AMP Financial Planning (AMPFP), the largest dealer group, with about 1,300 planners, last week announced the five winners of the inaugural innovation awards and also four awards for “excellence in rural financial planning” and a special encouragement award.

The innovation award winners were: KRA Financial Group in Victoria, Perth Financial Services in Western Australia, Bentham Financial Group in ACT, Provident Financial Services in Western Australia and Ecential Financial in Queensland. Two of the five – Bentham Financial and Ecential Financial – made extensive upgrades to their systems following mergers between two books of business. A third – Perth Financial – created a whole new computer system to improve client communication and planning as well as the business’s internal system. Bentham Financial needed to merge about 2,400 client records and contact each party after the firm bought a second register in June last year. The new system created to undertake the task means that “client information is now always at the planners’ fingertips, administration costs have fallen and compliance measures have dramatically improved,” according to AMP. Ecential Financial undertook extensive changes to its business model after a merger. “The new practice aimed to make a client’s experience consistent from the first interview through to the plan’s implementation. This included faster delivery of meeting notes, interactive client presentations, weekly updates during the plan’s implementation and significant investment in new office space,” AMP says. The practice redesigned its Statements of Advice (SOA), to ensure “more effective” communication, with preparation of the SOA being outsourced to paraplanners. Perth Financial worked with a specialist software firm to create ‘iDfp’ – a package which allows the practice to combine all client information on one platform. The firm also worked with developers to create an automated SOA generator to ensure uniformity in plan preparation. Of the other two innovation award winners, Provident Financial delivered an integrated practice marketing program and KRA developed a program to ensure that client strategy always comes first, allowing product to be a means to enable the strategy’s success. The encouragement award went to Reader Financial Services of North Adelaide, which also developed a structured client communication process, which it has called DirectADVICE. The four rural award winners are: Back to Back Financial Planners of Young, NSW; PB Financial Solutions of Geelong, Victoria; Darwin Financial Services, in Darwin, NT; and, Integral Rural Financial Services of Leeton, NSW. The awards were judged by a panel which included four independent academics with experience teaching business and entrepreneurship. Greg Kirk, AMPFP managing director, said consumers had increasingly high expectations of their financial planners and the awards acknowledged those who were improving their client service and business practices to meet, and exceed, those expectations.

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