By John Kavanagh
Financial planning and brokerage businesses have not taken up the opportunities available through greater scale and more effective use of technology, according to new industry research.
Macquarie Group’s 2015/16 Accounting and Financial Services Benchmarking Report found that overall, businesses operating under Australian Financial Services licenses “continue to avoid the scale seen in other industries.”
One in four companies surveyed have a work-in-progress period of 45 days or more, which has direct implications for cash flow and working capital.
One in seven firms still use a time-intensive manual system for processing invoices.
“They recognise their shortcomings when it comes to efficiency and effective use of technology,” the report says.
Macquarie set out to discover what drives high performance firms in the industry. It surveyed financial planners, tax agents, life insurance brokers, self-managed superannuation fund administrators and auditors, share brokers and mortgage brokers.
It found that the most profitable companies are driving client value propositions and revenue by moving into “adjacent services”. For these companies the move to multi-disciplinary business models is accelerating.
The characteristics of high performance companies include a wide range of services, including tax and business services, SMSF compliance and audit, financial planning, SMSF administration, life insurance broking, mortgage broking, audit and share broking.
To a lesser extent, they offer leasing, insolvency, forensic accounting, general insurance broking and property services.
These services may be offered in-house, by referral, through a joint venture partner or outsourced.
For large businesses, the services that are most likely to be offered in-house include tax and business services, SMSF compliance and auditing, SMSF administration and financial planning.
Smaller businesses (with revenue of less than $2 million a year) are more likely to be specialists. A large proportion of these companies also have referral arrangements to fill out their service offerings.
For small companies, the services that are most likely to be offered in-house include financial planning and life insurance broking.
The high performance businesses in the survey were well established, with an average of 20 years in operation.
Respondents say the three things that drive growth in earnings are the creation of value for existing customers, technology to drive efficiency and retention of key staff.
The employee attrition rate among respondents is 15 per cent. There is a war for talent and the big firms are winning. Salaries increase across the board for every role as the size of a company grows.
One third of companies don’t offer any additional incentives to reward and retain staff.
“There is room for firms to re-think their employee value proposition, given that half of AFS practices think retaining quality staff is one of the most effective strategies for improving profitability,” the report says
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