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Podcast Transcript

Episode 31, Season 1

Cultivating advice, with Jim Stackpool


Jim Stackpool: [00:01] When you’re providing intangible value. It’s not the investment, it’s the intangible value that stands. You know, Dan Sullivan said this, what’s the leadership you’ve given people, what’s the capability you’ve given people, but more importantly what’s the confidence you’ve given them? And he nailed it, in my opinion. That’s again, going back to the conversation with the good advisors I first met in 1989 on having and how did they make that methodical consistence specific regardless of who they spoke to on their phone.

Fraser Jack: [00:33] Hello and welcome to the Goals Based Advice podcast, where I have conversations with pioneers of the new world of financial advice. I’m your host Fraser Jack. I wanna thank you so much for tuning in today. A big shout out to everybody who’s left me feedback and reviews that I’ve received so far.

Fraser Jack: [00:48] If you’re enjoying this podcast, please help me spread the word, share with your friends and colleges, and leaving me a review on iTunes or whichever platform you access the podcast. We’d also like to thank our supporting partner Advice Intelligence for powering this podcast and you could book a demo directly from their website at adviceintelligence.com.

Fraser Jack: [01:08] In this episode I chat with legendary advisor to the advisors, Jim Stackpool. We cover topics like how they go about cultivating advice. Jim’s certainty advice program certification. We talk about transparency and simplicity in the one page visual plan. We also dive a little bit deeper into what clients perceive as value. We turn about the ongoing pre-arrangements versus the 12 month pre-arrangement, and how Jim holds the advisors accountable to the communications that they have with their clients. We also chatted, just quickly, about how he sees the future of advise, including the one to one, one to many, and zero-to-many models. It’s a jam-packed episode, so let’s jump into it right now.

Fraser Jack: [01:54] Welcome to the show, Jim.

Jim Stackpool: [02:00] Thank you Fraser. Great to be here, thank you.

Fraser Jack: [02:00] Yeah, very good, my pleasure. Now tell me, do you want to give us a quick overview of just what you’re doing at the moment?

Jim Stackpool: [02:08] We’re running a program called Cultivating Advise, which we have about a hundred and [inaudible 00:02:13] more of Australia. Basically we firmly believe that the wisdom’s already in the market, and what needs to happen and occur. So bringing people who are seeking further clients together regularly, and sharing the insights and experiences, their lessons as a group, and then giving them some opportunity to create their learning, provide an online supporting platform for them to access. I think it’s the model for growth, to actually to achieve what we really want to achieve, which is change the value and perception of advise in Australia over the long term.

Jim Stackpool: [02:46] So yeah, Cultivating Advice, been running it, our first program was 2004. We run them every quarter, and so they’ve been going pretty well.

Fraser Jack: [02:55] Very good. You’ve obviously been fairly well known in the Australian financial device space, and all over the world actually. I’ve heard podcasts of you doing stuff even in the US. Give us a bit of a background of how you got into this industry and some of the stuff you’ve been doing over the last twenty odd years.

Jim Stackpool: [03:12] Oh Fraser, I try to explain to my wife all the time what I do, and I can’t. I think, fundamentally, I’m a bit of a change agent. My traditional training in programming is a programmer, computer programming. Analyst, systems design, that sort of thing. But, I think, in terms of the ... I was lucky enough to meet some really great advisors back in the late ‘80s who heralded what’s happening now, today. They really significantly influenced me when I started to focus purely on financial service. I just saw ... at the time, the tax deduction on superannuation’s three thousand bucks. It was very much cheaper than buying insurance. And starting a big model of investment sales, the big majors, infrastructures, groups making place for each other. You still see Mutual, there’s Capita, there’s Claim Mutual, there’s ...

Jim Stackpool: [04:01] And we could just see the writing on the hand. Having ten years prior in computer industry, where I saw the computer hardware companies all fail because they didn’t have a differentiating proposition as a hardware supplier. And coming from the software side, I just thought, “Well, the software side of device is gonna excel.” And I’ve always wanted to build a platform, not so much a traditional software platform, but a services platform ever since those days. And that’s what I’m still trying to do.

Fraser Jack: [04:27] So from software to soft skills?

Jim Stackpool: [04:29] Yeah, exactly. Good point.

Fraser Jack: [04:32] And so, you come from ... obviously, that very technical, analysis background, being able to look at something and go, “Well, is that right way of doing it? Is there a better way?” And all those sorts of things?

Jim Stackpool: [04:40] I guess my key core skill, which probably will take appearance more than the universities I went to, was just listening and meeting great people, and leveraging off the experiences all those great people have. And so having met so many great firms, and great people, and women and men who really got the client’s interests at their heart, over thirty years my techo skills are probably a bit less than my listening skills. And like any consultant in the world, nothing is original. It’s been around before in some guise, and our job is to package it, deliver it, curate it with a minimum of effort, and energy, and cost. So that not everyone’s making their own footsteps into this fantastic opportunities without moving forward, and leveraging off the experience of others.

Fraser Jack: [05:22] Now obviously in that time that you’ve come through, you’ve seen a huge amount of change in the industry as we’re moving towards the profession, and I guess a lot of things, so many things will have changed. Yet so many things will have stayed the same.

Jim Stackpool: [05:35] Yeah, I think fundamentally the thing that I’ve clutched onto Fraser, again, wasn’t my idea, I just saw great advisors and doing it. What is value? What fundamentally is this question of value? What do people value? And then how do you consistently, and specifically, and methodically deliver value to people? And so yes, there’s obviously been arms that work with investment advisors, and risk advisors, and accountants, and lawyers. But the value isn’t so much the technical delivery of a great SMSF, or a great retiree plan. The value is what that provides to the end purchaser. And so, I think over all the years, and all the changes, and all the regulations, those firms have come back and we just observe it time and time again, to this state, “What do they value?”

Jim Stackpool: [06:26] And again, not what I perceive their value to be, ‘cause I’m on the other side. What do they perceive the value to be? And that means in some ways, dropping some of the killing and dialing, so to speak, and dropping “I’ve got the best investment plan” or “I’ve got the best SMSF structure”, “I’ve got the best tax plan” or “I’ve got the best underwriting abilities.” Everyone talks like this. What does it enable, what do they value? It’s less between a core thing. I don’t think that question will ever stop, how do you deliver better value?

Fraser Jack: [06:57] You know, I’m happy to jump down that rabbit hole actually. Because you know a big thing, like you said before, perceived value, the perception of what other client’s perception of what value is. And one of the things that I think the industry’s grappling with at the moment is around this idea of how do you measure that value, and then obviously prove your value in the way of an FDS or whatever it might be, which is the next step. But really quantifying and measuring that value with your clients.

Jim Stackpool: [07:22] Well, and I think that isn’t enough. I just had a call with a fellow about that. And I think we’ve got to recast the question, so to speak. What is your client’s value? What does the client fundamentally value? If you’re not ... and again, methodically and specifically coming back to the, “What do you value in our work together every year?” I think the advisors have got to stop saying, “My value is the FDS.” or “My value is the ...” What does it enable the client to do? What do they value as a consequence of that?

Jim Stackpool: [07:52] I guess probably the other key thing I should’ve said right up front is that, our advisors are in the business of trying to be the client’s principal advisor. They want to be the go to girl or guy for all matters financial in their lives, regardless if they do the accounting, or they do the property, or they do the investment, or they do the super. They wanna have a strong relationship broadly, ‘cause I know there’s some influence on the client across their whole financial life. “My best asset allocation.” or “My best cash flow plan.” could be out the window tomorrow. Have you got some influence over the other aspects of all their lives. Not control, but just influence.

Jim Stackpool: [08:28] So that’s probably a real strong bias I’ve got, that I really, really believed in a model where the old principal advisory firms, and then have a conversation every year about what does the client value. ‘Cause a value proposition comes out of that conversation, not what I put on my website as what I can do. It’s why you can do what you do, and the value that has to the client.

Fraser Jack: [08:48] So, a little bit of a pecking order conversation then, with regards to all the advisors that a client may have. They might have a mortgage broker, they might have an accountant, they might have other people in the advise or finance spectrum there. How do you sort of position that then, as an advisor with your client?

Jim Stackpool: [09:05] I think, you gotta have a very different five to ten minutes, the first five to ten minutes of your conversation. You’ve got to do it in such a way, knowing that clients don’t trust financial advise, financial services, and the uncertainty, thanks to all sorts of headlines and continual headlines. And also the uncertainty of the effectiveness of the marketing and some of the big majors that will say, “We’re doing all this for you.” And giving you piece of mind, but we get paid by the product.

Jim Stackpool: [09:34] But you do have to work through that in the first five to ten minutes of each client conversation every year, because it is different, it’s innovative. And like electric cars, or like going paperless offices, or like giving up plastics bags, being different means, “What are you doing that for?” So you’ve got to work through that. That’s why we ask, and when we work with our clients, they send us their recordings, their prior conversations, and we critique them, looking at the recordings and what’s said and why you’re saying this. Unless you get to that level of cutting through in that first five to ten minutes, the position “I’ve got a different approach,” but it has to be valuable. Then no one gets to the fifteen minute or twenty minute mark.

Jim Stackpool: [10:12] When we listen to most of our client’s appointments, our advisors sit back and let the client take charge for that first fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes. Which we don’t think is effective. Done respectfully, done professional, we have to take charge for that first five to ten minutes to really ascertain, and really understand if we’re working with five minutes or five years, or more. I don’t want to make an assumption that what you’re gonna value from us is coming here.

Fraser Jack: [10:35] So that’s really purposeful, like really actually focusing on that at the very first part of the conversation.

Jim Stackpool: [10:42] But if you don’t get that, why am I going to hire you?

Fraser Jack: [10:44] Yep.

Jim Stackpool: [10:46] You know, and I think if anyone that touches that client file, doesn’t understand that. It’s not about cash flow, it’s not about tax plan, it’s not about super lump sum, it’s not about getting eight percent, four percent, it’s not about paying twenty five BIPS. They’re all really essential elements. And we use a line, “Like a surgeon’s sharp scalpel.” I don’t want to test how sharp the scalpel is, I just want to get walking again, or get healthy again.

Jim Stackpool: [11:06] So our focus on that purposeful value conversation, and this also extends that ... We think bringing all the office into that meeting, and in Australia our wage is too high, comparatively to the world. So if anyone in the office are thinking five or six years time, we’re playing a traditional back office role. Everyone’s gotta be in there listening, and hearing, or reviewing what that client values. So when they’re touching the client file and then getting in contact with client, they too can just go from exactly what’s being said, “Why are you paying us?” And I’ve got to be able to answer that question in fifty or sixty. ‘Cause we know what’s going to happen with [inaudible 00:11:39], we know what’s going to happen. It’s one of those lazy fees that have been grandfathered. They’re not gonna be there.

Fraser Jack: [11:45] So you recommend recording all those meetings for all staff that touch the file?

Jim Stackpool: [11:49] Yeah, I think for an certainty, we call them certainty advisors. For a certainty advisor, a recorder is a carp and his hammer, which is, you’ve got to have it. You gotta capture everything that’s said. Not that you need to listen to every single word, but having that, exactly what’s said and how it’s said from a training development or own professional development. Not missing stuff, that works for particularly a lousy listeners, gotta have that ability to go back and hear exactly what was said and what was valued.

Fraser Jack: [12:13] And how would you suggest advisors set that tone with a client, that everything’s gonna be recorded in the meeting?

Jim Stackpool: [12:19] Well I think Bill Bachrach, and John Baldwin, and Ross Leven, and Dan Sullivan and all those guys ... and again, we went through all those programs, we listened to all those really worldwide gurus, but it’s just a matter of course. You know, I’m going to take notes, so that I don’t want to miss anything, it’s really important I capture everything that’s said, I want to focus on you and our conversation we’re having and not making endless notes.

Jim Stackpool: [12:32] I do need to keep clients, and I just want to make sure I don’t miss anything. It’s part of us being thorough. I’ve been doing this since 2004 I think. Most systems groups, their clients, they’re very cautious about recording. Majority of Australians just take it as “If that’s your system, that’s your process.”

Fraser Jack: [12:55] Yeah I think you’re right, it’s definitely in the question, isn’t it? Couldn’t they have just said “Do you mind?” or “If I can...?”, it’s putting yourself out there for a no.

Jim Stackpool: [13:01] Yeah, and you gotta just be quiet. It’s gotta be in their best interests why you’re doing it. It’s gotta be obviously the open way of doing it, respect privacy of course, but it is in their best interests to make sure you capture everything and don’t miss a thing. And then at times, I do need to re-listen to them. We’ve got clients that ... We listen to last year’s discovery conversation before the client comes in for another, just to really make sure what was the issues last year. Not the whole meeting, but just the key part of that why we’re engaged.

Fraser Jack: [13:27] Yeah. Now you mentioned certainty advisors before. Now, without giving away all your IP obviously, do you wanna run through a bit of the process that you recommend the advisors go through? Like from a standard you meeting, like the number of meetings, the time spent with the client prior to advise coming, all those things.

Jim Stackpool: [13:42] Well again, it’s not kind of standard. I think the only standard is that we would insist that there’s a discovery every year. And so we call it the discovery meeting because ideally what the client goes through every year, I just rediscover the value people are providing to them. In the old days, discovery was getting the advisor to discover about the client, but we think that’s round the wrong way.

Jim Stackpool: [14:04] And so, the only real insistent Fraser, is that every year, every certainty advisor has a discovery or re-discovery, and goes back again to those questions about, “Let’s really talk about transitions you had, progress you’ve made, the aspirations you’ve still got, the complexities you face.” So those elements about aspirations you’ve got, transitions you need to get through, complexities that still need to be managed, they are fundamental conversation elements in the discovery.

Jim Stackpool: [14:31] And then we reduce the terms of engagement, we’re very big on putting the client’s life on a single page and keeping it that way for as long as you’re engaged with us. Putting client’s easiest specific path you need follow, and putting that graphically, or sharing it on the iPad or iPhone, or putting it on the fridge, whatever they want to put it on.

Jim Stackpool: [14:50] So key tools, having client’s lives on the page, progress chart showing graphically where we’re gonna be going, and having assigned terms of engagement on an annualized basis with these in clear dollars. No percentages, no commissions. “Here’s the dollar amount you need to pay us this year.” No big ORs.

Jim Stackpool: [15:10] And again, for many firms we’ve had, they’re evolving to that sort of pricing approach. But we think having no real or perceived conflict in the advise, quoted in flat dollars, is absolutely essential. For a certainty advisor, I’m not saying the rest is non-professional. I think there’s a real big confusion about the term professional in my opinion. I can go into a Toyota dealership and get served by a professional who just respects my best interests. If I haven’t got a vehicle that probably meets exactly what I need, I’ll tell you to go and get a Mazda. They’re being professional.

Jim Stackpool: [15:41] So I think representation of best interests is the professional’s mantra. There’s very many models of it, and we just call ours certainty advise.

Fraser Jack: [15:50] Yup, now I wanna just quickly ask you about this idea of going back every year and getting the terms of engagement signed. Obviously that fits with a lot of what’s going on lately with both the disclosure dates, FDS, and opt-in, and basically going back and saying instead of having an ongoing service arrangement, having a twelve month service arrangement. Is that what you do, a twelve month?

Jim Stackpool: [16:11] We think the term ongoing and up front is a technical term. It’s heading to the grave. We’ve long thought that. There’s on such thing as ongoing. Yes, I want eighty percent or more of my clients to keep coming back. No question, I’m a business person. But, the whole idea that the trust I built last year, I can leverage upon that and just charge another fee for this year, no. I don’t think that’s a commercial model moving forward. I think I need to show that trust and respect, not so much ... some years, you’re gonna have tough years. Some years there’s tough decisions. But I think that ongoing, re-signing of the terms of engagement is absolutely essential. That’s my current thinking.

Fraser Jack: [16:50] And are you thinking that an advisor meets with a client quarterly, half yearly, or does that just depend on the client?

Jim Stackpool: [17:01] Yeah look, in the old days it was ten thousand dollars a client, four meetings, or four thousand dollars a client, four meetings, and one thousand dollar client, one meeting. That’s just again how the product based proposition. You might have a client, “I’m just too busy, I don’t want to meet.” Let’s find a much more effective way to meet with them or follow them up. I think, again, that’s probably ... If I’m saying that a meeting is valuable, you’re sort of getting on the wrong side of the value conversation again.

Jim Stackpool: [17:23] What does the client value? You might have a client who’s a phobic, or a client who’s fastidious, time’s really important and they wanna see every Excel spreadsheet, “No, I want to meet more than four times a year, and I can just pay for that.” I’m not tied to the fact that more meetings means more value. I’m just tied to what does the client value and build your proposition around that.

Fraser Jack: [17:42] Yeah, great. Now, I wanna go back to this idea of the new client coming in and being through a discovery meeting. And in that discovery meeting, as you said before, you’re setting this scene about what the advisor is gonna do and those sort of things. What sort of depth of questions do you get to with regards to the-[crosstalk 00:17:59]

Jim Stackpool: [17:58] I think you do enough for now Fraser to get to strategic engagement. So we don’t go into who’s name’s on the testamentary trust and what names are all the insurance policies in. You only need to understand if they exist, of course, and who their accountant is and who their lawyers are. We don’t think anyone can go more than a ninety minute meeting up front, clients don’t sit in meetings for longer than ninety minutes. They’re not sitting in meetings like we are. And that also as advisors, we also think a re-discovery meeting when it’s just a client should be tops about sixty minutes. And of which half, or a decent majority of those minutes in the new or existing meeting is about discovery conversation.

Jim Stackpool: [18:38] ‘Cause that’s what the clients pay you. “What’s the basis of the value we’re gonna do this year?” And then the remainder is, “I do wanna know who advisors you’re working with, I do wanna know the relationships important to you, I do wanna know the interests that you follow, I do wanna know the process that’s best to serve you. I obviously want to know your financials, but I also want to know the transitions that are in front of you, aspirations that you have, but I also want to understand the state of complexities that you face in the financial world. Because that’s a core element of the value we’re going to add to help you get through those.”

Fraser Jack: [19:05] Yeah, a lot of that stuff obviously is around the financial piece. Do you spend a fair bit of time on the goals, and the values, and their hopes and dreams and aspirations, and all those sort of questions around their actual lifestyle prior to the financial?

Jim Stackpool: [19:19] Yeah, I probably counteract it, and a lot of this stuff I just ran through is in fact, probably more behavioral and lifestyle and non-financial. We think it’s too strong a bias towards the financials, for instance. This is where I’d say that our approach, particularly, and this is where I come back to ... the piece that we think is missing from most conversations is what we call, and I’ve just stated that, the complexity piece. So we wanna identify in our conversation and then come back to them in a week, and revisit these every year.

Jim Stackpool: [19:49] One of those things, those issues, that they’re not actually treated, they’re gonna ruin the asset allocation, ruin the cash flow column. And so we want to understand how collaborative are these two people as a working unit. How impatient are they? What role does money play in their lives? What have been the issues and experience they’ve had with other advisors before they’ve come and seen us? What challenges they had in their careers, in their lives, in their marriages? How well do they regard their life partner’s financial objectives or financial opinion? Are they burdened by significant debt? Have they had a difficulty to save and budget? These are all, I would say more, non financial stuff but really core to us being able to deliver the proposition that we want to deliver.

Fraser Jack: [20:32] Yes, so really around the person’s habits, what they’ve done and their behaviors in the past, and what they’re likely to, their temperament and those sorts of things?

Jim Stackpool: [20:40] Yeah, I think once people are past thirty five, I don’t know about you, but we are who we are. They’re always going to be busy, they’re always going to be time poor, they’re always going to be bad with money or good with money. And so we would say that a lot of the continual re-engagement value is that, “Look I’m never gonna get around to understanding all this stuff and putting it in perspective, and be on the best possible path as markets change, as products change, as conditions change, as our lifestyle change, we’re going through new transitions. So having someone there that gives us that piece of mind, gives us that best possible path we should be on, which might not be any product at all, but it’s simply, it’s still the best possible path. I’m willing to pay for that confidence and that capability for the direction you give me, whether I’m eighty five or I’m forty five.”

Jim Stackpool: [21:20] I think putting that around the value of the client approach to that is what I’m getting at. It’s really core as compared to all the work you’ve done. I think too many advisors I think still today, “Well what’s the work.” And you know, you can’t charge those sort of fees, that’s ridiculous. What did you do? What’s the value that you’re delivering? Provided it’s all clear, Australian dollar terms, there’s no influence in price, I’ve already engaged in [inaudible 00:21:37]. You can pull out anytime you want. You’ve got to let the market decide the value and the price.

Fraser Jack: [21:44] Yeah. So you’ve been through that discovery process and really found out what makes the client tick. How do you then map your services, not so much with the technical side but the outcomes that we talked about before. You know, the piece of mind type outcome. And then I guess, put that into your contract and measure against it.

Jim Stackpool: [22:04] Well, I think obviously you’ve got to show what you’re going to be doing and I think the report is pretty good on what investments doing and what your tax report is doing and what your budgets are doing and what your super is doing. I think the key thing coming to a conversation you get every year is giving some sort of progress has been made in all areas of their lives, in terms of the behavior management as well as their financial management and then what progress is still required.

Jim Stackpool: [22:28] And a lot of the time, particularly for the traditional financial advisory client, which is a post retiree, with your superannuation, it’s really a maintenance mode, and so there’s nothing significantly different other than simply, “I’ve got you and I want you and you’re in my corner for me, ensuring I am on the right path, there’s things happen.” And they do go through the transitions, and so getting down to when we call up presenting advice path, especially what’s coming up next year, the year after and for the next five years. That’s when, “Is this the right path, is this valuable for us, do we keep herding you on this path, for us to be moving forward?” That’s when we show progress is made, more so what we still need to do, or what we still need to manage.

Fraser Jack: [23:09] Yep. Now one of the things I love about the certainly advise process is around the simplicity. The image before the one trying to get it all on one page, and the visual aspect to it that client to me tend to, obviously we know a lot more people are visual, but to be able to visualize it in a one page rather than a 90 page document I suppose.

Jim Stackpool: [23:27] Absolutely. I think you’ve got to make complex simple. And that’s part of your skill. To make complex simple and relatable to the people ... And we see [inaudible 00:23:30] having been doing it for a couple of years now, clients that we have been working with as well. Their clients are walking back in every year just for the one pager. And saying, “Look here’s where I still want to last year. Where are we up to this year?” They’re referring back to the one pager on their iPad or internet hosted site whatever it is. That’s generally the engagement topic, the re-engagement topic that the client keeps going back to. It’s got the complexity, it’s got the aspiration. It’s got the transitions. It’s got the recommendations. It’s got the progress. All on a page.

Jim Stackpool: [24:02] And we’re keeping it that way. And yes, there’s no one piece of magic software that pulls that all together. I don’t know if there ever will be. I’ve been a software guy from way back. But I think it’s just making the complex as simple is core to the proposition on the page.

Fraser Jack: [24:16] And the clients, as you mentioned before, they bring it back. I’d imagine they’d actually be very attached to that piece of paper.

Jim Stackpool: [24:22] Yeah. Yeah, it’s on their fridges, for some it’s been fun to track data and I think the general ... When we see a rediscovery conversation, the general thing you find is there’s this overwhelming client saying, “You just know us much better than we know ourselves.” And it’s proof again on this. Because the client, initially when they see that map and “Gee whiz, it looks like a program at an Easter Show. Where do you go first?”

Jim Stackpool: [24:49] But making it, as they get more accustomed to what it all represents, and you dumb it down and you smarten it up depending on the type of client you’ve got. They get it. They get this is my life. This is my everything on a page financially. And you guys get it. And they’re not having that conversation to their accountant. They’re not having it with their lawyer. They might have it with a couple of ... a few friends of theirs. But they’re not consistently getting someone pulling the whole rope around the whole financial life and presenting it back. Including aspirations, transitions, fears, wants, desires.

Fraser Jack: [25:16] Yeah, to me the proof is really in the client being able to take their map away, stick it up on their fridge and explain it to somebody else that’s come over, over a cup of coffee and tell you, “This is what happens here, and this is what we’re doing over here, and as you can see...”

Jim Stackpool: [25:28] Yeah.

Jim Stackpool: [25:29] And you know we’re pretty guarded about you know, we don’t generally share, even with our best friends, a lot of stuff about our own financial lives. We’ve seen some instances of it happening like you said. But I think we’re still pursuing an activity. Just spread the word. You’ve got to get your life on a single page, and you should be paying an advisor to do it.

Fraser Jack: [25:45] Yep. Now tell us a bit about your program, if advisors want to get involved or anything like that. Tell us a little bit.

Jim Stackpool: [25:55] Well, we start them up anytime. We firstly have a call, just do a discovery on them. Why are you reaching out to firms like us? What are some objectives that will measure success for you? What are your aspirations? What transitions are you going through? What are the complexities of legislation [inaudible 00:26:10] use our own stuff on the advice. And then, provided they’re willing to share, and that’s a real big proviso, provided they’re willing to send us recordings, then look back at it, we expect to see something back from you every week. A copy of a conversation, a copy of an engagement document, discovery document.

Jim Stackpool: [26:27] We initially originally put them price in the documents. Give them, you can write their engagement documents for them based on the recording. And they usually say for a year. And then if it’s going well, we say, “Well why don’t you come onto the second year?” And them move into social media. We write white papers together. We do podcasts together. We film their clients. We film them. We then accredit them to our accreditation mark, certification mark, certainty advisor, use our logo and trademark. And because we get clients ringing us and say, “Well who can I work with in Canberra, or Melbourne, or Sydney or Perth, who does it this way. Has a life on single pages, quoting dollars without any commission.”

Jim Stackpool: [27:05] So we then, without fee obviously pass those clients through as well. But yeah, it’s really ... We just do with our clients what we ask them to do on their clients. And then they come in for session, usually two day sessions every quarter. But the key aspect of it is we see stuff from them every week, they’re sending us stuff, and we’re doing it and that’s where the coaching comes in. As they build their own house approach [inaudible 00:27:26] advice.

Fraser Jack: [27:26] So you spend a lot of time then on working on those recordings?

Jim Stackpool: [27:31] Yeah. We’re building our own strong back office that says, this is a real interesting one, this is a different one. That’s how we build our curriculum and so all our stuff and all our training is online. [inaudible 00:27:40] We’ve got more clients coming in from the UK and internationally. Cause we really want to take this brand and this form of advice to as many people as possible as they deliver more and more value.

Fraser Jack: [27:51] Yeah, now your business is very similar to an advisor’s business essentially, where you’ve got clients, and the advisors have got clients, and you’re helping them in a similar way. You mentioned you’re doing the online platform, you’re doing a bit in that space, and I’m imagining you’re sort of getting into more of this not just one on one, but one to many type of role.

Jim Stackpool: [28:09] Yeah, we had to move out of one on one. So we were finding going one on one, we just wouldn’t achieve our objectives of getting 80 percent of Australians proper value opposition over the next 20 years. And so we’re not saying ours is the only way, we’re not being arrogant. We’re simply saying this is a model, but we have to go one to many.

Jim Stackpool: [28:25] We also, we found we said right at the beginning there is nothing like getting the confidence and development from working with a group of people that are doing, although every firm is different, there’s nothing like hearing steps others have taken. That can actually speed up your process. There’s nothing like hearing how others have made, used the models and chipped away at them and made them their own. And so working in a group, one to many, I think is the model moving forward.

Fraser Jack: [28:49] Yep. Now do you see this as a model for financial advisors as well?

Jim Stackpool: [28:54] It’s financial advisors, accountants. I think increasingly we’re seeing lawyers. It’s those multi-discipline firms, the old [inaudible 00:29:00] that’s trying to be the one throat to choke as we call the principal advisor. And I think we’ll drop, “Well you’re an accountant.” “Well no you’re not, we’re all advisors.” We’re all trying to help clients make smarter decisions in their lives with the best possible financial outcomes and so I think as we drop risk advisors or mortgage brokers or insurance investment advisors. We all become advisors. I’m not saying we don’t need investment advisors. We still need fantastic tax experts and underwriting experts. I’m not trying to preclude them. But we’re after the advisors who wants to be the advisor, the principal advisor. And have a proposition.

Fraser Jack: [29:32] Yep. In my mind, I’m thinking that you know financial advisor wants to do, have a business where they’re doing one to one plus one to many in certain zones. They’re really just looking at their clients and saying, “Who needs a lot of attention and help through this period of their lives?” And then they might move into a group or a education based thing or something like that. Or is that ...? How do you see it?

Jim Stackpool: [29:56] Yeah look, our ... When we’re consulting, we generally found that too many advisors went for quantity over quality too quickly. And I think the whole idea that I’m good with 100 clients, this year I can put on someone else and they’ll be good with 100 clients. It doesn’t work, in our opinion. I think the skills to get to a 300,000, 400,000 dollar firm are very different to the skills to get to a million, two million, ten million dollars firm. It’s not just replicating what the sound is. Those markets need additional terms, the regulations are different, the paperwork compliance is different. And will always be.

Jim Stackpool: [30:28] And so we think, we still believe in the principal advisor proposition. At the moment, it is less for more. And so I’m trying to do- Sorry, more for less. We’re trying to do more for less from the clients. The bigger question about how do we get to every Australian. I think we’re going to then leverage technology in the next ... After this coming five years, figure out how do we do certainty advice for a hundred bucks a year for everyone in Australia.

Jim Stackpool: [30:50] I think then we’ll probably have a better model for it. But if someone comes ... Look, most firms come to us and they go ... Some firms come to us thousands of tax clients and thousands of low end [inaudible 00:30:59] clients, thousands of low end insurance clients, and we just say, “Look, conversations are conversations. Let’s just build up a different model alongside that in parallel. And then look strategically at the three month, six month, nine month, twelve month. Let’s make a decision on the outcomes you’re getting and what sort of models you then want to build. It’s an evolution of [inaudible 00:31:17]. But you’ve got to be willing to take the steps on that.”

Fraser Jack: [31:19] And how much are the- How much of the online stuff rivets around empowerment, the financial literacy and those sorts of things? How much is actually interactive?

Jim Stackpool: [31:29] Yeah, look. It’s the more I do the online stuff, the more I see I need to do. You know, I think it’s an ongoing thing we need to keep working at. We try to use short, snippet videos about, “Here’s how you use this tool. Here’s the experience to be.” Like every Monday, we just had one this morning where we bring on someone who’s doing a really good job with an aspect and get them talking about ... We put that up online.

Jim Stackpool: [31:51] And we’re trying, so when you see the work that comes in every week, we then try to curate specific elements of the curriculum off to them to say, “Look at this.” Or “View this.” Or “How about you talk to that person down in Woolongong or that person over in Geraldton, because they were in a similar position to you six months ago.” So via us networking off what we see from a coaching perspective, leveraging the online and leveraging community. We think that’s for a better learning experience.

Fraser Jack: [32:13] Yeah, and I know you’ve done a lot of webinars as well, as well as strategy. Is that something that you also recommend advisors get it into their [inaudible 00:32:19].

Jim Stackpool: [32:20] Yeah I think I’m a fan for this sort of stuff. You’re all wherever you are and [inaudible 00:32:24] have this face to face, so yeah I’m a fan of webinars. I’m a fan of podcasts. I’m a fan of ... It’s like an electricity grid. You just got to get on it. You got to use that sort of stuff.

Jim Stackpool: [32:35] You know we all want to maintain a lifestyle. We want to get on planes and fly everywhere, and be there at the front of the crowd. We won’t influence as many people as you have to influence.

Fraser Jack: [32:43] Yep. So there’s obviously a lot of change going on in the advise businesses, even in your own as you’re moving through. But you see mainly that most of the change going on actually in a way they communicate with their clients more so than all the other changes going on in the background?

Jim Stackpool: [32:56] I think everything’s old to new again. You know I think that communication has been core ever since I started doing this with advisory firms back in 1989. I think whilst the technology and the licensing and the infrastructure and the options and the products, regulation, that’s all changed. I think fundamentally everything old is new again.

Jim Stackpool: [33:17] How well are you imparting value, understanding value? When you’re providing intangible value, it’s not your investment, it’s intangible value that sends- And Dan Sullivan said that. “What’s the leadership you’re giving people, what’s the capability you’re giving people, but more importantly, what’s the confidence you’re giving people.” And he nailed it, in my opinion. You know, that’s again going back to the conversation that the good advisors I first met in 1989 were having and how did they make that methodical consistent specific regardless of who they spoke to in their firm.

Fraser Jack: [33:50] Yep. And then if you’ve got that in the beginning, you can be accountable for it.

Jim Stackpool: [33:52] Yeah. You know and I think if you’ve got a system where you can be as compliant around how you deliver the advice, you know the soft skill, as you are in the product skills, the answer is then we need to bring the same level of ... Probably not ridiculous level of compliance on a product level. Same level of compliance on why did they engage, and where did you come up with that price?

Fraser Jack: [34:09] And it’s also, it goes back to the old saying around the best doctor. The doctor with the best bedside manner versus the doctor, the best doctor, without the ... worst bedside manner in compliance and getting sued and complaints and things like that?

Jim Stackpool: [34:22] Yeah, and I think the pendulum swung back against- You know we had a lot of people calling themselves out to be fantastic bedside manner, but no substance and others charging [inaudible 00:34:30] we get this pendulum has to swing back to get some. In some ways the client’s pendulum has swung way too back, and will continue I think post Hayne Royal Commission to ... But we need some more compliance around value, and that’s what we’re trying to build.

Jim Stackpool: [34:45] It’s a 20 year goal. We’re not going to achieve it tomorrow, but hopefully in 20 years time or close to it.

Fraser Jack: [34:51] Yeah. Now you’ve been reasonable vocal after the Royal Commission with a few ideas around what you thought came out of it. [inaudible 00:34:57] on some of those?

Jim Stackpool: [34:59] Hayne’s missed opportunity, yeah. And a bit of it was his remit. His remit was the misconduct and we can’t ... And it was great, we had a judge. It was the first time rather than someone that’s attached to the industry or in the industry doing it. But unfortunately, as Anna Bligh said we’ve had 49 inquiries over ten years, and we’re probably going to have another 49.

Jim Stackpool: [35:19] The fundamental issue for me that was missed was this incentive based behavior that we’ve had in the industry ever since it’s started. And he missed that opportunity to separate it. But I understand. He probably thought people he spoke to and the fish he was shooting in the bucket, he couldn’t see an easier path in the middle of it.

Fraser Jack: [35:39] Yeah, do you think though because of the time frame that was limited towards it and the fact that they just said it was just relating to the misconduct not necessarily- [crosstalk 00:35:48]

Jim Stackpool: [35:49] I think he did a lot in his timeframe. He and his team, the headlines they generated. The devastating effect it’s had on some of the balance sheets of some of the former majors, just fascinating. But his remit was not about designing an new system. His remit was what was it, some of the causes of the past misconduct. And look, it would be hard if you could find someone to do the remit for the new system. That would be hard.

Fraser Jack: [36:12] Yip. Now what are some of the things you’re working on over the next few years and you want to see happen over the next few years as all this sort of plays out?

Jim Stackpool: [36:18] Frazer, I think the key thing is just keep doing what we’re doing. I’d like us to see us expanding internationally. We’ve got a fledgling international market. We see similar changes occurring in some ways in the US, in some ways in the UK. Definitely in New Zealand and also South Africa. But look, our objective is simply that. Build a really great network of advisors and advisor support who are leveraging off each other and all in each other’s footsteps and just I think price for us is going to be about more and more Australians understanding the value of the price. Which as I said earlier, it’s about 20 years for 80 percent of Australians moving through our system or others similar to ours, getting valuable advice. I think there would be less fights in marriages, less uncertainty about small businesses and jobs, less fear about getting best loan and [inaudible 00:37:04] you know, I think that we’ve got to stop with this premise that all the hospitals are now public health systems are owned by the drug companies. We’ve got other options about how we can grow and develop, yet Australians don’t know about it.

Jim Stackpool: [37:16] So if we can create a more of a professional base that’s serving as a best principal advisor over the next 20 years, then I’d be happy.

Fraser Jack: [37:27] Yeah I think there is actually, as you mentioned before about marriages, there’s a fair bit of what we’re doing as advisors in the space of money counseling, relationship counseling based on the movement- [crosstalk 00:37:39]

Jim Stackpool: [37:41] It’s got to be, it’s got to be. And I think it’s been, oh you know I’m not putting clients on a couch yet. We really need someone to put clients on a couch and bring a specialist to put them on a couch, but I think if you’re not taking an holistic view about what are those issues that if left untreated you and those significant to you in your lives are not going to achieve the things you probably deserve or hope for.

Jim Stackpool: [37:59] And it’s not marriage counseling. Sometimes it needs to be but bring in a specialist like you bring in [inaudible 00:38:04] planning directions. But it’s being at [inaudible 00:38:07] and stepping is as leader into that position to have that conversation, understand the value of the [inaudible 00:38:11] and then deliver it and price it effectively so you can fund your growth and also be valuable to your client.

Jim Stackpool: [38:16] It is broadening the perspective away from simply just my specialist is a marriage counselor or a financial counselor. Well now, the specialist is a principal advisor, and bring in the specialist as you need to. That’s our objective.

Fraser Jack: [38:29] Yeah. Now if you’re chatting to some clients ... No sorry, I take that back. If you’re chatting so some consumers, some friends of yours maybe at a barbecue and they’re asking you, you know what should they be looking at when it comes to getting financial advise, what do you say to those consumers?

Jim Stackpool: [38:43] The key think I’m saying is just make sure your price isn’t biased in any way, shape or form. Just understand the prices that may exist and ask these questions to see if it’s biased. No matter how good the conversation may have been, if there’s a sell about it, is there a bias at all towards it. And if there is, that’s okay. Just read it as a bias. If they’re getting paid, they’re charging you with five thousand dollars because you’ve got, I don’t know, half a million in some, just be aware of that, that’s all.

Jim Stackpool: [39:10] Or if there’s a flat retainer fee, or if there’s a [inaudible 00:39:12] of last resort, if there’s a ... Did the accountant get a kick back for introducing you across? Just understand if there’s any traditional biases. Like we’ve all got a bias, whether it’s passive like my investment, or towards underwriting on [inaudible 00:39:25] or certain company for another. You know and I think we’re not getting rid of all those fundamental I use this brown scalpel type bias. I just want any friend of mine to be wary of bias they may not have been aware of. Be a more traditional concept advice.

Fraser Jack: [39:39] Yeah. And now if you’re talking to young advisors coming through, they’ve got a professional year these days to get through. What’s your tips to young advisors coming through?

Jim Stackpool: [39:47] Oh these are the best of times. You know, as I said before, it’s 1979 since [inaudible 00:39:51] invented the PC, get onto it. You know, this is going to be the dominant model. And you’re not pay up on the old hardware issues that those have been pushing main frames for users still hung up on. You know, just grab it. Test it. Fly with it. Don’t try and replicate the career of someone who’s 15 years older than you. You know, this is the best times, because you’ve got no skeletons in cupboards so to speak, or old client based with old promises who are wanting old propositions. They’re probably less and less surprised, and more and more scrutiny.

Jim Stackpool: [40:18] You know, if ... yeah. Some of the biggest challenges we’ve had Fraser in helping firms move on is not so much the new proposition they get excited about, but it’s how you maintain the old proposition with your clients.

Fraser Jack: [40:31] Yeah, do you ever speak to younger guys coming through and have they ever asked you a question of say, “Should I buy a book or start from scratch?” What do you say?

Jim Stackpool: [40:40] Well, again, you’re getting into theory here, but in the first year you’ve got to survive, put money on the table. But realize that you’re going to buy a hundred clients, probably going to be left 20 of them at the end of the year. If you go to a hundred and say well they’ll never do it unless they call me. Well guess what? You’ve just have to go against that in the first year.

Jim Stackpool: [40:58] So be very careful of the habits you’ve got in that first year. Because like in the first year of marriage, that’ll stick with you for the next ten or fifteen. But buying a book and just building it [inaudible 00:41:04] because there’s safety in numbers I think. Those days are gone. I understand just to get going, put money on the table, you need to get started, but once you get up to that 200, 250,000 dollars, 300,000 turnover, you’re going to have to reinvent your proposition. If you have to go back on the proposition you’ve already been delivering at, it’s going to be hard.

Fraser Jack: [41:20] Yip, okay. I’ll just quickly ask you last question, then we’ll wrap it up. Great. If you could give yourself some advice and you go back in time, what would it be?

Jim Stackpool: [41:31] I’d give myself some advice, what would it be?

Jim Stackpool: [41:34] I don’t know. Just probably push harder on the one to many model. You know I think I’ve stayed too long on the one to one model. I think we would have been more advanced if we’d dropped the one to one model earlier. Yeah, so 1989 to 2005. Yeah I probably would have gone earlier on the many model.

Fraser Jack: [41:52] Great, thank you very much. And now just how can people get hold of you if they want to continue the conversation?

Jim Stackpool: [41:56] Our website www.certaintyadvicegroup.com or jim.stackpool@certaintyadvicegroup.com or just get us on LinkedIn or our Twitter or Facebook.

Fraser Jack: [42:06] Fantastic. Thanks so much for coming on the show Jim. I really appreciate your time and effort and have a wonderful rest of the day.

Jim Stackpool: [42:10] Thanks Fraser.

Fraser Jack: [42:10] Thank you.

Fraser Jack: [42:14] 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.