Bringing accounting and financial advice under one roof is often trickier than it looks because of the cultural issues that can arise when two distinct professions collide in a single practice.
For WCA Financial Planning partner Tony Bazzana, building a dedicated financial advice arm out of his accountancy firm five years ago was all about properly educating staff around the framework financial planners operated in.
“I had an opportunity to move from the tax section of our practice across to planning – when I moved across we had three staff on that side of the business and we are now up to 11,” Bazzana says.
“We wanted to get buy-in from the accounting side early on, so all our partners obtained their RG 146 authorisation to get a good grounding as to what financial planning involves. They were no longer seeing it as a side practice and we could create that holistic model where all the accountants and planners accept that we are one business.”
Given the focus of accounting on maximising client income, Bazzana naturally adopted a similar approach when building out his investment philosophy for financial planning clients.
“What I had been doing [in accounting] was around small business management, cash-flow advice and understanding the client’s goals, so it was a natural progression to say: ‘We’ve done that for your business, we are now going to do the same thing for your personal affairs,’” he explains.
“We have a bespoke, goals-based service focused on cash flow and we’ve spent a lot of time documenting our specific investment philosophy, which is around producing more income than the client is spending.”
Along with building out a more holistic offering, Bazzana noted the value in moving to a self-licensed model and set up his own licence group, Wealth Management Matters, with a number of other former accountants in 2016.
“We had a long time within institutionally aligned groups, but we felt as time went by that our clients wanted that privately owned advice where we weren’t recommending investments for any other reason than we thought it was best for the client,” he says.
“We found [self-licensing] tied in well with holistic advice – clients saw us as the trusted adviser and we pushed strongly to have an active dialogue with their insurance and mortgage brokers, solicitors and accountants to try and build a team around the individual client.”
Like many modern self-licensed firms, WCA has embraced managed accounts, developing a series of portfolios in conjunction with Hub24 that are tailored to its income-focused investment philosophy.
“We spent almost 12 months building out three white-label SMAs (separately managed accounts) based on different risk profiles – we’ve badged them up as WCA Wealth Management portfolios and we do a lot of work behind the scenes to produce regular newsletters on each portfolio,” Bazzana says.
“We wanted to take ownership of what we were doing instead of picking something off the shelf and saying ‘that’s good enough’. We are providing a package to clients that is very cohesive and in line with what we are out there doing.”
Ultimately, he says success in the modern advice landscape is all about tapping into current trends and ensuring a practice can evolve with what the consumer wants.
“What we have always tried to do is look at where the industry is going and what our clients are looking for – so not just taking stock of areas where we’ve done well, but also how we can do better,” he says.
“My advice to other practitioners is to continue challenging yourself to find a better way because the industry is moving that fast that trying to keep ahead of the game is key.”
Source: Financial Observer