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Podcast Transcript

Episode 19, Season 1

Clients understanding the advice they receive, with Eleanor Dartnalll


Eleanor Dartnall: [00:00] We set out the responsibilities we’ve both got and it’s made very clear that you, the client, have a responsibility as well, to keep in touch with your investments. So they have to go online at least once a month and ring us up if they’ve got any questions or concerns.

Fraser Jack: [00:16] Hello and welcome to The Goals Based Advice Podcast where we have conversations with pioneers of the new world of financial advice. I’m your host, Fraser Jack. I want to think you for tuning in today. I’d also like to thank our supporting partner, Advice Intelligence, for powering this podcast.

Fraser Jack: [00:39] In this episode, I chat to Eleanor Dartnalll, an award-winning advisor who not only runs a great business, she’s on a mission to help all consumers have better advice conversations and to take control of their advice decisions. Over the past two years, she’s been interviewing consumers about their advice experience that they’ve received, whether they understand the advice and how engaged they are in the process. The results are staggering yet, in many cases, not surprising and she shares some of her research and insights to shed some light on what we, as a profession, need to change in the old world, the old school, un-engaging advice process. Let’s hear from Eleanor now.

Fraser Jack: [01:24] Welcome to the show, Eleanor.

Eleanor Dartnall: [01:32] Good morning.

Fraser Jack: [01:33] How are you going?

Eleanor Dartnall: [01:36] Pretty hectic, running after Christmas.

Fraser Jack: [01:38] Yes, it is. As we’re recording just before Christmas, it’s a bit of a crazy time, so we’re very lucky to get some time from you. Thank you. I do appreciate it.

Fraser Jack: [01:45] Do you want to tell the listeners a little bit, quickly, about yourself and your business and where you are at the moment?

Eleanor Dartnall: [01:52] Well, I haven’t always been an advisor. My background has been many decades in banking. I think the most important part of my career was 20 years in the major trustee company where ultimately I headed up the trust and estate and private wealth division. So none of that actually is sitting in front of the client. All my staff did that. It was a very important, necessary, education and experience that sits behind what I do now.

Fraser Jack: [02:23] Yeah, nice. Do you want to give us an overview of your practice that you currently run?

Eleanor Dartnall: [02:28] Yes. So when I retired from there, I decided I wanted to set up, having watched all of that for a long time, knew that I wanted to set up a business that was different. So I did that in 2005 / 2006. Today we’ve got a regional practice with three senior advisors, two support staff, with a target audience mostly of self-funded retirees or people who are beginning to consider retiring. So typically, between 60 and for as long as you live.

Fraser Jack: [03:01] So interesting choice of words that you use, before you retired from one part of your sector and started a new chapter?

Eleanor Dartnall: [03:09] Certainly did. It was a chapter that I didn’t know whether I’d be able to deliver, not having the ... I’ve always had a lot of client face to face but not in terms of strategy and technical advice but I think this is what I was made for.

Fraser Jack: [03:24] Yeah. And you mentioned it was regional. You’re just south of Sydney. So do you see a lot of your clients in the office, they come in and see you?

Eleanor Dartnall: [03:34] All in the office. We’ve got a large number of clients in the CBD of Sydney as well and we’ve got an office up there too. Yes. We don’t go to our clients’ homes, not unless they’re not well enough to come.

Fraser Jack: [03:46] Yeah. Fair enough. And it’s been a fairly successful journey for you, starting out in 2005 / 2006, to being named the advisor of year in 2014.

Eleanor Dartnall: [03:55] Yeah. 2015 was a year to remember.

Fraser Jack: [04:01] Yeah. Wow. I remember you traveling around the country pretty prominently.

Eleanor Dartnall: [04:06] Yeah. When it’s something you don’t expect, it’s a bit confronting actually.

Fraser Jack: [04:11] Yes. And when you started your business, did you set out with that specific target or niche client in mind or it just happened that way?

Eleanor Dartnall: [04:19] Yes I did, remembering that you need experience to deliver well to your audience and my experience has been in the trustee industry. So I suppose that was my comfort zone. It’s a bit outside my comfort zone to sit down with young people and ask them how they spend their money. Doing that with my children’s hard enough.

Fraser Jack: [04:40] Fair enough.

Eleanor Dartnall: [04:41] I think the advice is to do that. Take on a very tough gig.

Fraser Jack: [04:46] Yeah. I think it’s probably relevant to their stage in life as well, like you mentioned.

Eleanor Dartnall: [04:53] Absolutely. Yeah.

Fraser Jack: [04:55] Now when you said-

Eleanor Dartnall: [04:55] I think being able to talk the same language as your clients is pretty important.

Fraser Jack: [05:00] Yeah. I agree. I agree. When you set up your business, did you set it up with a specific model in mind or way that you wanted to interact with your clients?

Eleanor Dartnall: [05:12] Yes, I did. One of reasons ... Actually, when I did my first business plan, my intention was to set up a model business, that is, a business that’s outside the norm in the industry and I knew it would be a tough fight. And I knew that was what I wanted to do.

Eleanor Dartnall: [05:29] In the trustee company where I worked, we had a lot of investing clients. We had nine or ten advisors and I was always worried, as a person managing that process, that it was a process that almost left the client out of the equation. It was templated, you know? And I can remember sitting down with one older client to present his SOA. On page three, he had the same glazed expression on his face of most new clients and I just said to him, “It’s obvious you’re not understanding this. I would like to stop this and start again.” And I knew that there had to be a much better way. That I actually couldn’t represent that approach to advice which is one of the reasons I left that industry and do what I do now.

Fraser Jack: [06:25] Yeah. It’s really interesting the way image and a lot of the advice processes have been designed without the client being involved in the process or leaving the client out.

Eleanor Dartnall: [06:37] Yep. They have. I’d like to know how many people who are setting the guidelines have had a focus session with the people whose money it is.

Fraser Jack: [06:49] Yeah. Yeah. It’s probably across ... It feels to me like it’s not just around the advice that’s delivered from the advice practices but this is an issue that stems all the way through the sector.

Eleanor Dartnall: [07:02] Yes. Having said that, that’s not to say that the actual advice was not fantastic advice and right for the client but the client doesn’t own it.

Fraser Jack: [07:12] Yeah. If they can’t engage with it and they don’t own it, like you said, and then be a part of it, then it could well then be a risk of not helping them at all.

Eleanor Dartnall: [07:22] Yeah. And also the problem is, if somebody doesn’t own it, they won’t take any responsibility.

Fraser Jack: [07:27] Yeah. Good point.

Eleanor Dartnall: [07:29] And we need our clients to give us pushback if they don’t think it’s right for them.

Fraser Jack: [07:33] Yeah. So you focus a lot with your clients on education and spending a lot of time with them prior to the strategies [inaudible 00:07:42] advice going [inaudible 00:07:42] Do you want to talk us through a little bit of that?

Eleanor Dartnall: [07:45] And this is the one thing I think my peers feel they wouldn’t want to take on because it does take time but I’ve actually ascertained as a test, that our onboarding process doesn’t take any longer because the delivery of the SOA takes no time at all whereas that used to take me quite a while.

Eleanor Dartnall: [08:04] So our onboarding process is broken down into four different journeys with the client. Obviously, the first is to understand their goals. And the most important part of my initial meeting is finding out the DNA of the money that we’re about to look at because I had a new client yesterday. Nearly always, when you stop and discuss inherited money, that precious gift from people who aren’t with them any more, or their hard work, or their clever ideas, they usually cry. So it’s obviously pretty deeply meaningful to them. So when you pause and concentrate on that, it pushes you down a different path anyway. You can’t take out of someone’s hands money that causes emotion.

Eleanor Dartnall: [08:52] So once they’ve agreed to come on board, which, for us, because we pre-qualify our clients, 100% of all first interviews progress to a client, the next meeting is actually the education meeting where we’ve written a workbook that we can go through with our clients with the aim that they absolutely understand what risk is, they understand the language we use, they understand how they want to invest their money by the end of that meeting. So that’s our longest meeting with the client. That takes an hour, an hour and a half. At the end of that, they choose, in dollar terms, how much money they want to put in the different asset classes. That’s our risk profiling done and dusted. Yeah. So that’s the beginning of the education but then realize that that education’s part of our ongoing journey so that we become their constant coach.

Fraser Jack: [09:46] Yeah. Fantastic. I’ve heard you speak a number of occasions, talking about the DNA of money and the emotional history that money can bring and that this may have come from a loved one or it was an inheritance, then ...

Eleanor Dartnall: [09:59] Or from a broken relationship. Yesterday’s couple, who were newly together, the money we’re talking about is hers but it came from a property settlement which, even though she’s found the new love of her life, still causes her very deep feelings. They can’t make it again.

Fraser Jack: [10:21] Yes. Yep. Okay. Now also wanted to just chat about some of the goals conversations that you have with your clients at the beginning. How do you go through that conversation and how do you really ... Cause I mean a lot of clients sometimes aren’t sure of what their goals how. How do you go through those conversations with your clients and elicit those goals?

Eleanor Dartnall: [10:40] Isn’t it interesting and this is under the magnifying glass of audits, of course, is how you set out a client’s goals. Very hard when you can’t put words in their mouth and they sometimes it very hard to articulate and yet we have to, we have to capture it in writing, in a fact find. Yes. It can be very generic. We just want to live a comfortable retirement. We’d like to be able to travel. So you’ve got to drill deeper into that story until you get down to talking ...

Eleanor Dartnall: [11:12] Do you know when their goals become very clear? When you start talking about their children and their estate planning. Then all of a sudden, it becomes a three dimensional picture. So, yes, they do talk about what they want to do. Obviously, you’re getting down to nuts and bolts, like, they really would like a new bathroom but what we’ve got to aim for is, what is their lifestyle journey? Of course, because with older clients, I have to raise the question of, let’s talk about much later in life, when maybe you’ll need care. Almost never do they say, well, we don’t want to think about that. Mostly they say, well, that worries us but we actually haven’t talked about it.

Fraser Jack: [11:54] So do you feel like that really gives permission to talk about some of those things that might be elephants in the room or that is causing them anxiety?

Eleanor Dartnall: [12:03] Absolutely. In, I would say, 60 / 70% of our first meetings, one or other of a couple will drop their shoulders and say “Look, we’ve always wanted to talk about this and we just haven’t.” On a different ranges of topics. It might be about aged care or their fear of aging or it’ll be about they haven’t talked about the worry about one of their children, in some form or other, financially. It might be a goal that they want to [inaudible 00:12:35] but haven’t because they’re hesitant, if we help one, do we have to help the others? It’s such a wide-ranging discussion.

Fraser Jack: [12:43] Yes. Yeah. I absolutely agree. I think that-

Eleanor Dartnall: [12:48] I think that first meeting is more about giving people the freedom to air their fears and concerns as much as their wants.

Fraser Jack: [12:56] Yes. Definitely part of the goal is often relieving tension or relieving of fear or of stress and the actual bathroom or those sorts of things are a conduit towards them being able to have that emotional release.

Eleanor Dartnall: [13:14] Yep.

Fraser Jack: [13:14] Very good. Okay. So with your education, you mentioned you’ve developed an education booklet. Is that something that you developed over time or was it something that you sat down and consciously-

Eleanor Dartnall: [13:23] No. It surprisingly took me a long time. When I was with my prior licensee, I was on their chairman’s council and we’d get together once or twice a year. There’s about 20 of us, I think. And every time, they would put up, in first session of those get togethers, the things they wanted to talk about and time after time they would put up there that they hated the risk profiling tool. So in the end I said, as the only female there, I said, “We’ve got to stop talking about it. Do something about it.” And they said, what? So they asked me to come back to the next one with an idea and I’ve still got it but it’s the most ... When I look at it now, I laugh. It was the most naïve beginnings of what we’ve got now. It really was very naïve.

Eleanor Dartnall: [14:12] So then I built it. Slowly with clients, I’d try and test it until it pulled together as something that they just walked through and it made sense and they learned from it. So it actually took me over two years. Maybe more. Knowing that it mustn’t have very much on a page. That it had to be in color and a font that they liked. I did try it initially cause when I was talking to some peer groups about it, they said, well, we don’t want to spend the time doing that. Why don’t you just send it out to them or do it on YouTube or Google Hangout? Actually, I did. I tested all of that. It didn’t work because absent, being together at the table, you don’t see their body language. You don’t know what they didn’t understand and what you need to re-explain. It just didn’t work.

Fraser Jack: [15:00] Okay.

Eleanor Dartnall: [15:04] [inaudible 00:15:04] Some people thought it was wonderful and said, fantastic, we’ll just send it out to the client. They can come to the next meeting with their [pie 00:15:09] chart. Not only have you not built that extra layer of relationship and trust, you don’t know what they didn’t understand and I think that’s a bit dangerous.

Fraser Jack: [15:20] Okay. I wanted to explore some of the stuff that you’ve been doing recently too, with regards to a survey and a mission ... I describe it a bit as a mission that you’ve set out upon, really on behalf of the entire industry, not just about yourself. But do you want to talk to us a bit about the work that you’ve been doing over the last few years really, in this space?

Eleanor Dartnall: [15:43] And you know, I will say this. I’m very aware that out there and hopefully the regulators will allow it, there are some people that are coming up with some very clever SOAs that are only a very few pages, that have a lot of images and I think they’re fantastic. But also, I think we’ve got to remember as a backdrop to this, that we’re starting to build advice around an age group that will embrace it online or digitally when still the greater percentage of investible money sits with baby boomers who don’t want that. We’re in danger of forgetting that the presentation to them has to be different. They want face to face. They want words. They just don’t have to be in language that they don’t understand, or too many of them. For the next 15 years, the money is with baby boomers.

Eleanor Dartnall: [16:44] I know there’s a very big business for accumulators and younger people but by and large, they don’t have a great deal of money to invest. They’re more about borrowing and budgets and insurance. So just as a background, realize that are they [inaudible 00:17:00] at the 60 year olds and over. So that was my target audience. This is about understandable advice and desire that the clients take a shared responsibility with the advisor for the recommendations made and implemented.

Fraser Jack: [17:18] Yes.

Eleanor Dartnall: [17:18] A cohort of 71 investors, in that age group, they introduced me to their children who are aged between 35 and 55 and interestingly, got almost the same data, as a feedback.

Fraser Jack: [17:31] Just as a bit of an overview for some of us who are unaware of what you’ve been doing, what you’ve been doing over the past few years is really trying to look into the idea of how advice has been delivered in the past, what is it that, from a consumer’s point of view or a client’s point of view, they really do or don’t understand with the advice that they’re receiving and are we on the right path with what we’re doing with regards to advice, the way it’s delivered, the way it’s traditionally been delivered and the way that we keep being told this is the way you deliver advice. To really just ask the question, from real consumers, is this what’s engaging you. That’s pretty much a summary.

Eleanor Dartnall: [18:15] Yeah. And this goes back ... I’ve been very fortunate with my licensee in that I’ve let them know what I’m doing and they’ve allowed me to do it so that’s meant that their lawyers have had to look at it as well as their compliance regime. But this actually goes back nearly five years, when I talked to my own clients, recognizing as I presented ... I loathed presenting an SOA because it used to take me two and a half hours and I knew that clients weren’t coming with me on that journey. And the main problem was, let’s forget the multitudinous tables that we need to dispense with, was that all they wanted to know was about them. Here, you’ve got my goals, what in this document is delivering to me? And it was drowned in the compliant generic disclaimers and explanations and all of that.

Eleanor Dartnall: [19:11] So one thing I did do five years ago was, I unbundled the SOA. So I took all of that generic material out and printed it as a separate booklet. By the time the client is coming for the SOA, they’ve already read that and signed off on having read it. So for quite a long time, our SOAs had been a very brief document, only about the client. And that’s been very readily accepted by my compliance regime and everyone else. So that’s doable. But then we come down to what’s left and whether we can make that more understandable. Yeah.

Fraser Jack: [19:50] So, just as an overview, you’ve spent, it started five years ago, but you’ve spent the last couple of years really on a mission to understand the consumer’s point of view of SOAs and that’s not an easy process, obviously. Do you want to talk us through the process that you went through to start that and what they-

Eleanor Dartnall: [20:08] Well, funnily enough, I very fast discovered that the process upfront was a legal one because here am I, asking permission to speak to other advisors’ clients. So we had a legal process where I had to sign off that these investors would not have a name, that the meetings would not be in my office, that we would only do it once they had gone to their advisor and got permission. And out of 21 advisors, only one advisor said no. So I’ve been very fortunate. And the conversations had to be contained to just their journey from preparing for their first interview to signing off on the advice. At no time was I to ask about how much money they had or what their advice actually was.

Eleanor Dartnall: [20:55] Now that took four months because it all had to be signed off. You can imagine. Here I am talking to potentially your clients and you’re saying, well, I don’t know that I want anyone else to know what their journeys been on. So I’ve been very fortunate. Actually, a couple of those advisors were at one of the presentations I gave on the last roadshow and contacted me later and just said, thank you very much. And they’re going to change their business accordingly.

Fraser Jack: [21:26] That’s a tremendous reflection on yourself also that when you asked that question, that so many advisors were willing to be part of it and, I guess, trusted you and who you are and what you’re doing.

Eleanor Dartnall: [21:37] Yeah. Well a lot of detail went into the documents sent to the advisor. I don’t know who the advisors are so it had to go through my cohort. I think they appreciated the care I was taking not to ... And I also signed off that I would never take one of these clients on myself. So all of that was very important. So, yes.

Eleanor Dartnall: [22:01] So what I was taking them through was how they’d prepared, what triggered their need for advice, how did they prepare, were they given any support to prepare for their first meeting, that was meaningful, through to their risk profiling, through to the actual strategic discussions they had around strategy and right through to the actual presentation of the advice and whether they understood it. Whether their estate planning was part of the conversation. All of that. I feel, rather sad results.

Fraser Jack: [22:34] And so do you wanna talk us through some-

Eleanor Dartnall: [22:39] Interestingly Fraser, one of the overriding positive things about this, 90% of the respondents stated they absolutely trust, some of them said and love, their advisor but interestingly, because of that trust, they therefore, trust the advisor’s advice. It became very clear that the relationship had become more important than the advice. In every single case, they would go to their advisor if they were in any sort of trouble, not only financial, which is pretty extraordinary really.

Fraser Jack: [23:16] Yeah.

Eleanor Dartnall: [23:17] So it’s about forming a trusted relationship.

Fraser Jack: [23:20] Yeah. Now I’ll just mention here that you had 71-

Eleanor Dartnall: [23:24] 71.

Fraser Jack: [23:26] Yeah. That you interviewed and as you said, you spoke to them and sometimes their children as well.

Eleanor Dartnall: [23:31] Yes.

Fraser Jack: [23:32] How long has that process taken you?

Eleanor Dartnall: [23:35] Oh, the actual meetings went from two to three hours with me taking ... One of the interesting things was, none of them wanted me to tape it, record it. And anyway, I think that was probably wise, given they weren’t my clients. So all of this ... I won’t tell you how many notebooks I’ve filled. So you can imagine, to pull the data together, if I was looking for ... I had to group their responses into categories. So I had to go through all these multitudinous notebooks for each question. That took me six months.

Fraser Jack: [24:09] Yeah. This is a monumental piece of work that you’ve been doing.

Eleanor Dartnall: [24:12] Yeah. It’s very different to do something online, out of one to ten. Did you like your advisor?

Fraser Jack: [24:20] Yes. Yeah.

Eleanor Dartnall: [24:24] But I found that it certainly wasn’t giving me the answers I needed.

Fraser Jack: [24:24] And I’m fascinated as to what has come out of this information. Like, what are the results and the insights that you can now bring to the market?

Eleanor Dartnall: [24:34] Yes, obviously we haven’t got time to go through them all but some interesting things. I had to ask open-ended questions. I couldn’t have a yes or no answer. How did you prepare for your initial meeting with your advisor and can you describe your expectations and your objectives when you sought the advice? So some interesting things came out of that and I was beginning to hear signs of it in presentations at various conferences.

Eleanor Dartnall: [25:04] 9% didn’t prepare but they did have an idea of what they wanted. 60% needed help to plan for the future and felt prepared to have a meaningful discussion. And 31% had a clearly defined need for specific advice relating to one objective. Now the other side of this, when we went further, cause an open-ended question means you’ve got prompts, what they were saying was, we didn’t want comprehensive advice but that’s what we got. They wanted piece by piece advice. We’ve got this one goal, can we just have advice about that? And instead of that, got a hundred pages covering from cradle to grave. They found that confusing and overwhelming. Interesting.

Eleanor Dartnall: [25:51] Now, CoreData ... So I said 31% had that as a result. CoreData, Investment Trends rather, their research showed Australians who would prefer piece by piece advice, 30% of them. So I’m sitting at this presentation from Investment Trends going, yes! So isn’t that interesting, though? And we’re now just starting to hear conversations around, we can give piece by piece advice. Just give it to them in little chunks.

Fraser Jack: [26:25] Yeah. Exactly right.

Eleanor Dartnall: [26:29] Clients have got more than one entity. They’ve got a super fund, they’ve got investments in their own name and at the moment, my licensee requires you to have a different SOA for each entity. Well, I’m fighting that because 80% of the information is the same in every one of them.

Fraser Jack: [26:47] Yeah, exactly right. I think you’ll find it’s not just your licensee though, it’s probably every licensee requires that.

Eleanor Dartnall: [26:51] Well, we can’t just say we hate it and the client hates it. We’ve got to fix it.

Fraser Jack: [26:53] Yep. Oh, I agree. Yeah, yeah.

Eleanor Dartnall: [26:57] Now I’ve gone back to our [inaudible 00:26:59] team and said I want to only do one but then we’ll have section A, B and C that just deals with those points relevant to each entity and they’ve said okay.

Fraser Jack: [27:08] Somewhere along the line we lost the clear and concise part of this.

Eleanor Dartnall: [27:14] Yeah. So obviously, I’ve got a lot of takeouts of what the clients said. So I’ll tell you when there’s some that are really important.

Fraser Jack: [27:22] So talk to me about the Statement of Advice itself. When clients were receiving the Statement of Advice or information, how were they, as you mentioned before, were they glazing over or ... ? What was their-

Eleanor Dartnall: [27:37] So we’re getting through to actually the presentation of the SOA?

Fraser Jack: [27:38] Yeah.

Eleanor Dartnall: [27:42] Okay. Did you read the whole Statement of Advice document? Did you understand the content? Where there was content you didn’t understand, were you comfortable asking for further clarification? They’re the sort of open-ended questions. 24% didn’t read the whole document. They relied on the executive summary. And, in fact, a great many of them were told, just read the executive summary. So why do you write all the rest?

Fraser Jack: [28:06] Yeah.

Eleanor Dartnall: [28:08] 27%, the SOA was partly presented by the advisor. It was then recommended they read it themselves later. 12% of that number had never read it. 28% were uncomfortable asking questions and they were also confused and some of them used the word ‘afraid’, of the many tables and the data represented in them and how they tried to link those together. And forecast is a promise that you probably can’t keep anyway. Some of them were actually afraid of the numbers and the way they are presented and felt that if they didn’t understand those, they just had to leave it entirely in the advisor’s hands. Now these were people that were clever enough to earn the money in the first place.

Fraser Jack: [29:02] Yeah. Lot of confusion and bamboozle in there.

Eleanor Dartnall: [29:05] So the same research ... Now this research was done almost at the same time as I was doing this, by Investment Trends. Of those Australians who stopped using a financial advisor in the past 12 months, 22% was due to the advisor’s poor communication skills.

Fraser Jack: [29:25] Yeah. Okay.

Eleanor Dartnall: [29:28] So what is being said out there, it doesn’t matter how we asked about it, we’re getting almost the same results. So then I asked whether they ... Did you feel the information in your SOA gave you the knowledge you needed so that you could consent to the recommendations made? Because one of the most important things we’re doing is getting an authority to proceed. 24% that didn’t read the whole document, gave consent based on the forecasts in the executive summary. 33% believed they understood the recommendations and that outcomes well enough to agree to the advice. 43% had faith in the advisor and agreed that the advice based on the advisor stating the recommendations would achieve their goals. So they just agreed on that basis, without understanding how it was going to do that.

Eleanor Dartnall: [30:26] So the sort of takeouts, you know. One person said, “I don’t think I will ever know enough to make decisions. We agreed to those that were made. I’m still learning and I think I would have agreed to the recommendations but did just because I was told they would reach my goals.” There’s some worrying things there that we’ve got to fix. This isn’t our money.

Fraser Jack: [30:51] Yeah. To me, this is all about the client, the consumer, at the end of day, how they feel when they walk away from this process and there’s not a lot of great feeling in this-

Eleanor Dartnall: [31:02] No. So one of the important things for me, I asked if they felt in control of their personal financial planning. I mean, that’s a position we should be putting everybody in, that they’re in control. Or we’re gonna have another Royal Commission. 21% didn’t wish to take control. They said that’s why they pay an advisor. 22% felt that with some knowledge, they would have been in control and wanted to be but weren’t. 57% had a strong belief that it was the advisor who took the control. And I find that probably the most worrying statistic that came out of the whole episode. So we’ve got just quietly stop and reflect and say how do we turn this ship around.

Fraser Jack: [31:48] And so-

Eleanor Dartnall: [31:49] Some of the conversations that were had during the Royal Commission, and I was reflecting on that and we were listening to cases where the control was taken out of the person’s hands. They didn’t know enough to give them pushback and say this is not right for me.

Fraser Jack: [32:06] Yeah. Control is a big part of it. Now what are your thoughts with these insights now that you’ve gathered them? Where to from here? What’s the plan, to release the plan, to start the conversation, to engage the conversation?

Eleanor Dartnall: [32:26] That’s the spot I’m in my right now is, who do I sit down with? Cause I don’t want to do this on my own. I’ve done it so far on my own. This is an industry thing. We need to ... Obviously, a white paper or something has to come out of this which is the basis for having a further conversation with the regulators and licensees to say we need to get this right and we need to put the client at the forefront.

Eleanor Dartnall: [32:56] I think a couple of the presentations I heard at the AFA Conference, there are people out there that are actually starting to do this anyway but we need everybody to be doing it. Sadly, some of those that have had a very clear insight into what we do, the feedback is, but that must take too long and how much do you charge for it. And if the client knows more and more and more, they won’t need you. I find them very troubling comments. We haven’t lost one client even though we have our clients who could do exactly what I’m doing for them. They do have the knowledge but they’re now getting on with their lives. But they feel they absolutely have enough knowledge to agree or not agree with recommendations we make every time we do a review.

Fraser Jack: [33:48] Yeah. So clients sitting in the driving seat, their advisors sitting in the navigation seat helping navigate.

Eleanor Dartnall: [33:56] Yeah. And we are the coach. We’re using the word ‘coach’ quite a lot in the industry at the moment but I think a little bit loosely. If I’m going to be somebody’s tennis coach, I’m going to teach them what the strokes are, where their feet should be, all of those sorts of things but then I’m going to sit on the sidelines and watch them play. I’m not gonna leap onto the court and play the game for them. They’re gonna pay me to continue to teach them. So if we’re going to suddenly call ourselves coaches, I think we have to understand what that means.

Fraser Jack: [34:33] Yeah. I think coaching also to me is a lot of those accountability conversations, keeping people, as you said, continually improving and on track.

Eleanor Dartnall: [34:43] Yeah.

Fraser Jack: [34:45] Okay. So there’s a-

Eleanor Dartnall: [34:46] An important question I asked was, do you feel responsible for the outcomes of the advice you were given? 40% said they would have preferred to have been involved in the decision making but recognized they needed more knowledge to offer an opinion or ask meaningful questions. 26% thought that the client should be responsible because they had agreed to the advice. 29% thought the decisions were left to the advisor therefore, the advisor was responsible. And 45% clearly felt that the advisor was responsible as he or she had given the advice on what was best for the client. So here we are, with only 26% saying they should be responsible.

Fraser Jack: [35:32] Yeah. A lot of decisions and control type, dominance type behavior, then throughout that. Not a lot of co-creation of strategies together.

Eleanor Dartnall: [35:43] No. Just some interesting takeouts. I pay my advisor to make the decisions so I would think he is responsible. I should probably feel responsible but I don’t really make the investment decisions, my advisor does. Well, it’s my money so I should make sure I understand the advice then I would be responsible for agreeing to that advice.

Fraser Jack: [36:04] It all sounds very simple when you put it this way, doesn’t it?

Eleanor Dartnall: [36:07] It certainly does. I actually, in some of the meetings, I found it pretty confronting but couldn’t show that.

Fraser Jack: [36:15] Yeah.

Eleanor Dartnall: [36:18] With all of them, I asked them to please go back and sit down with their advisor and have another conversation.

Fraser Jack: [36:25] Okay. That was a recommendation from you to most of the, pretty much all of the people?

Eleanor Dartnall: [36:30] I said to them, you’ve got a very good advisor, go back and have a conversation with them.

Fraser Jack: [36:37] So a lot of that could have been the communication breakdown. To me, it kind of feels like, the process, the system, the process that the advisor’s been set, if anything, has been to be responsible for some of this, these-

Eleanor Dartnall: [36:52] Sorry, say that again.

Fraser Jack: [36:53] The process, the process that the advisor’s been set, by either the industry, for example ...

Eleanor Dartnall: [37:00] Oh, the regime. Yeah. I think, absolutely. And as I said at one of the roadshows, I don’t blame our compliance regimes or the governing bodies because they’re not hearing the client’s voice and the only person that can give them a client’s voice is us, the advisors, and we’re not doing it.

Fraser Jack: [37:23] Yeah. Yeah.

Eleanor Dartnall: [37:25] That should be the loudest noise in their industry at the moment, is the advisors letting people know what their clients want.

Fraser Jack: [37:34] That’s a really good point. The advisors being the voice of the client.

Eleanor Dartnall: [37:43] Yeah.

Fraser Jack: [37:44] Okay.

Eleanor Dartnall: [37:44] And at the moment we’re not. We’re not fighting for them.

Fraser Jack: [ 37:44] So what can we do? What are we doing now? You’ve got a-

Eleanor Dartnall: [37:46] Well, me as an individual, I’ve taken that very seriously and I have fought that fight. I’ve fought that through my dealer group, then through the compliance regime and then up through to the lawyers of my dealer group. And they’ve accepted what we do and actually put it in front of all of their advisors.

Fraser Jack: [38:05] Yeah. Okay.

Eleanor Dartnall: [38:05] I think we can’t just sit and wait for someone else to do it.

Fraser Jack: [38:10] Yeah. And the rest of us-

Eleanor Dartnall: [38:10] And I’m not saying what I do is perfect. It’s just a step. Somebody could pick that up and make it much better. I’m not the answer. I’m just trying to be my clients’ voice.

Fraser Jack: [38:23] Yeah. And to me, I would like to be part of the conversation, getting it out there and making it a topic that people talk about. Yeah, definitely wanna-

Eleanor Dartnall: [38:34] I do know that for the age group that this research covers, the answer isn’t doing it online. We’ve tried that. There’s a lot of things we can do online but the more we do online, the more the client wants face to face and there’s experienced people out there that have acknowledged that.

Fraser Jack: [38:57] Yeah. So is there anything you’re working on in your business at the moment, with regard to your clients, that’s come out of this research that you’ve put together?

Eleanor Dartnall: [39:07] Look, it just staggers me how ... I review at the end of every year and think we haven’t done this right yet. How do we do it better? We write a business plan every year. It’s totally client focused. Obviously, sitting behind it whether we financially can do it but that isn’t the high point. The high point is, all our KPI is absolutely focused on delivery to our clients. And yet I still find myself sitting down having to do another document for a client because they didn’t understand the previous one.

Fraser Jack: [39:44] Yeah.

Eleanor Dartnall: [39:44] Or they want way more detail. I don’t know. I’m not the right person to talk about this but some people are finding that the preferred journey is using many discretionary accounts. That’s a conversation. That’s totally taking it out of the client’s hands.

Fraser Jack: [40:05] In your practice at the moment, do you want to give us a bit of an overview? You said you had, was it three advisors?

Eleanor Dartnall: [40:13] I’m a senior advisor. We’ve got two others. We don’t use templates except in terms of appearance. We don’t use the next [planned 00:40:23] template, of course, cause we’re so far away from that. I think one of the confronting things for auditors when they come in this office is finding that I write my own SOAs. I’ll do two today. They don’t take me a long time.

Fraser Jack: [40:38] Yeah. But they’re accurate the first time?

Eleanor Dartnall: [40:44] Yeah.

Fraser Jack: [40:44] And so you as a team, you’ve got three planners and, was it two support staff, did you say?

Eleanor Dartnall: [40:48] Two support staff and our senior advisor [inaudible 00:40:53] a different specialty. So all of us can obviously, in terms of strategy and advice, offer advice about investments, we’re all on the same level. I’m a Trust and Estate Accredited Practitioner. Alex Denham, of course, is an Accredited SMSF Advisor and Katrina’s an Accredited [Aged Care 00:41:13] Advisor. So we don’t all try and be all things for our clients.

Fraser Jack: [41:19] Yeah. So some of your clients would have a relationship with-

Eleanor Dartnall: [41:22] Some Statements of Advice are signed off by two advisors.

Fraser Jack: [41:25] Okay. Yeah. And the clients have a relationship with all of you?

Eleanor Dartnall: [41:32] All of us. Cause they’ve got a four interview process, right up to agreeing to the SOA recommendations. They’re then handed over to the whole team. So my support person does all the implementation and keep in touch with the clients and three months later, the client comes back in and has morning tea with all of the staff. They get an organizational chat as part of their first takeaway folder. And they become part of our family.

Fraser Jack: [42:06] Great. And so what would a typical client process be throughout the first 12 months with you guys? They go through a four stage process-

Eleanor Dartnall: [42:14] So at the end of the very first meeting, they say, well, let’s get on with it, we’re coming on board. So at that meeting, the next three interviews are already set in the diary. So it’s getting to know the client goals, education. The next meeting is constructing their portfolio with them and then the SOA. Implementation is managed by one of the admin staff and they keep in touch with the client constantly to let them know how that’s going because otherwise, people walk away from the last meeting having given us all of their documents, signed transfer forms and then they’ve got nothing when they get home and they say, I wonder where our money is. So we keep in touch with them all the time.

Eleanor Dartnall: [43:01] As I was saying, they come back in three months later to make sure they know all of the team. They sit down and meet them all. They also sit down and have to demonstrate that they can navigate their way around all the platform reports, they can log in, navigate around and do look at them. In that booklet we give them in the unbundled advice process, we set out the responsibilities we’ve both got and it’s made very clear that you, the client, have a responsibility as well, to keep in touch with your investment. So they have to online at least once a month and ring us up if they’ve got any questions or concerns. Yeah.

Fraser Jack: [43:44] So that’s the three month meeting. Do you do anything else between then and the review, or is it ... ?

Eleanor Dartnall: [43:49] So we do two reviews but we also run seminars. We send newsletters out about certain companies that people might have exposure to. Those clients will get an update. Yeah.

Fraser Jack: [44:01] Right.

Eleanor Dartnall: [44:02] And they ring us up. They contact us quite a lot.

Fraser Jack: [44:05] Yeah. Great. And now when you do a seminar, how does that go with your clients meeting your other clients? Do you see that as a really positive thing?

Eleanor Dartnall: [44:14] Quite an interesting question. I was actually bothered by that at first because we make it very clear to our clients, in a small region like this, that we never discuss with anybody else who our clients are and yet then we invite them to a seminar and they all come. So, yeah.

Fraser Jack: [44:29] So they get to know-

Eleanor Dartnall: [44:32] They don’t seem to be at all bothered by it. I thought they would be.

Fraser Jack: [44:36] Yeah, there you go. And that creates its own little community in itself?

Eleanor Dartnall: [44:39] Very much so. And 90%, and it’s now a steady 90%, of all of our new business is from existing clients. I’ve never asked for a referral but this new onboarding process has created that. It’s totally transformed the business, in actual fact.

Fraser Jack: [45:00] Yeah. Very structured and people-

Eleanor Dartnall: [45:02] And where I used to have to go at my job, I’m the rainmaker, for me to keep bringing in new business, which you have to do, I would run seminars, I would run workshops with U3A or other areas like that. I can’t do that anymore. We’re busy with what we’ve got.

Fraser Jack: [45:20] Fantastic. Beautiful. I just wanted to ... If you were running a seminar and you see people coming in that might be new to advice or haven’t received advice before, they might not be a client, what advice or tips do you give to consumers out there around getting advice?

Eleanor Dartnall: [45:39] I do actually touch on it but only with people that come in for advice and when I’m running workshops. I give them a list of questions they really should ask, around, what is your process, what does it cost, what’s my involvement? Yeah. And what’s your experience in giving advice? What are you bringing to the table as the advisor? How do I know you’re the right expert to help me?

Fraser Jack: [46:10] So empowering the client or consumer to interview the advisor.

Eleanor Dartnall: [46:15] Absolutely. Obviously, one of the questions they’re encouraged, if they don’t ask, I tell them they should, what’s gonna happen when you’re not there?

Fraser Jack: [46:25] Yeah. That’s a really good question. So if you’re out and about doing workshops and talking to other advisors around, I know you do a lot of that, roadshows and the like, what tips do you give to new or younger advisors or people looking to become an advisor?

Eleanor Dartnall: [46:46] Well, I do mentor a couple of younger advisors and I try to encourage them to develop, if they can, some of the soft skills. You come out of university full of technical knowledge and your desire to demonstrate that you’ve got it and I would say the relationship with our clients is as much about their personal lives as their financial and you can’t engage with that without empathy. Yeah. And that’s not a skill that you learn at university. That’s a skill you learn by talking to people.

Fraser Jack: [47:25] Yeah. Very good. If you were speaking to advisors that, obviously, there’s a lot of change going through at the moment, and you’re talking to them about those changes and how they might have to adapt over time, what sort of tips and conversations would you have with them?

Eleanor Dartnall: [47:39] Well that’s a conversation we are having, especially with ... I’m probably one of the older advisors in the industry, so people of a like age are saying, well, it’s all too hard and we’re going. We don’t want to lose the years of experience that these people have got and the knowledge, the intelligence they’ve garnered over years of dealing with people. So the only way I’ve been able to deal with this is say, well, I’ve got to do it as well. So that’s why I’m studying. I’ve got an exam next Monday.

Fraser Jack: [48:20] Lucky.

Eleanor Dartnall: [48:21] I could just say, well, for me, by the time you have to have this qualification, I probably won’t be here, therefore, I’m not going to bother. I have to. I’m doing it because I think we need to set an example. But I think it’s very sad that we’re losing people who are really important. So in answer to your question, what am I saying? You can do it and if you need to do it, let’s do it and we’ll only deliver better advice because we’ve got more knowledge.

Fraser Jack: [48:51] Yeah. Very nice. How do you see-

Eleanor Dartnall: [48:55] I think, just don’t be discouraged. I think we’ve got to reach out more to one another.

Fraser Jack: [48:58] Yeah. Work together. I think the industry’s pretty good at that but now is the time when we really need to band together and make sure that happens.

Eleanor Dartnall: [49:06] Yeah.

Fraser Jack: [49:08] How do you see this all playing out? Obviously in the short term there’s a lot of confusion, there’s a bit of anger, there’s a lot of change going on but how do you see the long term playing out?

Eleanor Dartnall: [49:19] I think it’s going to be a very hard year next year. We’re already seeing the beginnings of a quite different approach to audits which we’re struggling with a bit. We’ll learn in the process as long as it doesn’t take us down a path that no client is going to understand. I think we’ve got to start again. We’ve got to get the documentation right. And we’ve got to get the education right and I just hope we don’t lose sight of the client in the process. I think next year’s hard. If we get through that, we’re going to be in a much better place.

Fraser Jack: [50:00] Yeah. Very good. I’ll finish on this last question but it’s one I always finish on. If you could go back and give yourself some advice, some tips in life, in your journey, in your business, what would be the big tips you’d go back in time and give yourself some advice on?

Eleanor Dartnall: [50:22] I’d probably try and have a work life balance that was better. I don’t have one at all at the moment. I won’t tell you how many hours a week I’m working. I’ve always been, if I go right back to the beginning of my career in banking, I’ve always been somebody that stands up for the client and fights. I did that in my twenties. So probably not in that space. I’d probably focus on education a lot earlier in my life. It wasn’t available when I started. I started out as a bank cadet accountant, in the days when there wasn’t even a degree in accounting. So, yes, don’t do any sums, thank you.

Eleanor Dartnall: [50:59] What would I do differently? I think I’ve had a very blessed career. I’ve been very fortunate in a time when women had to leave the workforce if they got married. So I’ve had a very blessed career, especially in the trustee industry where I ended up on the board of a large publicly listed company.

Eleanor Dartnall: [51:24] I think probably the advice to myself, looking back, would be always have a balance in what you do. I think I still need that. I need to say it to myself now.

Fraser Jack: [51:37] Very good. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing everything with us today. I really appreciate it. How can we get hold of you, if somebody wants to help out with regards to the white paper, or just [viewing 00:51:52] it, what’s the best way-

Eleanor Dartnall: [51:53] I’ve got a phone number.

Fraser Jack: [51:55] Yeah. Look you up. Look your practice up.

Eleanor Dartnall: [51:58] Look me up and contact me.

Fraser Jack: [52:00] Excellent. All right.

Eleanor Dartnall: [52:00] Cause it’s gonna be a mammoth job. Obviously there’s a few people who commercially want to do it. That’s not what I want to do.

Fraser Jack: [52:07] Yeah. Fantastic. You want them to be part of the community and be there. Excellent. All right. Well, thank you. We’ll put some-

Eleanor Dartnall: [52:14] Thank you very much. Have a safe and happy Christmas.

Fraser Jack: [52:17] Thank you very much. We will. And you too. Enjoy any time off you have and I hope you get some nice work life balance out of any time off you have.

Eleanor Dartnall: [52:26] I’m meant to be on leave today. Okay.

Fraser Jack: [52:29] All right.

Eleanor Dartnall: [52:30] See you later, Fraser. Thank you.

Fraser Jack: [52:30] See ya. Bye.

Fraser Jack: [52:32] If you haven’t already, I’d love you to subscribe to the podcast on your podcast platform of choice. And to continue the conversation, head over to our social media channels. We’ll catch you next time.


Disclaimer: This document is a transcription obtained through a third party. There is no claim to accuracy on the content provided in this document, and divergence from the audio file are to be expected. As a transcription, this is not a legal document in itself, and should not be considered binding to advice intelligence, but merely a convenience for reference.