Who is the most important professional adviser in someone’s life?

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You would think as a financial adviser, I would say me. But as a reformed accountant, I have a unique perspective on things.

Sometimes it is the financial adviser, typically when the client in question is an employee. Even someone on a salary of a million dollars a year can have simple accounting needs. In this instance, I generally find it is we who lead the way, with the accountant supporting us in our advice such as the setup and ongoing requirements of a self-managed Superfund, settling a property the client has purchased or just lodging tax returns that complement our superannuation advice.

The reverse is often true if the client has a substantial business with many moving parts. Here it is the accountant who is the most important adviser in the client’s life, setting up, guiding, growing and hopefully selling a mature profitable business in the lead-up to retirement. It’s the adviser’s job to support the accountant, sometimes with one-off specific advice that the accountant and client have discussed before the financial adviser gets involved. This could be insurance advice, succession planning, a superannuation strategy, or perhaps the adviser needs to sit in on a meeting with an estate planning lawyer.

I don’t think my profession has dealt well with another alpha adviser in the mix. Generally speaking, we’ve wanted to be driving the car at all times. And as an industry, I think we’ve struggled to play the support role required of us by accountants. A busy business owner may not be ready for all-encompassing financial advice at all times.

And these roles assigned to us by the client’s situation aren’t always fixed, they can change over time. Perhaps a client leaves paid employment and starts their own business, and the adviser may need to move to the back seat for a while. The accountant then takes the lead and if all things go to plan, the client makes lots of money and sells the business leading up to their retirement. The accountant having guided the client through the most financially important period of the client’s life, then hands them back to the adviser to help structure, manage and protect their retirement assets.

If accountants and advisers would stop fighting each other for control of the client, and start seeing the world the way I and my accounting partners see it, the better off all of our clients will be.

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