Judges awarded Tony Sandercock CFP® the FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award for his mission to transform the way people plan for retirement.
This article was originally published in Financial Planning Magazine
Having been a practitioner for 30 years, there’s not too much Tony Sandercock CFP® hasn’t seen or doesn’t know about financial planning. But one thing that surprised the Sunshine Coast owner of wetalkmoney, is actually winning the prestigious FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award for 2016, in what was the first awards nomination he has ever participated in.
And the excitement is clearly evident when you talk to Tony.
“There are many people doing really good things in our profession. So, to be recognised in this way is a huge honour. I’ve never actually participated in anything like this before, so it’s as if I’ve climbed to the top of the tree,” Tony says. “In terms of peer recognition, it just doesn’t get any better than this.”
The FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award is presented to a CFP practitioner who embodies the highest professional standards and has delivered best practice which has led to superior client outcomes.
The award also acknowledges Tony’s mission to ‘transform the way people plan for retirement’, his dedication to ongoing learning, and the mentorship of those around him.
Commenting on the award, FPA chief executive officer, Dante De Gori said: “Tony is passionate about motivating clients, helping them set meaningful goals and simplifying complex decisions. His client testimonials were outstanding and a testament to his work.”
Tony admits to having surprised himself by entering the FPA Awards, but after 30 years practising, he thought it was “about time” he put himself and his practice under the scrutiny of his peers.
“Our business model has been evolving, so I wanted to put it to the test,” he says.
But in doing so, Tony discovered just how valuable the process of entering the awards actually were for him and his practice.
“I would encourage all planners to get involved in these awards,” he says, “because the nomination and application process asks good questions about the service you provide, and how you deliver and communicate that.
“It really forces you to jump outside your business and analyse what you are doing, and then articulate that properly. So, irrespective of the result, I actually found the whole process of self examination quite valuable.”
As the winner of the top gong for CFP professionals, Tony sees great value in being a CFP professional.
“I’ve been in the profession for a while and the CFP designation was something I always aspired to,” he says. “I felt then, as I do now, that it’s the designation you need to promote yourself as being the best in the profession.”
And such is Tony’s regard for the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® designation that it has become part of his personal and professional brand.
“I’m not Tony Sandercock, I’m Tony Sandercock CFP®,” he says with pride. “And that’s how I promote myself.”
And what of the designation’s importance for the profession?
“Well, in terms of the profession, if you look at what a client wants and is looking for, they are looking for planners with expertise, credibility and who are ethical, with a commitment to ongoing learning. And I think that’s what the CFP designation is all about. So, I would encourage any planner to become a CFP professional.”
As a CFP professional for almost 20 years, Tony has confronted most challenges the profession has thrown him, but concedes a particular challenge he still faces with his clients is getting them to actually “want what they need”. And that means having challenging discussions with them.
“For example, if it’s about talking to your client about their spending and the need to spend less and save more, you’re always going to hear plenty of objections and excuses. But as a planner, you need to have these challenging discussions with your clients. And really, as their financial coach, it’s something they expect from you, no matter how difficult the conversation.”
And what advice does he have for any aspiring CFP professional?
Top of his list is ensuring that the client always comes first.
“By making the client number one, everything else just has a remarkable way of falling into place,” Tony says. “If I was a young kid starting out now, I would focus on what it is my client needs, and then create an environment where I can deliver that.”
He also feels the profession spends too much time on providing solutions, when it should be focusing on the needs of the client.
“As a profession, we tend to spend a lot of time on solutions, when I actually think the key to the client-adviser relationship is actually ‘the need’. We love to get to the solution quickly to show clients how smart we are, but in the process of doing so, we sometimes have a superficial understanding of that need.
“I think planners should be spending just as much time on ‘the need’, as they do on the solutions. Because in the long term, that’s what is going to maintain your relationship. In the end, solutions are commoditised.”
And Tony’s last tip to any aspiring CFP professional is to ignore the things you can’t control.
“This includes the ups and downs in the market and noise from the media. Ignore these things and focus on the things you can control, such as helping clients set meaningful goals, the strategy to get there, managing the risks along the way, and then to encourage your clients to remain disciplined,” he says. “It’s all part of what being a good financial planner is all about.”
And for Tony, that’s part of his never-ending pursuit of excellence.