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Great Advice Changes Lives: Conrad Francis, Inspired Money

Last week we caught up with Nick Mitchell of Mason Stevens.

This week we're speaking with Conrad Francis. Conrad is one of the founders of Inspired Money, a Perth-based financial planning practice. He is also an executive and performance coach and is a massive advocate for great advice.

Joel Robbie  0:05  
Conrad, thanks so much for joining us on what is Episode Two of Great Advice Matters. So Conrad, you're from Inspired Money. You also do a whole bunch of other stuff, which I'm keen to get into a little bit as we go through this. But I think always really a nice place to start, for those that don't know you - could you maybe just sort of introduce yourself? We know you're one of the founders of Inspired Money, but you do a whole bunch of other stuff as well. So maybe just a bit of intro to you, your role, and what are you doing out there in the community?

Conrad Francis  0:39  
Yeah, as you said, I'm one of the founding partners of Inspired Money since what 2011 but I've been working with Shane and the other founders since 2006. Been in the finance game since 1992 and in the advice game since 95. So yeah, it's been it's been a lovely timeframe. And, and that's been interesting, but my passion stuff is working with people from a performance basis. I've got an executive coaching and leadership business outside of Inspired Money. I coach high performance athletes through basketball, I also mentor them in transition phase outside of sport. So that's been really fantastic to work with a couple of Olympians, a couple high profile, professional athletes stretching them outside of sport into life. So that's really great. I think what I've found is similar or the reason why I love all this stuff, because it's all around human behaviour. Money is human behaviour, performance is human behaviour. And so there's a really good synergy between that and what I do and what I do within the business here.

Joel Robbie  1:36  
Yeah, absolutely. And maybe just to touch on that transition from professional athlete to a life outside of professional sport because it's not something that we hear much about and I think this interview series is really about celebrating the value of great advice and it strikes me that's a really unique kind of moment in those athletes life that you're picking them up and helping them make those next great decisions. So could you maybe just expand a little bit on maybe what some of the things that you see people struggle with in that part of life? What what some of the advice that you might give around that space? It's such an interesting little niche that you found yourself in.

Conrad Francis  2:16  
Yeah, I mean, it's funny, right? Because I was never a pro athlete, I failed at the first hurdle, blew my knee out and had to re-adjust my life early. Sow the conversations I have now with athletes when the ones I found having worked with myself now between 17 and 25 years of age about you know, what is next in life. So it's really easy because it allows them to get back to connect with their, you know, with their hopes, dreams, desires, you know, what was it that you really love and, and that's what I've really learned, is not the most important part of orientating what you do and where you go in life, it's not what you what you want to become and it's what you love. And so it's sitting in that space and delving that space dreaming a little, you know, and getting back with that. You know that excited with a child and recreating the next phase of life? It's really enjoyable. But that's what the greats play the game. I know whether it's, I use basketball analogies a lot. Whether it's a Michael Jordan, if anyone's watched The Last Dance series and seen what he created. You can't create great things without staying connected to your hopes and dreams.

Joel Robbie  3:18  
Yeah, absolutely. So interesting. So yeah, I'm really keen to as we go through this, I'll probably ask a couple more questions around, you know, the best advice you've ever given someone, the best advice you've received and that sort of stuff. But maybe if we can change tack slightly and just talk a bit more about Inspired Money and the business you're creating there, because I know we're lucky enough to have you guys as customers and you're very focused on creating a truly innovative technology-driven advice business. So can you maybe sort of give the people watching this your view on you know, the future of financial planning, where you think it's heading, what's exciting you at the moment? What's on the horizon?

Conrad Francis  4:00  
Yeah, I mean, I guess when starting Inspired Money and being in this advice game, I mean, the things I love is staying connected and in communication with clients, right? So I mean, don't get me wrong when I talk tech-driven advice businesses. I'm not talking about replacing advisors, although, you know, one of these conversations I have with one of our tech providers, sees me talking to him and saying: with your engine and putting a digital face on the front of that to me would be a fantastic world because it will then allow advisors to have real conversations with their clients about behaviours. So the robo-advice piece doesn't scare me because I believe that we undersold ourselves for what we're really doing for a long time. That's behavioural manage people. But the future of advice for me is, and I think Steve Jobs said it well when he talked about, and I'll get this whole thing wrong, but he talked about locomotion. And how  when he reviewed a study that showed that the Condor was the most efficient mammal on the planet  and the human being rated really lowly until you put it on a bicycle and it became the most efficient. Now, when you when you think about technology and in what Jobs has done, and then you overlay that, with financial advice, I think the same thing. If we could connect people as closely with their financial behaviours possible, the outcome can only be good.

Joel Robbie  5:22  
Yeah, sort of thinking about people in that kind of bionic way, it's about the combination of people and technology.

Conrad Francis  5:31  
So creating the advisor, making the adviser more efficient and making the client more efficient in getting better outcomes.

Joel Robbie  5:39  
Yeah, perfect. And so how close do you think we are from kind of reaching nirvana in that space? So we are, you know, are we years away from kind of achieving, you know, the bionic advisor or are we years away from sort of seeing the, the kind of bionic client if that makes sense,

Conrad Francis  5:56  
Joel, I think you and I both know technology already existed to make that happen tomorrow. You know, the technology you and I have seen. You know, I'd love to see that switched on tomorrow so that it will force us to have better conversation with their clients and not product driven conversations with their clients. Yeah. So that that technology exists, legislation hasn't caught up, which is what the issue is and, you know, the perceived fear around transitioning into that type of space. Because it's all perception. I mean, we all know, the elite thinkers and the great minds of the world know that fear isn't real. So we just got to coach behaviour and I think that's where, you know, I've enjoyed being in that space and using my experience with sports, it's all coaching behaviour. So you know, that's, that's synergistic to me.

Joel Robbie  6:44  
100%. And so, the next question is really around how you as a leader in the financial planning industry and the business you've created Inspired Money. How are you supporting your people at the moment? I kind of want to ask this question in two parts, obviously, there's, you know, what initiatives are you running in the business to better support, you know, great advice? It might be technology might be better processes, it might be better ways of working, you know, different clients you might be going after. But secondly, financial planning has been through a pretty tough sort of few years and is very much heavily under scrutiny. So, mental health, obviously, you know, is is a key question when that when those sorts of moments happen in life, how are you supporting your team at the moment through all the things that are going on in 2020?

Conrad Francis  7:40  
I mean, it's been interesting. We've had a growing team, so we've added another staff member to our team over the over the COVID period as well. I'm looking to hire some more. We've been acquiring books of business as well as growing our clients organically. So you know, we're a growing practice, supporting my team, and I think I take a lot of this for granted, but I'm accessible to my guys 24/7 and we're very flexible with how they approach work. I mean, we're highly accountable business, don't get me wrong. And so we work with the fact that everybody, you know, says something and they will be held accountable for doing those things. So I met with my guys individually on a monthly basis, if not more often if they need it because I'm connecting their internal success for what they're trying to achieve personally to our business success and not the other way around. Because unless somebody is achieving somewhere in their life, it's very hard to get them motivated to achieve inside a team. And so you need to know both sides of the equation. And you can only do that through conversations. You can only do that through promoting personal development, which we do a lot of, you know, a lot of businesses have to do professional development, but I don't know another businesses that spends time on personal development. My guys, you know, are asked to provide some level of personal development reading that their going through and what they take from it, how that shows up for them, they circulate that on LinkedIn. So now we've tied it to behaviour, so that we will know where people are at and it's a conversation point.

Joel Robbie  9:06  
Yeah, that's awesome. So yeah, I love that the personal development versus professional development, because it's so easy to just, you know, to sort of fall back on professional development and sort of just focus on skills and not focus on people. Do you also have a view on sort of how you hire people into the business then. So you're obviously a very values driven kind of person, you run a values driven business. So how does hiring work for you given that that's pretty key?

Conrad Francis  9:36  
It's a pretty different hiring process. I mean, there's the technical piece, and then there's this the person piece, right? I take longer to hire these then I ever have. But I'm one of those types of guys and I haven't had to fire people. Don't get me wrong, we've had to put people on probation and to rework management scenarios but we've never had to terminate anybody. Because everybody goes through the behavioural loops that everyone goes through. And so when someone goes into a probation period for us, it's not about dismissing them. It's about micro-managing to a point to get them back to their best. You know, so that's what we do. It's almost like injury management on a sports team. You put them on the sideline, give them to the strength and conditioning coach and the physios, and then bring them back to the fold. You know, something's not working for them, so let's get them working again. So that's, that's what we do. I mean, we use a tool to help us take the pulse of our team on a regular basis. It's all the softer stuff that goes around the place, and it's all anonymous. I mean, we've got a 13-14 person team and it's all anonymous. And so it's a feedback loop for Shane and I to get a good pulse on where the businesses and understand where employee NPS is at any given time.

Joel Robbie  10:53  
Yeah, that's awesome. Love that. And so you're spending a lot of time with a team obviously and you're providing a lot of guidance and a lot of advice but I might ask, from your own experience, you know, what is the best advice you've ever received in life and it can be financial and non financial. But, you know, you're always so generous with the advice that you give and the guidance that you give. But what's the best advice you've ever received? And who was it from and and how did it change your trajectory?

Conrad Francis  11:32  
I mean, I guess there's two parts. And it's kind of funny, because, you know, the best piece of advice on I've ever received was from an air steward. Yeah, you know, if I could remember the exact moment I'd be able to tell you but it was just, I've flown a lot but very early in the piece, I joined the dots on the whole, put the mask on yourself before you take care of your children scenario. Now it's almost counterintuitive to how you're brought up. Until you take care of yourself, you can't take care of your people. I think that to me, whether you're a parent or a business owner or just a leader in general, I think that's the most important part is to take care of yourself before you take care of anybody else. Because everything else then is coming from a great, energetic, sustainable source, as opposed to, you know, you feeling depleted and not being able to perform at your best.

Joel Robbie  12:29  
Yeah, absolutely. It's impossible to give energy to anyone else if you don't have any energy yourself. So, yeah, it's really hard to look someone in the eye and tell them you know, they need to get fitter if you haven't been for a run in three months yourself.

Conrad Francis  12:48  
Well, but in the same analogy becomes, and I've played with this, and I think I'm keen to roll something like this out is like how should a client interview their adviser? Now we are so dependent on clients for information, I want clients to ask us questions. You know, all I want clients to feel comfortable that, you know, they're working with an advisor who's drinking from the same place. That's, you know, that's authentic advice. You know, that's not you're not just lecturing here. We're actually living.

Joel Robbie  13:18  
Yeah, yeah. So walking the talk. Yeah. Awesome. And so, you provide advice in a lot of arenas. And so I might, might see if you can maybe come up with an anecdote for this one, but the best advice you've ever given, as told through how it changed someone's trajectory. So, you know, what, what's the sort of moment of advice giving that you're most proud of in any of the arenas that you work in?

Conrad Francis  13:48  
I mean, it's the one I mean, I guess the one when when you posed the list of questions that the immediate scenario came back to me was a client scenario here, although I've had plenty of scenarios which I'm really happy with, you know, across sitting on the boards I sit on and the teams I coach. Yeah, now I've got plenty of pieces of advice. I mean, but one, I think, because it's the simplest piece of advice, but it's and the hare and the tortoise, you know, simple things done regularly, achieve great results. And what a client I've had who started with the $20,000, at 25 years of age, and is now 37 years of age and got in excess of $1.2 million. Hasn't done anything extravagant, you know, wasn't a high income earner there. I mean, they are a nurse, alright, the average earning was was about $78,000 over that period of time. But it's changed her life and not only has it changed her life, it's also changed the life of her family because her family are now getting advice. It's now changed the life of her colleagues because her colleagues are now being challenged to go get advice. So something so simple, executed so well has given somebody the ability to impact other people. Now whether they understand that or not, I'm not really sure because I don't think they really do. But you know that to me just echoes a lot of things, you know, you don't need to get overly complex, you don't need to get overly smart, you don't need the best of anything. You just need to take advice and implement.

Joel Robbie  15:14  
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, as I reflect on our company's role, you know, our company talks about everyday, how do we enable experts to give more advice. And the reason we do that is exactly what you just expressed there, which is, you know, it's not just if I give a piece of great advice, and it changes one person's trajectory. It's not just that person that feels the positive benefit of that. It's actually, you know, families and everyone who kind of is downstream from that individual. That individual gets the opportunity to pay it forward. So I think it's such so nicely put, and, yeah, you and I are very aligned on the fact that we need to give more advice.

Conrad Francis  15:58  
Well, that's why we're working with you, Joel. I flew to Sydney to have a meeting with you because I read your story. When I got to understand you in that your background and what you're trying to achieve that aligned with what we were trying to do. You know that and that's it. It's it's, you know, there's too many hurdles that, you know, the beautiful powers that be want to throw at us, which is fine. Our job still has to be how do we take the hurdle onboard and get to the end the most efficient way possible?

Joel Robbie  16:25  
Yeah, absolutely. And I think the more we focus on the simple stuff, which is it's just about giving great advice and giving it regularly, I think the more advice businesses from all advice businesses from right across the right across the spectrum, I think a lot of people are going to be better off so Conrad I really appreciate you making the time to talk to us today and I appreciate you dialling in from from the west coast where you are, bit earlier than what it is for us and look forward to talking about this again soon. So, thanks again Conrad Francis from Inspired Money.

Joel Robbie