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Podcast Transcript

Episode 45, Season 1

Sitting the FASEA Exam, with James Wrigley


James Wrigley: 00:00 Yeah, so I sat the exam on Monday, and the... I did the very last sitting on Monday, so Monday afternoon. I hadn’t really given it too much thought, the FPA had a lunchtime conference a few weeks back, and they were talking there to say that the registration window was open. I hadn’t paid it too much attention to there, and I was sitting next to a colleague of mine, and I said, “You know what? I might just register and give it a go.”

Fraser Jack: 00:27 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, and I want to thank you so much for tuning in today. A big shout out to all the good feedback and reviews that I’ve received so far. If you’re enjoying this podcast, then please help me spread he word and share it with your friends and colleagues, and leave me a review. I would also like to thank our supporting partner, Advice Intelligence for powering this podcast. In this episode, I chat with financial planner and principal at Melbourne-based advice business First Financial, the one and only James Wrigley. Not only is James an inspiring young advisor who has come through a career pathway to become a principal in a large planning firm, James is also a pioneer and been one of the first planners in the country to sit the FASEA National Exam. And in this episode, we discuss both. So if you are at all interested in the FASEA Exam coming up, I’m hitting play on my chat with James now. Welcome to the show, James.

James Wrigley: 01:30 Thanks Fraser, thanks for having me along.

Fraser Jack: 01:32 You’re very welcome. Now, do you want to give everybody a quick overview of you at the moment?

James Wrigley: 01:38 Yeah. So I am currently one of the principals here at First Financial, we’re a financial planning business, it’s based in the Melbourne CBD. We’ve got clients that are kind of all around the country, a number of them overseas, but primarily Melbourne-based clients. Quite a number of them have moved up to Queensland for their retirement, sunnier, warmer weather. So it’s a financial planning business based in the city, of which I’m one of seven, soon to be six principals. The managing director’s retiring in a couple of weeks’ time, so there’ll be six of us. Business has got about 50 staff or so, so it’s a reasonable size, and we’ve been doing it for a number of years.

Fraser Jack: 02:22 Fantastic, and tell us how you began, or got into financial services in the first place.

James Wrigley: 02:29 I just ended up in financial advice, it’s something that just happened. I finished uni, I did a commerce degree at uni, looking around for jobs. I ended up working for one of the big corporate super funds, just in their processing administration team. The last role that I had there was training half a dozen people that had come over from India to learn how to do the job, and they were taking... They were effectively taking my job with them on the plane back to India, so kind of made myself redundant to a degree there. Started looking around, I had begun doing a graduate diploma in applied finance, whilst I was working at that super fund. Applied for a range of different roles, ended up being offered one to be a client service manager for one of the principals at what’s now First Financial, we were a different name back then.

Took the job and loved it, and I kind of really didn’t know much about the financial planning world at the time, but it was an incredibly steep learning curve, loved every minute of it and kind of stuck around ever since. I’ve been here, I was just chatting to a client this morning about it, I think I’m up to 12 years by November. November, I started in November, so I think it’ll be 12 years in November. Started out as a client service manager, worked my way up to be an associate advisor, I was an advisor for a couple of years, senior advisor, and then I’ve just about ticked over 12 months as being one of the principals here at First Financial. So started at the bottom and worked my way up over a number of years.

Fraser Jack: 04:12 Wow, that’s a real success story isn’t it? Sort of being able to come through that channel and then have... Buy into the practice. Was that always on the cards, was that always an opportunity for you from the very beginning?

James Wrigley: 04:25 I guess First Financial as a business, we very rarely... We never hire advisors in, so a lot of people, when they join the business, they’ll start as grads generally, in the client service management team. They might go into para planning for a few years, and they kind of bounce around there for a little while, become an associate advisor, and then kind of progress through the advising roles if they want to. So we’ve kind of got a pretty clear, documented path of I guess what’s expected of... Should you want to progress like that, there’s certain milestones and certain things that you need to be demonstrating, and you need to be achieving in order for you to progress through. So that had always been there. When I first started out, no, I had never thought of progressing as far as I had, as far as I have.

It was just something that, it’s probably about five years ago now I think that I thought, “You know what, I’m really enjoying this. What do I need to achieve over the next two years to get to where I’d like to be?” Set myself a bit of a path and [inaudible 00:05:28] around that, and you know, I’ve executed it. So yeah, it’s been a good few years.

Fraser Jack: 05:35 Yeah, well congratulations on that too by the way, that’s a great effort.

James Wrigley: 05:39 Thank you, thanks.

Fraser Jack: 05:40 Now, would you be one of the younger directors there?

James Wrigley: 05:42 Yes, I am the youngest at the moment. A couple of guys that are older than me were both promoted to principal at a younger age than I am, than I am now, but yeah, I’m the youngest. So I’ll be 35 in October, there’s a couple of other guys that are late 30s through to about 40, and then some of the older ones are heading toward mid-50s. So it’s kind of a roughly 20-year age span between the youngest to the eldest.

Fraser Jack: 06:21 I’m just wondering if you’re going to get in trouble for calling them the older guys now, just...

James Wrigley: 06:25 I think I’ll be okay.

Fraser Jack: 06:26 Oh, good, good. Now what sort of clientele have you got?

James Wrigley: 06:31 So it’s a business that’s come out of historically that pre-retiree, retiree market. A lot of self-managed super fund clients, a lot of [inaudible 00:06:42] retirees. But over time, I guess the service and the people seeking out our advice has changed, so we’re now at a point where we’re quite regularly seeing the kids of existing clients are seeking advice, so they might be in their 40s, say, around that kind of late 30s, early 40s, maybe a couple of kids, a mortgage, their career’s really ticking along and they’ll come in and say, “Look, you’ve looked after mum and dad for the last 20 years, mum or dad’s been banging on forever that we come and see you, here we are. What should we do, how can you help us?” So I guess historically that pre-retiree, retiree market, but more and more so over the last few years really going down that age bracket, into the kinda 40 year age range and up, probably.

Fraser Jack: 07:38 Yeah, it can be really difficult for a lot of businesses to make some changes like that, when they’ve got an existing clientele or as you mentioned, a larger and more established business, then start introducing these new services. How have you found that you’ve gone about that?

James Wrigley: 07:56 So it’s not some... I don’t feel that we’ve really hd to introduce anything new, it’s not like we’re certainly... It’s not like we’re going out and marketing in any great form. It’s more just through the relationships that we’ve built over time with the clients, and we’ve got... The business in various forms has been for maybe 20 years or more, so there’s a number of clients that have been around for that long. If clients are now in their mid-60s to 70s, they were probably in their mid to late 40 when they first became clients. So they’re at a point now where their kids aren’t really that much younger than when they first sought our advice. So, I guess the type of work that you’re doing, it’s not so much concerned with pensions and the age pension and those kinds of things, it’s a different type of work.

But it hasn’t meant that we’ve had to reinvent the wheel either, a lot of the work that we’ve already done and our philosophy around investments and managing money and those kind of things is pretty applicable to the younger demographic, just as it is the older demographic.

Fraser Jack: 09:06 Yeah, it sounds like the business has grown as the need and the demographic... The clients change, you’re growing with the client.

James Wrigley: 09:13 I guess the younger advisors coming through kind of drives that as well, like I said I’m 35 or so so it’s... When one of the older clients might be introducing their 40-year-old son or daughter, we’re at a similar age, a similar life stage, so we get along pretty well from the outset, you can build a pretty solid relationship with them pretty quickly because, you’re talking about your kids, and school, and private school or public school, and what are you doing with your mortgage? Oh, you’re refinancing? Can you help me out with that? And so, the things that I’m dealing with personally, they’re all dealing with the same as well, and so it does make it pretty easy.

Fraser Jack: 09:53 Yep. Now you mentioned investment philosophies, do you have philosophies that are sort of different, or from other financial advice firms, or anything that sort of you guys hang your hat on?

James Wrigley: 10:03 So the philosophies around... It’s around requirements for cash flow, so we start the kind of conversation with clients, not so much like a ticker box, risk-profiling-type exercise. We view it that, clients are coming to us for an opinion, a professional opinion on what they should do. Now, obviously we need to overlay that with clients’ tolerances to different things, and no use me saying, “Mr. Smith, you should do this with your money, because that’s my opinion,” when they have a completely different view and the whole thing may blow up very quickly thereafter if we’re butting heads. The whole philosophy’s around delivering the cash flow from a pool of assets, a pool of investments that the client might need for whatever stage of life that they’re in. So if that’s a retiree that’s living off 60, 80, $100,000 a year, whatever the number might be, then we say, “Well, you’ve got X level of capital behind you, you need a certain amount to live off, let’s set aside...”

And it’s kind of a bucket approach, you know, certain amount of money in cash, certain amount of money in fixed interest-type investments, and then a certain proportion to growth. So we have a... I guess we have some asset allocation guidelines that we follow around those different levels, and so the same philosophy applies for someone that might be 40 years old, and doesn’t need anything from whatever investments they’ve got, whether it’s superannuation money, whether they’ve sold the business and they’ve got a couple million dollars from selling a business. And they’ll come in and say, “Well, what should I do?” The first thing you say, “Well what do you need from this pool of assets? Do you need to draw an income from it? If you don’t, well then this is kind of the road that we would go down.”

There’s a whiteboard presentation that we take clients through so that they understand it, then there’s a series of questions we go through, to a degree doing a risk profile of sorts, but just understanding the clients’ ability to comprehend what we’ve been explaining, and how they might feel if stock markets go up or stock markets go down. Are they going to be overly panicked, and I guess if through that second part of the conversation there’s any alarm bells go off, well then we start the conversation over again and see where we end up a second time around.

Fraser Jack: 12:28 Yeah, very good. I love that approach, that’s a real goals-based type scenario, and values-based, less about obviously returns and more about what they need the money for, which I-

James Wrigley: 12:40 Yeah, it’s a difficult conversation. Clients might often come in saying, “I need X percent a year,” you say, “Well, why do you need X percent a year? What does your lifestyle dictate? Okay, well let’s work back from that. Don’t just go shooting for the stars, you might not need that.” And so it’s about trying to deliver the cash that they need for whatever their lifestyle dictates, with the least amount of risk possible. Not chasing returns just for the sake of chasing returns.

Fraser Jack: 13:10 Yeah, very good. And do you do any... You mentioned cash flow, do you do any cash flow budgeting with your clients as well, or...

James Wrigley: 13:17 No, so we’ve done a little bit of it. I was using Zero for a while with clients, and that... I found that useful for a period of time, but then I think once we got... For me, probably once we were about six months in using the cash flow, like really tracking the day-to-day expenses and allocating them to different line items, once we got six months in we kind of got a pretty good handle on where the money was going, and so we could start to have some conversations to say, “Well if you keep going like this, this is going to be the outcome.” It’s not up to me to tell you how to spend your money, it’s up to me to highlight the impact of if you continue spending it the way that you spend it. And so you could have some really robust conversations around that, and I think once we got to a point of having those conversations, possibly making some changes around the way that they were managing the money that was coming in, we’ve got to a point where we’ve pretty much switched Zero off again.

So it’s not something that we’re doing on an ongoing basis, it’s more of a, as-need. Might sign them up, do some work on that for six months, get a pretty clear picture, make some adjustments and then switch it off from there.

Fraser Jack: 14:32 Yeah, that’s interesting isn’t it? Because that’s when sort of habits start to really form, and then they start making some changes to their behaviors and habits, and those become long-term behaviors, and then it’s less about the actual transactions and more around them knowing that they’ve got to be accountable to you at some point.

James Wrigley: 14:53 That’s it, yeah. I think the clients that I’ve done it with, they know it, but you turn around and have a conversation with them to say, “The thousand dollars a month that you’re spending on a cleaner, for example, that... Because of the level of income that you’re earning, or your wife’s earning, whatever it might be, you realize that you have to earn $24,000 a year to pay tax, to then have $12,000 a year left over?” So when you start to have those kind of conversations, people start to then reprioritize where they spend their money. They may very well still keep the cleaner, that’s fine, but just understanding what they need to do from a work point of view, the effort that they need to put in to have the money left over to pay for whatever lifestyle that they’re leading right now.

Fraser Jack: 15:43 Yeah, it’s a really interesting point, that a lot of people wouldn’t really think about too much. Now, you’ve got a great business for the new education standards, and the pathways that advisors will need to take, for new advisors coming through. You know, the professional year and all that sort of thing. That’s a pretty unique spot to be in, because like you said, a lot of businesses wouldn’t be in a position to take on new advisors in that space.

James Wrigley: 16:11 Yeah, so we don’t... In terms of the professional year requirements that are coming in, or they’re in, we don’t hire people and then give them the advisor ticket, and off you go. So it’s quite common for even the best of our associate advisors to spend probably two years as an associate advisor working under one of the principals, or one of the senior advisors, really learning the ropes, requesting advice, writing advice, running client meetings, dealing with all of that kind of stuff. So we have a very well-trodden path around that career progression anyway. There’s some boxes that need to be ticked around documenting that and the like, so we’ll just bring in some policies around the documentation of it. But its something that we have done for many years, and I think if we’re...

I’ve sat through many interviews for new associate advisors to join the firm, and they’ll often ask, “How long do I need to be an associate advisor before I can be an advisor?” We’re very upfront with, even in that first interview to say, “Best case scenario, you’re 18 months to two years away from being an advisor. Regardless of what you’ve been doing in your previous business, we need to be comfortable with you, and what you’re doing, and how you’re going to interact with the clients before we let you loose on your own as an advisor.” Yeah, the professional year, things that other businesses might have to grapple with, it’s not an issue for us at all.

Fraser Jack: 17:52 Yeah, and when you were coming through you had many, many, many client meetings before you sort of... With somebody else, obviously with an advisor in the meeting as you’re coming through.

James Wrigley: 18:03 Yeah, that’s it. So you’ll often just sit there, don’t even say anything. Say hello to the client and write up the meeting notes for six or 12 months, some people might be doing that before the individual is comfortable enough to start to do things, and then we’ll start to... So all of the client meetings will have an agenda, and we’ll start to mark off and say, “Well, you associate advisor, you can do this part, this part and this part, I’m the advisor, I’ll do this part, this part and this part,” and so to try and introduce the associate advisor to the conversation over a period of time. So they might do six months say, of just meeting all of the clients, sitting there, taking the notes, and the following six months is when they might actually start to present or talk about part of the meeting, they wouldn’t run the whole thing.

And then that’ll go on for maybe 12 months. It’s a bit of both, we want the associate advisor to be comfortable themselves in running the meeting, just as well as as a business, from an advisor or principal level, we want to be comfortable that we’re confident that the associate advisor can run the meeting to a level that we would expect.

Fraser Jack: 19:18 Yeah, it sounds like a really, really good... Really great platform for learning and coming through. Now speaking of the SEA regulations, I hear that you’ve actually already done your exam.

James Wrigley: 19:30 Yeah, so I sat the exam on Monday, I did the very last sitting on Monday, so Monday afternoon. I hadn’t really given it too much thought, the FPA had a conference on, they had a lunchtime conference a few weeks back and they were talking there to say the registration window was open. I hadn’t paid it too much attention to them, and I was sitting next to a colleague of mine and I said, “You know what? I might just register and give it a go.” So I came back to the office that afternoon, registered and yeah, went from there. So just like I think many others in the industry haven’t really given it too much thought, I hadn’t up until then. It wasn’t until it was mentioned at the FPA event that I thought, “You know what? I’d better register and go for it.”

Fraser Jack: 20:19 So you went back to the office, put your name down, paid your money. How much was it?

James Wrigley: 20:24 $595.

Fraser Jack: 20:26 $595, put your name down and then went to yourself, “Okay, now I’d better do some study, work out what’s coming up.”

James Wrigley: 20:35 I came back to the office, checked my diary and I saw, the Friday just before the weekend gone, I didn’t have any client meetings, I didn’t have anything in for Monday, so I had two clear days. I thought the timing’s just right, it’s not often that I’ll have two clear days with no client meetings booked in. So I just blocked them out to do some study, paid my money and went from there. I thought, “Right, I’d better try and work out what this exam’s about, and do some studying.”

Fraser Jack: 21:04 Yeah. So walk me through these two clear days I guess, where did you go? You went to the FASEA website, and downloaded a-

James Wrigley: 21:11 On the FASEA website, there’s actually some really good resources on there if you go and have a look. So they’ve got a guide to preparing for the exam, it goes for maybe four, five pages or something like that, that talks about the three different areas that are going to be assessed. I guess this gives you some wording around how that’s going to be assessed, why they’re assessing them, and then there’s recommended reading material under each section. So under each of the three areas that are being assessed, there might be four or five recommended reading material, as well as some extension material. If you’ve got some extra time and you’re up for doing some more reading, there’s some extensions. So they give you material to prepare yourself for the exam through this guide that’s on there.

Once you’ve registered, they send you an email and there’s a link to a video that FASEA have put together as well, which is more about what to expect on the day of the exam so you have an idea of what you’re actually walking into. It’s not just walking in there, completely blind and not knowing what to expect or what this thing’s going to look like, how to navigate the system, those kind of things. They give you material beforehand to prepare yourself for that.

Fraser Jack: 22:32 Yeah, I think the videos are a really clever idea. Obviously there is a fair amount of anxiety out there around this exam, with advisors around the profession, and just that settling of the nerves a little bit of the video on the day. You know, you walk here and you do this, but...

James Wrigley: 22:49 Yeah. I found it really useful, I watched on Sunday, and I sat there, and I kind of paused. There’s a lot of screen captures through the video, and I paused it and made sure I’d read through everything that was on those screens, which are the same screens that you see when you actually log in and sit the exam yourself, so it gives you instructions about reading time, it gives you instructions about how to navigate the system. It shows you what materials that they’ll provide you, so the open book materials, what materials they’ll provide you, it gives a flavor of what the questions will look like. So it was really useful, that really settled my nerves on Sunday for sure.

Fraser Jack: 23:31 Yeah, good. Now, the reading material, how long did you... How many hours did you spend doing that, reading the material?

James Wrigley: 23:36 Oh look, I reckon I spent... So, for a number of days I read it backwards and forwards on the train on my iPad, then in the days leading up I spent probably an hour and a half each day for a few days. I reckon I would have been, six or seven hours plus of reading through everything. So the couple of things that I didn’t read through were the two extracts from the Corporations Act, so there’s two 600-odd page extracts from the Corporations Act that they recommend reading. I didn’t read them word for word, I flicked through kind of the table of contents and read through some of the text that was there, so I had an idea of what was in there and where to find things, should I get a question on those. But outside of that, I read the rest of the recommended reading material, I didn’t do any of the extension material.

A couple of others have asked me if I did any of the courses, or the practice exams, and those kinds of things. I looked at the FASEA practice exam, but I didn’t do any of the other practice exams that some organizations are offering.

Fraser Jack: 24:49 Okay, so the Corps Act information, that you didn’t really read. Is that what’s available inside for searching through when you... As in, the open book section of the exam?

James Wrigley: 25:03 Yeah, they are, yep. So not all of the stuff... Not all of the material that they recommend reading is available in the open book section of the exam. It’s got it in the video, there’s a screen capture in the video of what’s there. From memory, I think there’s maybe seven different... Six or seven different types of material that they give you that you can look through, all of which are on the recommended reading. But as I said, not all of the recommended reading is attached as open-book reference material.

Fraser Jack: 25:42 Yep. And was that recommended reading very beneficial to you?

James Wrigley: 25:47 Yeah, absolutely. Yep, absolutely. It’s all things that you would deal with on a day-to-day basis, like advice construction, and issuing advice, and best interest duty, and all of those kind of things that you would deal with on a day-to-day basis. But you also on a day-to-day basis don’t go burying your head in the Corporations Act, unless really necessary. You know, most businesses will have some type of compliance officer, or through their licensee, and those kind of thing. So if you get stuck on something tricky, you’d often go back to the licensee, or the compliance officer, or someone like that for some guidance. It’s not often, certainly I wouldn’t go searching for the answer myself. But I guess the material there is the material where, if you were going searching for the answer yourself, you would be looking at this kind of material, and that’s what’s being assessed.

Fraser Jack: 26:43 Okay, great, so it really gets your mind in the right frame to be technically-based.

James Wrigley: 26:49 Yeah, so I actually found, just for my own kind of general knowledge and practice, I actually found reading the material really useful, quite aside from having to sit the exam. There was a couple of things that I read through that I actually, and this is actually really good, and if I hadn’t have been forced to read it for the exam I wouldn’t have found the time in my day-to-day job to just sit there for a few hours and read through it.

Fraser Jack: 27:14 Yeah, so it’s actually quite handy as a CPD, even though you didn’t get the CPD points for it.

James Wrigley: 27:18 Yeah.

Fraser Jack: 27:19 Yeah, good. And so you went in on the day and you sat in the room. Many people in there?

James Wrigley: 27:25 There would have been about 40 people in my sitting, I reckon, yeah. So it’s really, I guess the security around the whole thing is really tight. So you front up, and they tell you all of this in the video, they give you introductions on what to do. But you kind of front up with your registration certificate, so you have to print off your registration certificate on paper, you have to walk in with a piece of paper, it’s got your photo there and your name and all of those kind of things, hand over your driver’s license as well, they match you up, make sure you’re the right person, and they give you your login details to access the system. A little while later, they take you into the room and you sit down at the computer, and then they start to give you instructions on what to do from there. So they’ve got like a script that they read through and say, “Reading time will start now, click on this button, click on this button, click on this button to do your reading time.” And then at the end of the reading time they’ll say, “Click on this button, click on this button to start the exam,” and you go from there.

Fraser Jack: 28:28 Yeah, good. And then what was the demographic of the people in the room? Were they younger or...

James Wrigley: 28:34 A real mix, so there was a couple of people that I was speaking to whilst we were waiting around for the exam to start in kind of the foyer area. There were some people that operate under limited licenses through accountants, so not financial advisers as such, they work in SMSF space and provide SMSF advice, so limited license. Those guys were finding it a bit difficult, they wouldn’t do anywhere near the level of, I guess the frequency of advice documents that I would, as a financial advisor. But nevertheless, they’ve got to go and sit the exam too. There was a mix of people around my age, kind of mid-30s or so, some older people as well. It was a real mix, it wasn’t like... Often when you go to some type of financial planning event, you know, like the FPA, lunches and those kind of things, often it’s a sea of gray hair. The exam was anything but a sea of gray hair.

Fraser Jack: 29:36 Yeah, no, okay. And how long does it take?

James Wrigley: 29:40 Three hours, 15 they give you to sit the exam, so you get 15 minutes of reading time, three hours, 15 to sit the exam. I finished, now fingers crossed I passed, but I finished and left after a couple of hours, I think I was maybe two hours 20 when I left. I wasn’t the first to leave, a few other people had left before me, and then yeah, the rest would have sat out their time and left when they were ready to.

Fraser Jack: 30:11 Yeah, fair enough. Well I’m thinking [inaudible 00:30:13] of course you did pass as well, by the way. But, so you think the time frame though, you had plenty of time to do it? You weren’t-

James Wrigley: 30:22 Yeah, so there’s a lot of... They give you a lot of time, so you’ll have at least 70 questions. So in the preparation material they’ll say, “You’ll have at least 70 questions, at least 60 for multiple choice, at least six short answer, but you could have more.” So I had more questions than 70, and then they give you three hours 15 to answer it. Look, I thought there was plenty of time, I certainly wasn’t rushed for time. But there’s also a lot of reading to do, so they’ll give you... Just like the practice exam, they’ll give you kind of a slab of text, some kind of case study for the client’s situation, and then you’ll have half a dozen or so questions that flow from that one case study. So you’ll sit there and read through this chunk, it’ll seem like you’re sitting there for ages reading all of this material, but then just bang through the half a dozen questions after it in pretty quick succession.

Fraser Jack: 31:22 Yep. Yeah, and with the practice one that was on the FASEA website, they released... And what they were trying to do was, to give a bit of an example of the way, or the structure in which the exam was going to take place, but then they copped a little bit of criticism because the case study was... Had a lot of post-retirement advice conversations in it, and then those people that didn’t do post-retirement advice like you mentioned before, that were, they met at the exam, were upset that you could be specialist areas. Was there a full variety of different areas covered?

James Wrigley: 32:04 Yeah, I think the purpose of that practice exam was more to give you a flavor of the style of questions. So you’ll get a mix of multiple choice in that you’ve just got to pick the right answer, you know, there might be four different answers that they’ll give you and they’ll give you some type of question around, “Pick the one that’s most appropriate, or what’s the right answer?” Then a series of true or false questions, so there might be three or four true or false questions that you have to answer, and then some short responses. So the style of questions is really what I think they were trying to achieve through that practice exam. I’d encourage people to not get too bogged down in that, “I don’t do aged care advice, I can’t possibly answer this question.” Don’t worry so much about that, the practice exam.

They give you the style of question, they give you the answer so that you kind of know what you’re walking into, rather than getting bogged down into the detail of, that I don’t deal with this type of client so I can’t possibly answer these questions.

Fraser Jack: 33:10 Yeah, that’s really good to know.

James Wrigley: 33:11 Thank you.

Fraser Jack: 33:13 Now, there’s been some media around the idea of this exam with regards to pass, fail, as in, you know, I think the legislation says you have to have passed it by this time. Are you guys self-licensed?

James Wrigley: 33:30 Yeah, we are, yep.

Fraser Jack: 33:31 Yeah, because there’s an interesting scenario around this when it comes to, if somebody doesn’t pass the exam, are their licensees going to allow them to continue to operate, versus you know, just when you passed it you passed it. Do you have any thoughts on that, or around if anybody doesn’t pass it, should they still be practicing?

James Wrigley: 33:54 Look, I think if anyone that... If you don’t pass at first go you can resit it, and part of the reason why I just decided to just do it straight away for, if I don’t pass I’ll have to go through the rigmarole again, but we’ll resit it. I think it’s fair for people to be able to do the resit, and all the rest of that, but I guess there’s a line that’s been drawn in the sand to say, “December next year, you need to pass,” I think as a business here if we’ve got advisors that haven’t passed it then, it’s going to be pretty tough conversations that we might have to have where we’ll be working as a business to avoid that entirely. So we’ll get the different advisors here that will need to sit it, that we’ll get them to start doing it over the next little while so that just in case someone fails, they’ve got some time up their sleeve to do a resit.

I don’t think as a business we’ll have any excuses for advisors that haven’t passed it by December next year. I guess the broader advice industry, however many thousands of financial advisors there are out there in the country, I struggle to comprehend how the... I’m not sure the numbers are 20,000 plus or something, I think, of advisors out there. I struggle to comprehend how that many people are going to be able to sit the exam in the space of a year and a half, that’s the thing that I struggle with.

Fraser Jack: 35:25 Yeah. When are you expecting your results back?

James Wrigley: 35:28 Look, I don’t know. I would say three or four weeks, or so. Because there’s the short answer questions in there, I imagine someone has to look at my responses and say whether they count as a mark or not. If the whole thing was multiple-choice, you’d get the results back a whole lot quicker, the computer would just mark it for you. But given the short answer, someone’s got to spend some time looking at the responses, so I don’t imagine I’m going to find out any time soon.

Fraser Jack: 35:57 Yeah. So the short answer’s all typed, isn’t it? Typed into a computer?

James Wrigley: 35:59 It is typed, yeah. So they give you a box, and you just type in your answer.

Fraser Jack: 36:04 Yeah, great, okay. Well that’s some really good information, and feedback about the exam, I appreciate you letting us all know about that. And were you the only one in your practice that’s done it so far?

James Wrigley: 36:16 Yes, yeah. So I’m-

Fraser Jack: 36:17 You’re the trailblazer.

James Wrigley: 36:19 Yeah, I was the guinea pig of sorts, to see what it’s like and provide some of the feedback like I’ve just been providing to you now about what it’s like, and what did I do, and I guess the proof will be in whether I pass or not. So if, given the pre-work that I did, was that enough for me to pass or not? We’ll wait and see, and if it wasn’t, well then clearly we need to be encouraging the advisors to do a whole lot more work than what I did. Maybe go and sit some of the practice exams, maybe do some of the courses that some of these groups are offering. But we’ll wait and see how I went first, and then work out how we’ll deal with everyone else from there.

Fraser Jack: 37:05 Yeah, and how do you see it all panning out over the next sort of year and a half?

James Wrigley: 37:10 In terms of the sitting of the exam?

Fraser Jack: 37:12 Yeah, getting all the advisors through, and...

James Wrigley: 37:15 Look, for us we’ll probably just do it in waves, we’ll just encourage people to... Three or four people at a time to go and sit it, so I think we’ll have close to 20 people that we’ll need to sit the exam over the next year and a half. So we’ll break that up into groups, and they’ll likely study together, other subjects and things that they’ve done before. We’ll often organize study groups, so the guys will get together and work through different things that they might be studying at the time. So we’ll probably do the same thing for preparing for this exam.

Fraser Jack: 37:54 Yeah, I’m sure your resources will come in very handy when it comes to helping everybody get prepared, so yeah, fantastic. Now, there’s obviously still a lot of changes to come, and how do you see the profession sort of panning out over the next few years? Obviously, there’s a bit of a tendency to think that there’ll be a shrink in advisor numbers over the short-term, and then start to grow again.

James Wrigley: 38:17 Yeah, that seems to be the consensus, that there’s a slice of the profession that, maybe given their age or their stage of life, or whatever it might be that they’ll decide that they don’t want to continue and do the extra studying that’s now being required by everyone, so that they can continue to practice, and they’ll likely leave the industry. There’s different groups have done different studies on that, and expectations on what might happen there. But then, I guess for the industry going forward, I see it continuing. Yes, there’s changes on the cards around fee structures, and education, and the whole rest of it. But businesses will survive, I guess if you want to stay in this space there’s plenty of opportunity. I’m not going anywhere, First Financial’s not going anywhere. We’ll just morph and evolve as we will need to, as all these changes come.

Fraser Jack: 39:21 Yeah, fair call. Now, if you’re chatting to some friends of yours on the weekend, or somebody chats to you about the idea of getting or seeing a financial advisor, what tips do you give to consumers that are thinking about getting financial advice?

James Wrigley: 39:37 Look, I’d encourage them to go... To just go and meet with a number of people. I actually like it when I’m seeing a new client, and they come in and I’ll say at the start, “Look James, I’m coming to see you today but I’m also going to see this other person tomorrow, or this afternoon.” So go and, if you’re really serious about seeking advice, go and talk to some people. Maybe someone in your network might already be using a financial advisor that they’re happy with, and you can get their name and be introduced to them. But go and talk to a few different people, services that are on offer from different advice businesses differ greatly, so you need to find the one that suits you and what you’re looking for. Don’t just take the first one that you go and see, but yeah, just I guess seek some people out, go and talk to them.

If anything, you might leave that hour meeting or so with knowing a few things that you didn’t know before. Whether or not you take up advice is a different story, but it’d likely be a worthwhile investment of an hour of your time.

Fraser Jack: 40:49 Yep. And what tips would you give to a younger person looking to come in, or somebody, an associate advisor thinking about becoming a planner?

James Wrigley: 40:58 Yeah, so the biggest thing, and realization for me when I was going through it is be patient. So you’ve got, certainly if you’re young, moving into the industry, out of uni or only a few years out of uni, just be patient. Take a few years to absorb as much as you can from those that you’re working with around you, and then seek out others to talk to. So I’m part of a couple of groups of other financial advisors and accountants and those kind of things, that are all different ages, different sized businesses, but I found it very valuable for my own career and my own development, to also talk to people outside of the four walls of First Financial. So as good as some of the people are here to learn from, it’s also great to step outside of whatever business that you might be working in and chat to some others. Most that I’ve come across are more than happy to share their story and give you... Offer you some guidance along the way.

Fraser Jack: 42:10 Yeah, peer groups are amazing aren’t they? I’ve never really understood industries that don’t share amongst each other, because the advice community, just so good with each other, aren’t we?

James Wrigley: 42:23 Yeah, and look, it took me a little while to come to that realization, because for a long while I kind of saw other financial advisors as competition. But it wasn’t until I sat back and said, “You know what, if I had 100 clients that looked like this, that were doing this, that were paying a particular level of fees, that would be an incredible business, I’d be really happy.” And so, that’s only 100 clients that I need, there’s thousands and thousands and thousands of people out there, so I’m really not competing with the advisor that’s next to me. I’m just competing with myself, and it wasn’t until I realized that, that I only need a small number of people that look and smell a particular way to be very happy and have a very successful business, that it kind of opened my eyes that I’m not actually competing with these other people, and I started talking to them. You just learn incredible amounts from those that are willing to share.

Fraser Jack: 43:25 Yeah, and again, I appreciate you sharing today, it’s exactly in the spirit of what we talk about. Final question, if you could go back in time and give yourself some advice or tips or... What tips and advice would you give to yourself, your younger self?

James Wrigley: 43:41 I guess the first one is having that realization that I’m not competing with other financial advisors earlier on, so that is something that I’ve really only come to terms with I would say in the last two or three years. I kind of wish that I’d realized that earlier on, or someone had pointed that out to me earlier on. Outside of that, I guess just to put some plans... I guess my own career plans, and map that out. To a degree I did it, and it got me to where I was. But I would encourage myself to do that from an earlier age, or an earlier time in the industry. I’d been working in financial advice for probably six or seven years before I got to a point where I said, “You know what? I’m aspiring to get to a particular level. If I’m to get to that level, then I need to do this, I need to do this, I need to do this, I need to do this,” and really broke it down into small pieces for me to achieve one year after the next, to ultimately get to where I aspired to be to, or be at rather.

I look back and wish I’d done that earlier on, I think from my first few years I was kind of just fluffing around. I was really enjoying what I was doing, but hadn’t really become really serious about it, and really decided that this is the career for me. That took me many years to get to that point. I was more than happy doing the job that I was doing, but to get to that point, to say, “This is me, this is my career, I’m really enjoying this and I want to really push forward,” that took me a number of years to get to that point. I only wish I’d done that earlier.

Fraser Jack: 45:35 Yeah, well exactly right. It could have been something to do with the fact that when we were in our 20s mate, we already know it all when we’re in our 20s, don’t we?

James Wrigley: 45:44 Yeah, and that’s it. I’ve shared that story with others, and they probably turned around to me and said, “Well yeah, but you were in your early 20s then, you’re not going to know that.” And so others that were in the business, that are in their early 20s and might be in the client services team or the like, I kind of share that story with them and say, “Just take a few years to absorb everything you can, don’t be in any great hurry. You’ve got many years ahead of you, if you want to stick around there’s a great business that you can progress. But take a few years to just absorb everything around you, and work out what’s next for you.”

Fraser Jack: 46:22 Yes, and great words of wisdom there James. Thank you so much. Just want to say thanks for coming on the podcast today, I want to say I think a lot of people are going to get a lot of great insight and comfort into what you’ve said today, with regard to being one of the trailblazers in the industry, and sitting the exam early, and hope to get it out of the way so you don’t have to do anything else with it. But really appreciate you sharing your story around that, and I think a lot of people will get a lot of great confidence from it. So thank you.

James Wrigley: 46:57 Yeah, great. Thanks Fraser, thanks for having me along, it was great to chat today.

Fraser Jack: 47:01 Great, thanks James.

James Wrigley: 47:02 Thanks.

Fraser Jack: 47:06 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.