Graham says.

“As we’ve gone along, we’ve tried to focus on that pre-retiree market in our language - people who are thinking about being financially independent in about 10 years’ time - but obviously a lot of our clients are retired already.

“Often people don’t like the word ‘retire’ and they don’t identify with it, so it’s really about helping them get into a situation where they can choose to stop the work they’re doing or change direction and financially be in a position to do that.”

Graham says having a large component of influential and experienced female advisers in the business was important in helping to shape the narrative around financial planning and empowering more prospective female planners to come forward and join a burgeoning profession.

A key piece of advice for those looking to start a new advice business, Graham says, is having a clearly defined focus and knowing what clients you want to work with as well as what section of the market you are looking to operate in.

“If you’re starting a new practice or doing something interesting with an existing practice, focus on where you want to be as a business in five years - have a lot of clarity around it and be quite ruthless in the decision-making,” Graham says.

“Once you know where you want to play and what your goal is then you can work out how to win in this space [because] winning doesn’t necessarily mean beating the competition, it just means winning by providing the right services to the right clients at the right price and providing value.”

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