As well as being in one of the least trusted professions in society today, the threat of automation from robo advice has triggered an existential crisis for financial advisers: what are they actually good for?
Of course it's easier to be overly critical than to be constructive. This melodrama also makes for a compelling story, which the media is always going to favour. However, the robo debate doesn't distract from the inescapable reality that advisers need to adapt to current market challenges, and the digital transformation is one of those.
Looking on the bright side then, it's important to have a vision where advisers demonstrate their positive contribution to society and become integral to ensuring the wellbeing of their clients. But what does a successful professional firm look like in practice?
One man who knows is David Haintz. David is an Australian entrepreneur who built and exited his own professional advisory firm, Shadforth Group, for a substantial sum in 2014. Since then, he's become an adviser to advisers, drawing on his 26-years of business experience to help growth-oriented advisers get to where they want to be.
He's recently written an excellent piece about the difference between an advisory practice and a professionally managed firm. His view is that smaller practices are the most vulnerable to the shifts in the industry whereas professionally managed firms are more likely to thrive. It's the latter which is where ambitious advisers should aim to be.
But what does a professional firm look like? He lists ten criteria of a growth firm:
More highly skilled and motivated employees focused on team and outcome
Clarity on vision and positioning
Belief that advice is the product
Clients totally engaged in the advice process
Work in harmony with other professionals
View talent management as a burning issue
Separate the accountability for sales and marketing
Innovative technology supports key business processes
Remuneration structure is based on incentives.
Where does your firm fit with these criteria? Have you accounted for these in your business plan? I'd recommend reading David's article:
The future belongs to the professionally managed
It strikes the difficult balance of being challenging while constructive, which given the threats and opportunities for advisers today, could be the shot in the arm the profession needs.