Paul Kearney - AFA Australian Practice of the Year Video

What does it mean to win the ‘Olympics of advice’?

16 August 2016 Read time: 5 min

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since Kearney Group was named the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) Australian Practice of the Year.

The hunt is on again for the AFA Adviser and Practice of the Year. Now in its fourteenth year, the AFA is looking to raise the bar even higher, looking for those exceptional advisers whose innovative thinking, customer-centricity, leadership and commitment to higher purpose help take the professionalism of our industry to new heights.

So, as the world gets ready for Rio, Kearney Group Founder and CEO, Paul Kearney, sat down with the Zurich/AFA team to talk through last years’ award process. Hear from Paul and 2015 Adviser of the Year, David Reed, on what it means to participate in what is becoming regarded as the ‘Olympics of advice’.

See the full article here or read on for more.


First of all, congratulations on your AFA Adviser and Practice of the Year award wins last year. The hunt is now on again for the 2016 finalists, so for any advisers thinking about nominating this year, what advice can you give about the benefits of taking part in the process?


David Reed: The most significant benefit was the process itself. From the beginning, our team was provided the opportunity to reflect upon what our business stood for, what we were doing well, and areas needing improvement.

Taking the time to assess each facet of the client experience, understanding through the Beddoes Institute survey (part of the judging process) how the client viewed our service offering, and then receiving direct feedback from the judging panel on how our results were benchmarked against other practices, were all exceptionally valuable insights we would not have otherwise had the opportunity to get.

Paul Kearney: The AFA Awards process is extremely rigorous and it has been an incredible experience; we’ve learned so much about our clients, our advisers and the way we do business. Whilst it was terrific to ultimately take home the award, the process itself was first-class and we got so much from the experience as a business.

It was clear that the judging panel actually wanted to look deeply at our practice and truly understand how it operates, from all angles – client service, internal process, culture/people management, business lines/structure, financials, risk and governance, our strategic advantage/CVP… the list goes on.

We really commend the AFA and Zurich for investing, both their time and money, in making these awards so rigorous and for creating value for those who go through the process. This investment, particularly in the last three phases of the awards process (the Client Experience Survey, site visits and the Finalist Showcase) was extremely powerful, and in our opinion, lends a great deal of credibility to the award.


Did you pick up any advice, tips or different ways of working from the other finalists during your time together?


DR: Yes, we all certainly had different client value propositions, and different business models. However the common denominator was that each adviser was focused upon continued learning and built their business in a client-centric structure.

PK: Absolutely. There’s always a lot to learn from others. I was particularly intrigued by the way David Reed thinks about the psychological aspect of retirement. He’s clearly thought very deeply about this and has a lot to offer.

One of the nicest surprises about this process was developing friendships and connections with a whole community of new people across the industry, including those at the AFA and Zurich, Adviser of the Year winner David Reed, and of course, with all our fellow finalists.


Will you make (or have you made) changes to your business as a result of the Award process?


DR: We have made incremental changes to the business during this process that resulted in more technology in our business, such as video recording of meetings.

The Client Experience Survey, held during the judging process, showed us that more education offerings were needed, so we have commenced a “Retirement Series” that we will incorporate in our yearly calendar. Ideally, we would like one day to use this education component as a benchmark for clients to attend prior to being accepted as a client. This will ensure that our clients understand clearly our value proposition and how we can assist their retirement aspirations.


Were there any benefits to your staff?


PK: From a business perspective, there’s no doubt that these awards have currency with employees – both current and prospective. The team is really excited and proud to be recognised because they understand awards like these are truly a team effort. They see their individual effort echoed in the AFA Practice of the Year award and that’s a very powerful thing.

From a personal perspective, the opportunity to attend the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) with one of the key members of our practice was incredible. Offering the study tour to SXSW as the prize was a really unique idea – the experience was far more valuable than any cash award.

Finally, from a recruitment perspective, awards like this also assist with brand recognition and credibility as an employer. It’s hard to quantify but anecdotally, such awards certainly play a part in attracting top talent.


How do you believe you can use your newfound role as an advocate for the advice profession for the benefit of other advisers?


DR: Since the awards last year, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some fantastic advisers across Australia. There have been 40-year veterans of the profession that I’ve discussed client engagement techniques over a cold beer, to the mentoring of new, entrepreneurial advisers looking at how to build an advice business with an eye towards the future of technology.

I’ve also been fortunate to be in a position to promote the value of advice through a variety of broadcast mediums, including print and radio. Hopefully a consistent, clear message that encourages people to seek financial advice to better their future lifestyle will assist in boosting the profile of our profession.

PK: At Kearney Group, we’re deadly serious about advocacy. We’ve felt for some time, that for financial services to totally “professionalise”, it’s going to require the work of leading practices and leading practitioners. We love that our role has morphed into one of advocacy for and within our Profession.

Ours is a profession that is built on trust and integrity. Many firms around Australia already live and breathe a client-centric approach to financial advice, their people deeply respect their fiduciary duty, they’re on the front lines and “Imagineering” the future of advice as we speak.

These next few years are going to be crucial. And, whilst we’ve got lots to learn, it’s enormously exciting to be able to help shape what our profession will look like into the future.


Can you describe the Award experience in 3 words?


DR: Exhaustive. Informative. Enriching.

PK: Rigorous and Rewarding and Year-Defining (without doubt!)





Prepared by Zurich Australia Limited ABN 92 000 010 195 AFSLN 232510. This article was originally published, 22 June 2016 and is of general nature and does not take into account any personal objectives, situations or needs. This information is a summary for financial advisers only and there are relevant exclusions and conditions that you should consider before making a decision or recommendation about the product. You should refer to the current Zurich Wealth Protection Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). CLYH-011495-2016


Speak to the team.