We have a Q&A chat with the inaugural winner of the Beddoes Institute Most Valued BDM of the Year Award, Sebastian Nazar, to get his take on how BDMs can add value for advisers…

With over two decades of industry experience, Sebastian Nazar has built an impressive career and formidable reputation. His business acumen, comprehensive knowledge and extensive experience across risk advice, insurance strategy and product, combined with the superior service he provides has seen him become the worthy National Winner of the inaugural Beddoes Institute Most Valued BDM of the Year Award, as voted by advisers.

We talk to Sebastian – a financial advice advocate with a multi-faceted understanding of the industry and unique perspective due to his former career as an adviser – about what it takes to be a successful BDM, how to deliver value to advisers and how the changing landscape has seen the evolution of a new type of BDM…

Q: Tell us a bit about your career trajectory

A: I started my career in financial services as an adviser for Commonwealth Financial Planning in 2002. After seven years in this role, I moved to AMP and commenced my BDM career. Following several years at AMP I came to Zurich Financial Services in 2017 and have been here since!

Q: What do you enjoy about being a BDM?

A: There are many things I enjoy about my job, such as the autonomy of the role, the ability to build long-term trusted relationships with advisers, and being able to leverage my industry knowledge in order to help advisers find the best protection solutions for their clients. I also appreciate the fact that advisers trust me enough to approach me for opinions, advice and my unique perspective as a former adviser-turned-BDM in order to support them.

Q: What are the top traits you believe make a successful BDM?

A: I believe there are four main traits that contribute to being a successful BDM:

  1. Ensuring that you maintain clear and transparent communication with advisers to help manage expectations.
  2. Having the ability to build long-term trusted relationships.
  3. Possessing the knowledge and skill to be able to share industry knowledge and astute insights, as well as in-depth product knowledge.
  4. Underpinning all this is the drive to not settle for the status quo, but rather to push beyond this so they deliver beyond expectations.

I believe that the combination of these four traits helps to build a trusted reputation and strong personal brand, which effectively conveys that fact that you are there to add value and help your advisers.

Q: Do you think that the role of a BDM has changed over the years, and especially since the Banking Royal Commission?

A: Long gone are the days of a BDM simply being a product representative. Now advisers want (and deserve) a BDM who can provide astute industry insights, share areas of best practice and contribute business acumen.

A BDM should be able to help support the growth the adviser’s business and also find optimal yet feasible solutions for their clients…

A BDM should be able to help support the growth the adviser’s business and also find optimal yet feasible solutions for their clients. From a personality perspective, advisers value BDMs that are reliable, approachable, transparent and open enough to offer suggestions on a product solution that may not be the product they represent if it is not the ‘right fit’.

Q: Following on from the previous question, what do you believe advisers value from their BDM, especially when we consider the changing landscape of the industry?

A: I believe that advisers have always valued attributes such as clear communication, trust, accessibility and expert knowledge and insight as previously mentioned. This remains true for both before and after the Royal Commission.

However, in this environment of unprecedented change, scrutiny and the pressure with cost to serve, I believe advisers value empathy and care. They want to be assured that their BDM is accessible, reliable and able to render assistance quickly and efficiently to ease the service burden, and that this support is authentic and sincere; not driven by the self-interest of the BDM.

Q: What are three things you deliver to advisers that you believe are above and beyond in terms of service?

  1. Managing expectations is one of the most important things you can do with advisers in terms of communication and service delivery. ‘Going the extra mile’ has always been a motto of mine.
  2. Regular touch points which include being proactive about contacting advisers and presenting them with new information or ideas based on previous conversations.
  3. Being accountable for outcomes and deliver on what you promise. Under promise, over deliver.

Q: What are some of your career highlights in terms of what you have achieved or achieved for advisers?

A: My career has had many rewarding moments and highlights, clearly the Most Valued BDM of the Year Award would have to take the cake as it was decided by advisers. Knowing that the advisers I work with acknowledge and recognise what I do, day in and day out, and knowing I make a difference, is really satisfying.

One of the best parts of my career is watching emerging advisers grow both professionally and personally and achieve business success. Knowing that in some small way I assisted in their journey is truly rewarding.

Last but not least is hearing the claims stories that have provided people with dignity and choice in a time of need and exceptionally difficult circumstances. Knowing that what we provide has at least eliminated their financial worries, so they can focus on the bigger issues in their life, is gratifying.

Q: What’s your general perception on what is happening in the advice world at the moment?

A: I have never seen so much change, or such a rapid rate of change during my time in this industry. I feel that advisers are being constantly challenged with how to keep up, improve or re-model their businesses to keep relevant to their clients.

Amidst of all the noise and disruption, there are advisers/practices that are getting on with it, riding with the change, innovating, changing direction and reinventing their advice offerings.

Whilst this is a really difficult time for many, I am so pleased that many are finding ways to keep pace and discover opportunities to better serve and provide robust advice to their clients. I draw energy from these advisers and keep the faith that the advice business will emerge stronger as a trusted profession. We need to be positive through this time.

Q: What do you believe the BDM role will look like in the future?

A: Great question! I think the BDM of the future will need to be far more adaptable to the environment, extremely knowledgeable on the industry and pragmatic in their approach when dealing with their advisers.

I believe that BDMs will need to be able to provide more information to advisers to stay relevant – from astute business insights, through to industry findings, best practice and more.

Essentially, BDMs will need to differentiate themselves from someone who just offers product support to someone who can add value through their knowledge, experience and perspectives to help advisers build and grow their business.

Q: Finally, do you have any messages for advisers and/or your industry BDM peers around the challenges in delivering value during the present Coronavirus crisis?

A: These are certainly unprecedented times and the situation is extremely fluid. What I feel is important in this situation is to be present and visible to advisers and clients. Our clients are seeking reassurance, and many need more information as relates to their own financial position or health.  Reach out to your clients, support them by responding quickly and offer reassurance. Offer solutions to the challenges and of course to look for opportunity.

I also focused on changing the way I work to adapt to the situation and encouraged my advisers to do the same. Zurich has developed a Digital Support Pack for instance, that includes advice, training and technology guides to help advisers maximise connection with their clients using virtual tools like Zoom.

Remaining positive is also a key. As mentioned before, trust and confidence in the BDM and insurer is paramount through these uncertain times and people just want to know you will be there for them to guide them through.

Zurich’s Sebastian Nazar delivers BDM services for advisers in the SA/NT region…

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