Corporatising its advice without losing its identity has worked a treat for ipac Western Australia, which was named the inaugural winner of the FPA Professional Practice of the Year Award.
There was no concealing Patrick Canion’s excitement when ipac Western Australia was named the inaugural FPA Professional Practice of the Year, taking out this prestigious award at the 2016 FPA Professionals Congress.
In accepting the award, Patrick, a CFP® practitioner and chief executive officer of ipac Western Australia, says the award is tremendous acknowledgment for the team and processes at ipac Western Australia.
“The award is recognition of the combined effort of the entire team,” he says. “Each day for the last 18 years, we have strived to be better at what we do, so to get this recognition is something nobody can ever take away from us.”
Patrick acknowledges that winning the FPA Professional Practice of the Year Award is a huge morale boost for his practice.
“Financial planning is a lonely business. You think you’re good but you don’t know how good you are until you put yourself to the test against your peers. Now we know we’re good, and that’s an enormous shot in the arm for the entire team.”
As much as there is skill in being a good financial planner, there is also skill in building a successful financial planning practice, which was a core component of the criteria judges were looking for when deciding the winner of this award.
In fact, in making their decision, the judges hailed the Perth-based practice as an “entrepreneurial leader” in the provision of financial advice, technology and its approach to marketing
and events. The practice was also commended for its commitment to staff development, clarity and community involvement.
“It was fantastic that the FPA Awards finally recognised the collegiate effort of planners and staff working together in a planning practice for great client outcomes,” Patrick says.
He concedes that signing up to the FPA Professional Practice brand six years ago was a great decision, as today, the brand clearly stands for a planning practice’s pledge of higher professional standards.
“As the FPA Professional Practice brand has developed, we have come to see it as a way that all our practitioners can stand together for a higher ideal of professionalism across our business,” Patrick says. “The brand is a seal of quality that extends beyond any one individual.”
And it’s this seal of quality that also underpins ipac Western Australia’s philosophy, which is emblazoned across its door – ‘Life is for living’.
It’s a philosophy that has helped the practice to differentiate itself from many of its competitors.
“When it comes to our clients, we really make a point of planning for the person ‘they are’, and not just the money ‘they have’. That means we match clients with advisers based on their personality and not just their financial planning needs,” Patrick says.
“We’re about building relationships. We don’t care if you are a retiree with $1 million to invest or $10,000. If you need help, we want to find a way of helping you.
“So, you might be in your early 20s and just want to know how to start a savings plan. That’s okay, we’ll help you. We know that if we can help someone out and build a relationship, they won’t forget that, and in five or 10 years time, they’ll be back. It’s a philosophy that is working for our practice.”
But like any planning practice, ipac Western Australia has its challenges.
Top of the list for Patrick and his team is staying on top of regulations and compliance. Another challenge is finding ways of helping clients that is compliant but profitable, “so we can honour those promises in the years to come”.
But not surprisingly, it’s business profitability that Patrick finds particularly challenging.
“The margin pressure on businesses is phenomenal,” he says. “We’re seeing more demand than ever for financial advice but the expectation from the marketplace of what it costs to provide that advice is less than it’s ever been.
“In 1998, our initial establishment fee, no matter how much money you had, was $4,000. That’s for a full plan and implementation, which was about three months of work. Today, it’s still $4,000. And yet, we have more price resistance today than we had almost 20 years ago.”
Patrick blames the culture of “free” which pervades society, and technological innovation that has enabled people in a way that we’ve never seen before.
But Patrick remains excited about the future of financial planning.
“As our profession matures, we will have the ethical, educational and behavioural frameworks in place that will enable us to be regarded in the same professional sense as doctors and surgeons. And as respected professionals, we’ll be able to shift the conversation away from price to advice. We’re getting to that place now, which is terrific to see and very exciting for the profession.”
While winning the award has provided Patrick’s team with a definite morale boost, he adds that the award will also provide his clients with the confidence and affirmation they have entrusted
their financial wellbeing to a team of professionals “who really know what they are doing”. “And I’m hoping, in the best possible way, that ipac Western Australia will be seen as an example of best practice for other planning practices,” Patrick says.
“I think financial planners get too caught up in an ideologically driven view of what a financial planning business should look like.
“Yet, here we are, an amalgamation in an aligned licensee. We’re a bigger business than most, and yet within, we have diverse planner personalities who are still able to bring it all together and consistently deliver client outcomes that are independent of any individual adviser.
“We’ve corporatised the advice without losing the personality, which has been great for our business.”
* Originally published in the Financial Planning Magazine, Vol 29 Issue 1. February 2017