Liam Shorte had a definite plan in becoming a financial adviser. He knew he wanted to help people build and grow their wealth and set out to become the ‘go-to’ specialist on SMSFs, obtaining the relevant qualifications to set him up as he built his profile as a subject matter expert.
Last year Mr Shorte was awarded the SMSF Association CEO Award for his contribution to the industry and is a regular contributor to several newsletters including Cuffelinks.
What was your journey into financial advice?
I emigrated from Ireland to Australia in 2001 after 8 years in Saudi Arabia, armed with a business degree and 10 years’ experience in insurance. I was attracted to financial advice because I was always interested in dealing with money and people and helping people focus on the long term.
I retrained as a paraplanner when I came to Australia, completing the necessary exams and set up my own business in 2006. SMSFs caught my attention having worked in accounting and financial planning, so I spent the next few years reading everything available on the subject and attended many workshops and conferences on SMSFs. I joined the SMSF Association and achieved the SMSF Specialist Advisor™ accreditation and made a goal to become a ‘go to’ person in the SMSF area.
My aim was to build a profile and a niche as “The SMSF Coach”. It took seven years to achieve that goal and I’m very proud of where we are today.
What does a typical SMSF client look like?
As SMSFs have become more and more popular, the profile of people choosing SMSFs has changed. Five years ago, clients were older. Now there is interest from people aged 40-50, who have around 20 years of contributions and they want an SMSF for more control over their future. There are a lot more female-driven enquiries, some are single but many women are the decision makers in couples. They are savvy and have read up about SMSFs, know their limitations and they’re willing to ask for advice - they want to learn and become better educated in this area and they make their decisions to go into SMSFs for specific reasons such as investment flexibility and complex estate planning.
A lot of people set up SMSFs because they want the ability to choose when to put contributions in themselves and work with their accountants on improving tax positions. This often gives people more flexibility on contribution planning, managing retirement income flow and estate planning in a more tax effective manner. Those pension strategies and estate planning strategies have become more important since the 1 July 2017 $1.6m pension limit was introduced.
Are SMSFs right for everyone?
The short answer is no, it’s so important to be engaged and active in the management of an SMSF. Most of my SMSF clients are confident to increase contributions because they have a more hands-on approach to their superannuation.
However, often we have to support clients in closing SMSFs. Some realise after an initial review that an SMSF is not right for them and they need to get out. For example, I recently had a client with a large SMSF who had gone through a divorce and had received 45% of the spouse’s super. Her husband had set my client up with an SMSF, but she simply wasn’t interested. She had previously relied on her husband for a lot of financial matters and he had thought it would be best for her, but without him around she didn’t want the extra complexity.
What do you see as your greatest value to clients?
We give clients the ‘Sleep Factor’, which is especially important for retirees. I know I’ve done the right thing when markets are volatile and no-one phones us feeling distressed. Generally people don’t want to shoot the lights out in retirement, they want stability.
When investing retirement savings we use the three bucket strategy. The first bucket makes sure clients have enough to survive for two years from pension money held in cash or term deposits then we've got some liquid stable investments for the following three years and the growth investments like shares and property are then invested long term. This avoids having to sell growth assets while their prices are down.
Our value centres on providing a robust investment strategy, in particular asset allocation and diversification. From tax effective contributions, splitting contributions between husbands and wives and re-contribution strategies to benefit Centrelink and estate planning outcomes. That’s far more valuable to clients than trying to pick the next best stock.
How has technology helped you better serve your clients?
I’m often in places like Port Stephens or Hunter Valley seeing clients and it’s so good to take out my iPad, log into client portfolios, show them their asset allocation, and make immediate changes such as increasing/reducing their pension for the rest of the year. Years ago all that had to be planned in advance or dealt with weeks later through paper forms, this way I can simply dictate a memo to staff and they’ll have the record of advice completed and implemented in 24-48 hours. Technology enables us to be more informed, responsive and able to meet client needs in a fast and efficient way. As a result we are able to spend more quality time with our clients which builds a stronger relationship.
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