Brad Isaac, ADFS, owner of Finstyle Planning Solutions, in Abbotsford, Victoria, Australia, developed his company’s name by combining the words “financial” and “lifestyle.” He spends a lot of time speaking with clients about their lifestyle goals and dreams, which becomes a large part of their financial planning process. It’s not about selling products, the six-year MDRT member said, but more about how Finstyle can help clients achieve their dreams of paying off their house, buying a new car, putting children through school or anything else. “They are protecting themselves in the event of any unfortunate things that can happen in life,” Isaac said.
He began Finstyle five years ago, following the global financial crisis. Isaac left a partnership with four others to set up a new firm that would support his existing clients’ goals and his preferred method of providing advice. Finstyle offers what Isaac calls “concierge service” to his clients and operates as a holistic financial planning practice. He explained that most of Finstyle’s clients are too busy dealing with day-to-day issues to concentrate on wealth creation and management, which is where the firm flourishes. “They want to make sure that if anything happens to them or their family, they are going to be financially secure, but they also want someone they can bounce ideas off of,” Isaac said. “And they want someone who can regularly review how they are tracking every quarter, whether it be cash flow, budgeting, tracking their retirement goals and just to make sure they are allocating funds in the right area.”
Isaac places a strong emphasis on wealth protection, as well as wealth creation. Forty to 50 percent of the business he writes is life insurance. “Stealing another MDRT friend’s quote: ‘Through investments, we look after clients if they live too long, if they die too soon or if they get sick along the way,’” he said. “That’s been an easy way to explain what I do for people.” Finstyle looks after about 200 clients, the majority meeting Isaac’s definition of wealth accumulators between 30 and 40 years old. These people are typically moms and dads wanting to build investments, reduce taxes, put their kids through school, pay off mortgages and make sure they are protected if anything happens. The average annual family income for Finstyle’s clients is about $200,000 to $300,000. “They are making good money, but I say to them: ‘It’s not about how much you earn; it’s about how much you save,’” Isaac said. “We’ve got clients that turn over $1 million a year, and I’ve got other clients that are only turning over $80,000 a year. There is a lot you can do with everyone.”
As such, Finstyle also works with younger wealth accumulators — young adults starting their careers — who generally come to the firm through multigenerational planning. On the other side, 20 to 30 percent of Finstyle’s clients are retired, so the firm does retirement planning, as well. Finstyle’s youngest client is 18 years old and its oldest is 78. Isaac acknowledges the firm is picky about who it takes, as it operates with a fee-for-service model and charges an annual fee. Not all clients are comfortable with paying fees, Isaac said. “One of the things I wanted when we setup Finstyle was to have transparency in our business,” he said. “There is a lot of noise in the media all of the time about hidden commissions and how financial planners only get people into products because of fees and commissions. If there happens to be commissions associated with the work we do, then that offsets their fee for the year. So we still do receive commissions, but they go toward what my clients pay per annum.” “I’ve found over the years that when clients pay a fee, they value the service a lot more,” he said. While Finstyle does some marketing through social media to relay its lifestyle image, the company mainly takes referrals from existing clients. “I’ve found the more I see my top 20 percent, the more likely we are to receive referrals from their friends and family,” Isaac said. “We see our top 20 to 30 percent of clients once a quarter — they know we care.”
Isaac said he is always on the phone, as well, and for 16 years has made it a point to be the first person of the day to call his clients on their birthdays. Finstyle’s clients also know Isaac will ensure the right outcome for them, regardless of whether it is profitable to his business. For example, last year Finstyle took an insurance company to court on behalf of one of its clients who had become a quadriplegic and ended up getting a $2.2 million payout for the client. From the work Finstyle did with that client, the word spread, and the business received many referrals. “I believe when you are out there doing the right thing for your clients, putting their interests before yours, seeing people, talking to people about their goals and helping them achieve their goals, the good work you do will just spread and people will talk about you,” Isaac said. “They become advocates for your business, as well as clients.”
To aid clients, Isaac employs two full-time staff members — one who focuses on compliance issues and another who handles client services. Another part-time staffer helps with administrative work. Finstyle also uses mortgage brokers, lawyers, accountants and estate planning specialists. In addition, Finstyle uses a research group for property investments. “These guys are there to ensure that I can do what I do best and what I get my energy from — my unique ability in the business — which is seeing my clients and serving my clients,” Isaac said. Isaac has also made it a point to work with coaches and continue his education, and MDRT has factored heavily in his different committee and event involvement. “To be able to bring back to Australia a bit of view from the world stage is pretty important, and clients understand that, too,” he said. “When you’ve got clients talking about MDRT to you, it’s a bit weird because I’ve obviously spoken about it so much.”