Bruce Baker has been one of the most vocal advocates of the rights of boutique financial advice businesses in a world dominated by large dealers. True to his individualistic style, Baker credits the success of his own business, Puzzle Financial Advice, to the novel approach of putting clients first.

One-time president of the Boutique Financial Planning Principals Group (BFPPG) and business owner, Bruce Baker, takes so seriously his responsibility to his clients that he claims their needs come before his own business success. “I set out with a view that a central part of my business plan was that the client had to come first, and having a profitable business was a secondary consideration,” he says. The focus of Baker’s business is investments, and he sees his prime responsibility is to provide clients with the best advice he can, which includes removing any conflicts of interest in the way of payments. But it is his own personal knowledge and experience that he believes will result in the best investment advice for his clients, and spends about half of his working week on investment research. “The key to business success is having the skills and knowledge to add value to clients,” he says. “Any recommendation or strategy has to have a good basis. I don’t have enormous faith in most providers who provide ratings, because a lot of it is designed to be cover-your-arse type stuff to support a given recommendation. And that is different to whether the basis of the advice was reasonable anyway. “There will be a time in the future where there will be court cases where advisers who have relied on bought research will find it is insufficient to protect them on giving advice.” As the first president of the Boutique Financial Planning Principals Group, he is passionate about the success of businesses like his own. One of the biggest obstacles of recent times for boutique firms has been FSR, particularly the Statement of Advice (SOA), but Baker believes refinements are close at hand. “FSR was written for the types of businesses that focus on transactions – mostly commission-based, product distribution channels. And the SOA was the result of that,” he says. But for independently-owned businesses such as Baker’s, the focus is more on advice and the establishment of long, ongoing relationships with clients. “We are not selling a once off transaction but a relationship,” he says. “The SOA was a huge threat to our business, it was unworkable and it wasn’t viable to accept what was there. The options were to be non compliant or go bankrupt.” However, Baker believes, with much lobbying from the BFPPG, that Treasury has had a change of attitude and now acknowledges that regular and ongoing advice can not fit into a couple of documents. While ASIC’s opinion remains to be seen, Baker is confident his business and those like his will continue to survive and prosper. Adviser’s Name: Bruce Baker Business Name and Location: Puzzle Financial Advice, Brisbane Dealer Name: Self-licensed Number of Staff: three support staff Area of Specialty: a focus on investments for high net worth clients Relevant Qualification: Bachelor of Science, MBA, DFP Member of the FPA: Yes Number of clients: 60 FUM/Advice: $50 million Method of fee collection: A fee which is a combination of percentage of FUM and time Investment Platforms: Macquarie Wrap and BT Wrap but the majority of the business is not on a platform. This is due to the fact Baker believes it is not cost-efficient for his clients, who hold a lot of listed securities and some sector funds, to invest via a platform.

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