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CPD: 5 techniques for building ‘change fitness’ in financial advice practices

This Best Practice CPD series is published by AdviserVoice and sponsored by Bennelong Funds Management.


Financial advisers and practice owners could be forgiven for feeling, at times, like they are caught up in an endless round of ‘Squid Games’. Whilst the price of failure in real life is not nearly as high as in the popular tv show, advisers must summon all their agility, adaptability, and innovative thinking just to survive, let alone get ahead.

Advisers have a lot of change to get their heads around, including:

  • regulatory changes which come with new compliance and reporting obligations and challenge practice economics (e.g., DDO, Ongoing fee arrangements)
  • investment landscape changes such as the surge of younger investors using share trading apps, the rise of crypto, or the growing demand for ESG investment options
  • technological trends including the increasing popularity of video-based engagement, or the rise of new social channels such as TikTok
  • advice landscape changes including the consolidation of licensees and the growing unlicensed ‘finfluencer’ phenomenon
  • new product proliferation courtesy of the recently passed Retirement Incomes Covenant (RIC) and the APRA’s IDII intervention.

At the same time, consumers expect an advice experience that is comparable with other product categories. That includes a seamless, integrated experience across multiple channels and touchpoints, and a transparent approach to pricing.

Many advisers, on the other hand, are undergoing a ‘crisis of differentiation’.

A recent survey[1] asked US financial advisers how they differentiated themselves from their peers/competitors. 76% of respondents said the number one way they differentiated themselves is through their ability to understand their clients’ needs and objectives. But this isn’t really a point of difference, it’s just how advisers fulfil their legal obligations to clients.

The second most identified point of differentiation was ‘the provision of above average client service’. 72% of advisers nominated this as their Unique Selling Point (USP), prompting industry observer Michael Kitces to note “the math doesn’t work”.

It seems safe to assume a survey of Australian advisers would yield similar results.

All of which means that from time-to-time advisers will face the need to make real, substantial changes within their business, whether it be their advice processes, their organisational staffing and structure, their channels, their breadth of offering, their pricing, their approach to client segmentation, their marketing, even their entire business models.

Change can be challenging

The first challenge with change is recognising the need for it. Whilst the reality is that the evolving advice landscape means previous drivers of success are unlikely to take advisers to the next tier of performance, this can be hard for many to acknowledge. Many advisers will think to themselves ‘why change something that has worked to now?’, or even ‘if it isn’t broke why fix it?”.

The second challenge is that implementing meaningful change across a business can be hard. Really hard. And the price of failure can be high. That’s because most changes of any substance will have some sort of client impact, either direct or indirect.

The good news is that that there are some tried and tested ways advisers, and their practices, can become ‘change fit’. Because, whilst the vast majority of financial advice practices are small[2], when it comes to implementing change, they can still benefit from applying the same change management techniques and methodologies employed by large corporates.

Technique 1: Taking a strategic approach to managing change

There are countless management models in use today, including Lewin’s Change Management Model, Kotter’s 8 step change theory, and the Prosci ADKAR model.

The good news for advisers is that a strategic framework for change needn’t be complicated, and can be distilled down to three key principles, What, why and how?

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