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A link to the next generation of advisers: Steve Sloane

The decision to build an academy for advisers wasn't taken lightly, says Link Wealth founder Steve Sloane. But the strategy is paying dividends, with some of the best young advice talent in the country coming through its ranks.

For Steve Sloane, founder and managing director of the Link Wealth Group, it’s non-negotiable; graduates coming into the Melbourne-based financial advisory firm must sign up for an internal training program at its purpose-built Adviser Academy.

The Academy is not something that Link Wealth pays lip service to. It’s a fully-fledged educational program that finetunes their employees’ academic studies in a more client-centric manner. Typically taking a year to complete, it means newcomers to the advisory business acquire a common set of values, a shared sense of how the business operates, and what is required in terms of client servicing.

Sloane says the decision to build an academy was not taken lightly. “I started this business in 2012 and one of the first things I realised was that acquiring talent was going to be a challenge. You can hire external people, but good people are hard to find – and keep. So, in the end, I decided the best approach was to train our own staff internally,” he tells The Inside Adviser.

  • It’s a formula that has seen advisers like Josh Lee, a 27 year old advice director at Link Wealth with millions of online fans, come through the ranks.

    “We’ve built our own curriculum that’s administered by one of our senior advisers. Most of the training is done online, and staff can choose to do it at times that suit them. They can also choose how long they take to complete the course – that doesn’t worry me. But they must do it as it’s a core element of our workplace culture.

    “From our perspective, we see the positives almost immediately, and so do the clients. It means our associates can work with a senior adviser on an account and then seamlessly assume full responsibility for it without the client feeling aggrieved in any way. That’s because there is a core set of common values that are intrinsic to the firm.”

    Sydney-born Sloane, who grew up in the beachside suburb of Manly, did a Bachelor of Business at the University of Technology (UTS) before furthering his education for a year at London’s University of Westminster’s Business School. His first job out of university in 2005 was as an accountant at Ernst and Young, which lasted 18 months before he realised accounting was not for him.

    About the same time he opted out of an accounting career, he turned his back on Sydney, choosing to relocate in Melbourne. He then worked for various advice firms before setting up Link Wealth in 2012.

    Like many others who now have leadership roles in the industry, Sloane gained valuable lessons from the Global Financial Crisis. Looking back now, he reflects that it was a “painful experience”, but one that had its benefits. “If a relationship can weather that crisis, it can weather anything.”

    Link Wealth was in its early years when a personal crisis intervened with the tragic death of his Adelaide-born wife’s brother at the young age of 30. “As you can imagine, it caused an enormous dent in the family. We were travelling back and forth to Adelaide every week, so, in the end, we decided to move there.

    “It was the right decision for the family, but it meant I was spending a lot of time on the road. In that sense, COVID came as a bit of a circuit-breaker as I had to learn how to manage the business without as much personal involvement. Now I think I have a better balance, but I still spend two weeks a month in Melbourne as it’s the head office and will remain so.”

    Link Wealth Group is a holistic finance company offering wealth management, mortgage broking and accounting services. It has also successfully built a complementary business, Levera Solutions, that supplies back-office support staff to Link Wealth, as well as other financial services businesses.

    It currently manages the finances of 500 families with a goal of managing 2,000 in three years. Scaling up the business through acquisition is a focus, as is marketing to new audiences.

    Sloan says: “Our client strategy is to talk to the middle-market, to young professionals or small businesspeople who are accumulating their wealth. They are typically in their late 20s or 30s and are looking to establish their careers or businesses and want us to give then strategic advice on how to achieve their goals.”

    How the Quality of Advice Review will play out is yet to emerge, with proposals pending. But for Sloane, the availability of advice is as much an issue as the quality. “I’ve just spent time in the UK and the Middle East to look at their advice markets, and it’s my belief what we are offering here is as good as, if not better, than what I saw overseas.

    “The issue is more about getting advice to those 85 per cent of Australians who simply can’t afford the fee-for-service model. We thought Robo advice might be the way, but that clearly hasn’t happened. Hopefully, AI will provide a way to bring down the cost of advice so that many more people can access it.”

    Nicholas Way

    Nicholas Way is editor of The Golden Times and has covered business, retirement, politics, human resources and personal investment over a 50-year career.

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