The key to good client relationships is good communication and listening

For business owner and financial adviser, Anne Graham, of Story Wealth Management, the best part of working in advice is her relationships with clients and being able to help them transform their lives or reduce their financial pressures. This value has continued to motivate her through the myriad of challenges facing advisers today, from legislation and regulation, to community expectations.

Anne became a financial adviser after having worked as a bank teller. Hoping to combine her desire to help people with technical expertise, she undertook further study in accounting and discovered financial planning from there. Today Anne has more than 30 years of experience in finance and financial advice. Her desire to support clients and the industry has seen her work on several boards and committees within the industry as well as the Future2 Foundation Board (which supports disadvantaged Australian youth via grants to grassroots programs supported by the financial planning profession).

  1. What motivates you as a financial adviser?

Having the ability to help clients take control of their finances is rewarding when you have a good idea early on about the type of financial advice a client might require and you can then start to relieve the pressures they may feel.

As a financial adviser, you often act as an accountability coach and discuss broader topics beyond financial goals. Sometimes you have to motivate people and give them a confidence boost, while at other times you might need to help them take a step back and consider the best approach. I feel it’s important to give my clients a realistic view of their situation and the different options they have so they can choose what to prioritise and what they might need to reconsider based on their values.

  1. What are some memorable situations you’ve had giving advice?

There have been many – every client has a different story

Being able to tell a client in her fifties that based on her financial situation she could afford her dream – owning a home in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

Identifying small changes a client can make that may make a big difference in the future can be very rewarding.  For instance helping a client understand the death benefits tax on super that applies to beneficiaries who aren’t dependants. I was able to pick this up early and find the best option for my client and their beneficiary down the track.

And sometimes it is what I have learnt. One of my clients was recently divorced and was confused and concerned about her financial position after settlement. She’s an intelligent professional however not used to managing the finances. So when faced with this highly emotional situation she was very focussed on the present, and wasn’t able to focus on the future. It’s very rewarding to help clients see their future and explain it to them in simple terms what it will look like and how to take control.

  1. What do you see as being key to a successful relationship with your clients?

Listening is important to build up trust and understanding. Good communication is equally as important. Financial advice shouldn’t be over-complicated, you need to keep it clear and simple. If your strategies are complex, then break them down so your client is comfortable and can understand what you are saying.

Communication also needs to be flexible and responsive. Everyone has a different approach that works best for them. In interacting with my clients in the way that works for them I use a combination of face-to-face meetings, email, phone, SMS and virtual meetings. I even had a very personal, handwritten note from a client recently.

At Story Wealth Management, we focus on a good fit with the clients based on the problem they are trying to solve, the type of questions they ask and our service offering. We do this through an initial discussion where we discuss their financial position and goals, and if we don’t think we’ll be able to help, we always try to refer them to another adviser whose speciality is more relevant to their needs.

  1. What are the main issues facing financial advisers today?

The industry is constantly evolving with increasing regulation of advice, legislation relating to products, changing education standards (Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA)) and as a business owner, I’m also looking to grow my business and develop staff, implement changing business models and evaluate business operations.

One of the changes I’ve noticed over the years is that people are taking longer to make decisions about advice, from the initial contact to finally coming in and deciding to proceed with a plan. They need to be confident they’re making the right decision.

It’s important to focus on what really matters and my goal of helping my clients achieve better financial outcomes has never wavered - how does my service benefit my clients and what can I do to make it even better?

  1. How would you position financial advice to those considering it?

Don’t be afraid of it. Some people can feel embarrassed about not knowing their financial situation, but from my own personal experience working with clients it can be worth seeing someone even just to get a check on where you are. Working with a financial adviser is a partnership. You don’t lose control of your money, it’s about working out together around what is important to you and the options you have. Getting help earlier rather than later is the key - so you have more options open to you in the future.


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