One Step at a Time

The following three articles look at developing and managing good client relationships – from using old-school pen and paper to achieve cut-through on the marketing front, to helping recently bereaved women navigate a new world of finance that’s often been managed by their late spouses. Finally, insurance’s noble purpose is explored.

The Human Touch

Long-time industry contributor, Joe Perri, highlights the value of adopting a more ‘humanised’ approach to client relationships – and the benefits that flow from it – in what’s becoming an increasingly tech world of advice and communications…


The thought of a prospective client deleting my email unopened was enough to spur me to find a better way to achieve the necessary cut-through – and the personal salutation and signed letter did just that.

Furthermore, I humanised the one-page letter by including my photo. The pay-off was immediate.

The first business owner I contacted using this approach agreed to see me and is now a client. Even more extraordinary was that he’s a tech-savvy Millennial and appreciated that someone took the time to treat him with respect – as an individual – as a human being.

Not every follow-up has been as successful – and I appreciate that my marketing communication and PR services aren’t on every prospect’s shopping list of must-have services.

However, in the majority of cases, my client targets remembered receiving the signed letter with the photo; or it was in the in-tray waiting for the call.

Nor have I yet to have a negative experience when following up. By far the best experience was the call.

“Joe, I received your letter and have phoned personally because I appreciated the effort you made. I don’t need your services at the moment but will definitely call when my circumstances change.”

Like so many businesspeople, I spend an inordinate amount of time deleting unsolicited emails each and every day. I’m sure that many a potential opportunity to improve my business was deleted without a second thought among the unceasing static that invades my inbox 24/7.

However, my recent experience has reaffirmed that the person-to-person era is still here and if looking for a new client or seeking to retain existing clients, the personal connection remains immensely powerful and effective.

Technology has – and continues to be – the great enabler in business. In no way would I advocate returning to snail mail for all personal and commercial activities – that era is long gone.

The issue is that with each additional staff member or advance in technology, outsourcing, etc. – the vacuum of freed time is immediately refilled with even more work and issues to deal with and address than previously.

Far from technology being the great saviour delivering much needed free time to focus on the business, including better client connectivity/engagement and work/life balance – in far too many cases it’s been the exact opposite.

Technology, constantly changing legislation and resultant demands on administration is relentless. In trying to cope and keep your head above water, something has to give
In the case of business owners, they’re left with little option but to reluctantly sacrifice the time they hoped to devote to client experience activities.

There’s no doubt that it’s an extraordinarily challenging environment in business today. Every principal aspires to deliver the highest standards of service that will be appreciated by clients.
Far from technology being the great saviour in far too many cases it’s been the exact opposite.

They acknowledge that clients who receive personal service become better clients and passionate brand ambassadors. But far too often the gap between perception and reality is immense and getting wider.

Whether it be Baby Boomers or Millennials, two things they generally have in common are:
1. No one wants to be treated impersonally
2. No one wants to be treated as a number

Therein lies the challenge.

Take for example the humble e-newsletter that supposedly reinforces B2C relationships – but instead is deleted without being opened by the recipient.

How often does the adviser, broker, lawyer or accountant go the extra mile to demonstrate their insight into a client’s circumstances by incorporating a personal note, “Hi Rob – attached is our latest e-newsletter. I’m sure you and Mary will find the article about holiday homes of particular interest…”

This is a small personal gesture in a crowded and demanding work day – but the pay off is immense with deeper connections and demonstration of care and personal service beyond the annual review meeting.

Irrespective of technology’s march forward, the benefits of personal service have never faded or gone unappreciated over time. However, finding the time to do so effectively is the real challenge.

I made the time – and it’s paid off.

Joe Perri founded Joe Perri & Associates in 1995 after working for more than 22 years in the corporate sector. Since then the company has grown to provide PR and marketing focussed communication strategies / solutions for clients in the corporate, SME and non-profit sectors that help them achieve their strategic business aspirations. Joe Perri’s goal is to help clients more clearly define their overall communication objectives and then implement the most appropriate strategy to reach their target audience more effectively.
Every day, Joe Perri draws on his experience to enable clients to improve their business relationship, communication and brand / profile with customers, shareholders, distributors, the media and staff.

Why Widows Change Advisers

2018 TAL Female Excellence in Advice Award winner, Donna Lee Powell, sends a potent warning to all advisers about why a significant proportion of widows change advisers following the death of their spouse…


1. Donna, what are the biggest financial challenges you see for women in creating and managing their financial and family affairs?

Women typically aren’t naturally interested in their financial affairs and therefore they often get neglected. Women today are often more educated, earning more than ever, and are projected to own more financial assets than men over time. However, they are not usually driven by money so, there is often less motivation for them to educate and empower themselves to be financially independent.

With almost one in two marriages ending in divorce and women living longer than men, this is a major issue for Australian women.

Being a widow myself, I can relate to women who are solely responsible for making all their financial and family decisions. To empower more women to engage with their finances, I created a service that is accessible to women and widows in a way other services are not. For example, as one of my services I offer My Prosperity, which is an easy to use budgeting and cash flow solution.

It can be accessed as a mobile device application or website and customers can capture all their financial information in one place, set goals and track against them. Tools such as these can easily be used by busy women who are managing all their financial and family affairs.

2. What technical and soft skills do financial advisers need in order to maintain relationships with female customers, particularly those who may be widowed?

Firstly, show that you care. Be kind and patient. Connect with your female clients equally as to how you connect with your male clients. In my own practice, I take the time to understand what is important. I respect my customers’ decisions and listen to their concerns. My role is not to jump to conclusions about what’s “best” for them or judge their decision making. I provide trust and honesty and am not afraid to discuss the emotional aspects of life. I listen with compassion, make the connection of money to their life and build their confidence to empower them to achieve their future goals.

I would also suggest avoiding the use of technical jargon. Advisers can often confuse and overwhelm women with these terms as well as widows, who are already going through a challenging time. Using technical jargon can make them feel inadequate, and our role as advisers is to make all our customers feel empowered and to educate them as best as we possibly can. For widows in particular, try to keep it simple and follow up with an email outlining briefly what you are doing and the next steps.

In terms of the technical skills that advisers should have when dealing with customers who may be widowed, knowledge in insurance and estate planning advice would be beneficial. These services can ensure that peoples’ families are protected and their quality of life is maintained in the event of death and disability.

3. Why do you think 70% of widows decide to change their financial adviser after their spouse has passed away

I think the main reason is because they haven’t managed to develop a strong relationship with their existing advisers. The feedback I get from the women I work with is that the advisers have always directed the meeting towards their husbands/partners. They also often confuse them with numbers and acronyms, which in turn disempowers them rather than educating and empowering them. I think the industry still has a lot of work to do in finding a way to speak the language of women.

4. How has winning the AFA/TAL Female Excellence in Advice award given you a platform to lobby Government for policy changes in the Estate Planning space to better support women, particularly those that are widowed?

The professional recognition I’ve received from winning the AFA/TAL Female Excellence in Advice Award has allowed for my voice and concerns to be heard with more credibility. I will continue to pursue this now that our government has been set.

My concerns relate to the way Estate Planning and bereavement are currently handled, which can further compound the grief that many families experience when a loved one dies.

Currently there are many administrative hurdles involved in trying to wind up an estate, including accessing superannuation and insurance benefits. For example, if someone dies without leaving behind a will or having a Binding Nomination in place, not only does it delay the process, the choice of who the estate is paid to is determined by the courts or the trustee of the superannuation or insurance fund. Not only are the outcomes often not ideal for the family, it often leaves the widows behind without any support for themselves and their families for a significant period of time and when they need this help the most.

With certain policy changes in Estate Planning, we could make the process a lot more streamlined and interlinked and less complicated and confusing, in order to better support women who are widowed.

5. What is the importance of insurance and estate planning for this customer base?

Having the right insurance and estate planning advice can ensure that widowed women and their families are protected and their quality of life is maintained regardless of death or disability. Widows can place particularly greater value on insurance and estate planning because often their partners may have managed the lion’s share of the families’ financial affairs and the impact of their partners’ death can be either eased or burdened depending on what insurance and estate planning measures they had in place.

Donna Lee Powell is the Owner and Founder of DLP Life Design and the winner of the 2018 AFA/TAL Female Excellence in Advice Award. Donna is passionate about providing advice that is personalised, empowering and delivers outcomes based on customers’ goals. Women represent two thirds of Donna’s client base with half of her client base being single women. The AFA/TAL Female Excellence in Advice Award recognises women in financial advice who are making a significant contribution to their profession, their community and their clients. The Award promotes positive change in the financial advice sector, encouraging more women to enter the industry and to take leadership roles. Importantly, it aims to give choice to Australians when it comes to getting financial advice.


A Reminder of Life Insurances Noble Purpose

Riskinfo thanks the FSC’s policy manager for life insurance, Aidan Nguyen, for taking the time to reflect on the nature of life insurance in Australia – its value and purpose, which serves to underpin a common bond that links all those who work in this industry…


While it may surprise some to know that the original concept of life insurance can be traced back millennia to ancient times, there is no doubt the life insurance industry plays a vital role by providing financial protection when people need it most. For many of us working in the industry, we know that insurance is a noble profession. Our customers and the community should feel this as well.

So what is noble? “Noble” is having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles. Nobility means virtue, honour, honesty and integrity. In essence, having nobility is about doing the right thing.

How does nobility translate into action and outcomes? Well, this is a rather hard question to answer, but one way is to look at recent data.

Life Insurance claims data collected and published by APRA shows that, on average during 2019, 17 death claims were made for every 10,000 policies held. While this figure was higher for disability income claims, of which 84 claims were made for every 10,000 policies held, the vast majority of customers are unlikely to claim on their policy. It will therefore be very difficult, if not impossible, for someone to properly assess the value of their insurance cover based on their personal experiences alone.

That is why life insurance is a transaction enabled through trust, not price. Life insurers make a promise to each and every customer that they will be there to pay any valid claims, including potentially one day theirs. And it is trust that is the key to this core promise.

The same APRA data shows that 97% of death claims were paid in the first instance where a decision has been made. The equivalent proportion for disability income claims was 95%. The life insurance industry pays out, on average, almost $33 million to 279 Australian households every single day, 365 days a year. Needless to say, from this bird’s eye view, there are a great many instances in which life insurers can affirm they are fulfilling their noble purpose.

It is important to reflect on the fact that for every disappointing story we hear on life insurance, there are so many more positive stories, which are deserving of attention, but that we just don’t hear about. Glen James’ story is just one story that we want to share.

Glen recently shared his experience on the value of trauma insurance for a special episode on his podcast My Millennial Money (MMM). For those readers that haven’t heard of the MMM podcast, its episodes provide some really informative and useful content on a range of money matters. Having this content being discussed in a light-hearted way is tremendously valuable for a topic such as life insurance, which for too many too often is hard to think about (let alone talk about).

In some respects, this is because life insurance is the intersecting point of two topics traditionally considered taboo to speak openly about in society: life threatening events and personal finance.

Of course, we can and we must, as an industry, always aspire to do better for our customers. But let’s not forget to take stock of the noble role we are playing each day in protecting the Australian community during these difficult times.

Aidan Nguyen is the policy manager for life insurance at the Financial Services Council.


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