How do I know if my adviser is “the one”?
I can still remember my first visit to an accountant. I’m pretty sure I got dressed up for it, and I vividly recall walking out afterwards and thinking “What just happened?”
As I’m sure many of you would have experienced, I walked in, was introduced to “Neville” and sat down. Over the next 40 minutes Neville asked me a series of inane questions about my work and then told me to expect a cheque in the mail for about $2,000. And out I went…. About four weeks later when I received the cheque, I began to ask myself “Why?”
I found out over the next few years that Neville was exceptionally good at what he did, and generally did very well by me. The problem was that Neville never explained anything to me, which may be ok for some, but I really wanted to understand what was happening and perhaps build my knowledge to allow me to make some decisions to improve my situation.
Funnily enough, I recently caught up with Neville and had a chance to reflect on the changes in our industry. It was quite an interesting exercise, and I must acknowledge that both Neville and my second accountant “Russell” have both been great mentors for me.
Your relationship with your accountant and financial adviser can be one of the most valuable you will have throughout your life, and as such this choice is a critically important one. But how do you know if you’ve made the right choice? And if you think you may have gotten it wrong, what can you do?
Really it all comes down to four key characteristics: accessibility, expertise, growth and relationship.
Firstly, you need to feel comfortable that your adviser is going to be able to fit you in. It may be a little insulting to some of us out there, but as an industry we’re generally terrible at returning calls. A couple of good questions to ask to confirm you’ll get the level of service you want are:
- Can I have your mobile number?
- Is what I’m asking you to do for me your best service offering?
- Can I ask for a couple of references of similar clients?
You will quickly be able to gauge how accessible and engaged your accountant is from their responses.
In terms of assessing your adviser’s expertise, if they carry some qualifications from the Chartered Accountants of Australia & New Zealand (CA or CAANZ), Certified Professional Adviser (CPA), or Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) then they are likely to have suitable expertise. If you are looking for a financial adviser, you should check their history, qualifications and current employment status before you approach them about getting advice. You can do this on the Financial Advisers Register, but more importantly ask them about their AFSL and what they can advise you on.
The final two characteristics (growth and relationship) are entwined. Being comfortable that your adviser can help you grow and achieve your goals is critically important, but I think the best advisers will help you define your goals in the first place. Are they a similar age to you? Plus or minus ten years is ideal, but not critical. This will give them a better understanding of your mindset and the issues you do or will face.
Finally, being comfortable that your adviser can work with you throughout your journey is important. Can you see a long-term partnership here? You need to be able to lean on your adviser at key moments in your life to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Can you trust they will lead you in the right direction? For me, the best thing your adviser can do is educate you about the best way to maximise your chance of success both financially and personally. The gold standard of advising is where they can not only tell you what has happened, but more importantly what will happen!
So, the lesson here is, shop around and make sure you ask the difficult questions at the front end of the relationship to ensure long-term success with your adviser. And don’t worry, whilst the decision to change your accountant or adviser is a big one, the process is really quite simple. Don’t ever feel that you can’t get out of the relationship if they’re not “the one”.