Adviser Business Built on a Commitment to the Community

Brisbane advice firm Sherrin Partners has developed what it calls a structured advice model for its clients which when combined with its approach to developing and retaining educated and engaged staff has become the building blocks for its success.

 

This CPD quiz is based on a 2018 interview conducted by Riskinfo with Nathan Yuille of Sherrin Partners. Scroll down for the full transcript.

 

Peter Sobels
Nathan Yuille is an adviser and director of Sherrin Partners based in Brisbane. Nathan, can you give us a description of Sherrin Partners as it is today, who are your clients, and what’s the background of the business?

Nathan Yuille
Sherrin Partners was founded back in 2005 by Ken Hanlon, the company’s Chairman, and over the years, with organic growth and acquisitions – me being one of those in 2009 – the business has continued to evolve and grow into what it is today.

Our clients are primarily a lot of mums and dads, a lot of SME business owners, a lot of white-collar professionals. We also have a number of sponsorships with the legal society, and the Bar association. So a very broad base.

Peter
So with your broad client base, do you have a way to provide a consistent advice message to them?

Nathan
In our formative days we put a lot of emphasis on the systems and processes. We had a 12-month project rolling out what we call our ‘structured advice model’. During that time we were tuned-in on a weekly basis to help build the processes that allowed us to take on the growth in latter years.

Peter
For your adviser peers out there, can you drill down a little bit into what constitutes a structured advice model?

Nathan
It’s about providing a platform. Whether we are two advisers or a hundred, we wanted to be able to effectively delve into a client’s lifestyle and understand what they are looking to achieve on a personal level.

I look at product, platforms…For us it’s really about trying to build a relationship from that personal side.

For example, you could have two doctors, both earning the same wage, but each has a very different objective in life. With our structured advice model it’s about trying to learn what’s important to the clients.

In review meetings with clients we have been looking after for a lot of years, 10 percent of the conversations are about what’s happening with the investments, their insurance, and the rest is what is happening in their day-to-day lives and how they are achieving what we set out to do for them from the initial get-go.

Peter
There’s a group of advisers and advice business in Australia that are strong advocates of being very specialised in the nature of their advice and who their ideal client is. We have on the other hand business such as Sherrin Partners whose business is based on the more mum & dad type clients, a more general demographic.

However, it would seem that your structured advice model addresses the specific needs that each client has, almost as effectively as that specialised advice business.

Nathan
That’s the beauty of financial planning. There is not one correct answer or solution for every single person. It can be very diverse. We can be talking to a person in their early 30s who want to cover off the risk side for their family, and all of those sorts of needs, all the way through the life stages to retirement – while protecting their assets so they can live the way they want in retirement.

Peter
There are lots of elements that go to make a successful advice business. Can you point to one or two elements within Sherrin Partners that has kept it on the right path and helped it evolve?

Nathan
The core outcome we are looking for are providing the appropriate solutions to clients. But of equal importance is what is inside the business – the culture. The key for us is bringing in like-minded individuals, all staff, right across the company.

We budget four percent of total salary and wages on providing additional education to all staff. That includes advisers and front-of-house staff.

We feel that educated, engaged staff, are key for providing the best outcomes for our clients.

You know that from that first moment of calling a company, or being met by a receptionist, that you know whether they want to be there or not. Ensuring that staff have a really good career path is key to maintaining those people you want within the business.

Every six months we sit down with each member of staff to see how they are progressing…A prime example is our Practice Manager. She joined as a Client Service Officer and didn’t have any experience in the financial services business, but built her way up as a Client Service Officer, and decided she didn’t want to go down the para-planning route or the adviser route, or stay in the client services roll.

She wanted to move into management, and so we spent a lot of time working with her to complete the appropriate education, and she is now doing a fantastic job in the roll. It’s all about finding really good people and ensure we don’t give them a reason to leave.

Peter
Are there any other key planks on which you have built Sherrin Partners?

Nathan
In addition to hopefully providing the best outcomes for our clients and having a happy culture within the business, we also look to what we can do in the broader community.

One of the first things we did was start an outreach centre called Footprints and decided that two members of staff would spend the first Tuesday of every month at the centre which helps the homeless, they have had substance abuse issues or are just lonely.

We provide some of the basics by way of gifts for personal hygiene, things we all take for granted, and we’ll have morning tea and lunch. And every month we share the latest news from the centre in a report.

It was a little confronting when I went along on my first day. I came away feeling ‘wow’, seeing how other people get along. I wouldn’t say it was depressing, it just made me really appreciate what we’ve got.

And going there, you can see they enjoy the conversation and it is great we can brighten up someone’s day, even though it is only for a short period of time. But it is core to what we do.

Then we went to a recruitment agency that specialises in helping people who have a disabilities and recruited Carmel [NOTE – checked – she is still with the firm] who had never had a job before, and she works here now in the front office and shows clients to the meeting rooms.

Peter
What do you do to do a deep-dive to understand your clients’ individual values?

Nathan
It’s all about how we ask questions. It’s about understanding the why of what they are hoping to achieve. And being able to provide those tools for any new advisers coming through…It’s about giving them the tools so they can get to the real reason clients have come to see them in the first place.

Peter
Do you have a good client retention rate?

Nathan
If we didn’t there’d be some serious questions about what we were doing.

We are fortunate in that we don’t advertise for clients, 90 percent of our new business comes from existing clients, so part of the whole advice model’s structured process is that we offer clients a second opinion.

It is an additional service where we offer a full financial review for any of their friends, family, children without charge – just to help establish that they are on the right track and that they don’t need any assistance from us. Or we may suggest a few tweaks to improve what they are doing.

Peter
Notwithstanding you have a broad base of clients, how often do you decide not to accept a new client?

Nathan
We are always happy to assist clients when it comes to helping their family – be it their children or elderly parent.

But what I have come to learn is that some clients may not understand the value of what it is we provide. That has been one of the biggest learnings for me over the years. You have to accept that you are not going to be able to provide all things to all people.

When clients come in to buy you on price they generally leave you on price. For me, if they understand the value of what you provide as a financial advisers that’s ideally my ideal client.

I’m here for the long term, so the relationship is important.

Peter
Have there been any other learnings you can share?

Nathan
The big one for us is that you have to use technology – that has been important for our growth.

We invest a lot in systems and processes, we feel that if you have that running smoothly, then it allows you to take that next step in terms of scale.

Technology has changed a lot and we know it can improve efficiencies in the back office, and it ensures all the reporting is done, the accounting, and having those tools can help you see how you are progressing.

And we spend two days out of the office working on the business and that’s probably the best thing we have ever done, it helps us plan what we will do for the next 12 months.

I was looking back at earlier meetings to see what items we wanted to tick off over time and it’s amazing how you chip away and what you can accomplish. When you first start it seems like it is a mountain you have to scale, but you chip away and it amazing what you can achieve in bite-sized pieces.

One of the most important things you can do as a business owner is to take a step back.

Peter
When you look back, are there any things you would have done differently?

Nathan
We all make mistakes. But without making mistakes you don’t learn.

But I’d say that for me, undervaluing what we do as advisers is…I’m sure I am not the only one but it is hard to put a price on what we do for clients. We have handled hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance claims since 2010.

I am not a big sales person among personal friends, other than to let them know what I do. But looking back I could have been a bit more vocal now and again.

Peter
What would you like to say in closing?

Nathan
This is a fantastic industry. I love it. Every client is different, and I am sure we are all here to help clients and that’s why we do what we do.

 

Nathan Yuille joined the financial services industry in 1999, mostly working with large banking institutions. He joined Sherrin Partners in 2009 and is its Managing Director as well as a financial adviser.

 

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