Astute Financial has been operating in Australia since 2000, servicing approximately 500 member brokers within finance, insurance and financial planning, and the company launched its services to New Zealand late last year.
Different from your typical broker cluster group, Astute accepts members though a rigorous selection process which involves an application and face to face interview. It has notably turned its attention towards helping members get to grips with compliance processes throughout 2019, and on allowing them to focus on what they do best – service their clients.
Insurance Business sat down with Astute Financial, to discuss what they hope to bring to the New Zealand market during this period of change.
“For us, it’s about letting advisers know that the world is changing and that we’re a really safe pair of hands,” said CEO Sarah Johnston.
“One key aspect of our operations is that we will do all the necessary licensing for our members, which a lot of other companies won’t do. We want the advisers to do what they’re really good at, which is getting out there and looking after the client while knowing that we have the compliance side taken care of.”
“We don’t want to be a low-cost, low-touch model,” she explained. “We want our members to see the value that they’re getting, and we have to justify that value to them every day. We have a proven system that means that if members follow our suggestions, their business will be looked after and we have their back.
“Having each run our own businesses, we know that compliance is the beast that keeps on giving – and you have to get it right. We take it seriously, and we have a very smooth operation through our Australian parent company, which have been living in this regime for years.”
“Building efficiencies into your business through the use of technology is the future of financial advice,” national sales manager Jenny Campbell added.
“The CRM that Astute has is the best I’ve seen in the financial advice sector. It’s not just a compliance tool; it’s a full business package for you where you can manage your staff, sub-advisers, compliance and CPD in one place.”
Campbell says that the new compliance regime will be a “shock to the system” for many advisers, but that Astute is looking to really set the bar in this space. She says broker experiences might also differ from what the regulator has told them to expect, and so going into the new regime fully prepared is going to be vital if adviser businesses want to sail smoothly.
“The regulators are communicating that it’s going to be ‘easy’, but we think the reality is going to be quite different,” she stated. “What the regulator thinks is a reasonable cost for a business and the reality of the situation are two different things. They’ll have to think about the cost of keeping their license in the long term, and protecting their business from things like client complaints.”
“Change in the regulations and legislation, the new Code of Conduct and how we disclose commissions are all the big ticket items this year,” compliance specialist Leigh Hodgetts explained.
“There is a lot of responsibility that we take on for the people who sit under our umbrella, so it’s a real game changer this year. It’s all about customer outcomes, and that’s the kind of support that we really want to provide.”
“We’re not looking to be the biggest group in the business, but rather ensure that we’re onboarding the right people,” Hodgetts concluded. “We bring in a lot of filters at the onboarding stage to make sure that we are doing that, and then we support and offer them training along the way. That way, we have assurance about the people who are within our group – whichever brand they sit under.”