The changing face of communities

As human beings, we need a sense of belonging

It’s why we develop so many relationships throughout our lives. From sports clubs to local businesses, schools or religious groups, communities provide us with emotional support and a sense of constancy. It’s what grounds us.

A community is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. In today’s ever-changing world and our busy lives, belonging to a community is as important as ever. Financial advisers, as specialists in a complex field of life, have an opportunity to create, participate in and/or lead their chosen communities, building trusted connections in the process.

city aerial view

Communities and leadership

Sometimes a person leads and sometimes a brand will lead. In the days before social media, an adviser’s sphere of influence was limited to individuals they personally knew and interacted with. Now, anyone can develop a personal brand and become a respected influencer, often with a large following of people they've never physically met.

You can begin by becoming a trusted source of insights. This provides several benefits; it demonstrates your expertise, it can, depending on the forum, provide third-party endorsement and it also shows that you are willing to help people without strings attached. Do not underestimate the power of this last benefit. Selfless, community-minded behaviour resonates strongly, particularly with younger people.

“ The market needs you and the tools are there, available. All that’s missing is you, and your passion and vision. ”
– Seth Godin. An American author and entrepreneur.

Potential clients who are seeking to validate their decision to choose your business will place a great deal of importance on how your values align with their personal values. If they feel aligned then they will also feel more engaged with your business. Importantly, many clients expect you to both be socially responsible as well as professionally responsible and to help those who are less fortunate.

Geographical proximity is no longer the primary factor in creating communities

Technology has made it easier for us to connect and given rise to countless social media communities, each with niche audiences, connecting people in different locations who share the same passions and interests.

Millennials, people born after 1980, have taken to online communities more than any other group. These digital natives are so comfortable in online communities that traditional methods of connecting with them and their communities may no longer be effective so you need to consider digital engagement methods. The desire for greater financial security for younger generations shouldn’t be underestimated.

With Millennials making up 42 per cent of the workforce in Australia by 20201, finding a better way to connect with them may be vital for the growth of your business.

Client engagement is an ongoing process - not an end in itself

The new digital landscape is rapidly evolving. A popular phrase used in business now is ‘test and learn’ which neatly encompasses how you should approach engagement in a digital world.

This ‘test and learn’ mindset is embraced by IOOF and is one of the reasons why we recently took a minority stake in GROW Super, who are a new digital-only super provider. This partnership means we can leverage GROW Super’s strong digital capability and collaborate on innovations to enhance adviser and client engagement across a range of different channels. From GROW Super we expect to learn how we can boost the engagement of younger generations with financial advice and super.

Likewise, you can ‘test and learn’ with your clients to gain a better understanding of what resonates with them. Your clients want to see you succeed and will take pride from being part of your success.

Where to next…

Prioritise the creation or nurturing of your communities. This will provide valuable lessons about your current clients and you may discover a community of potential clients that you didn’t even know existed. Importantly, using digital tools and channels will open up your potential sphere of influence.

What does this mean for IOOF?

At IOOF we are taking our own advice and over the past three years have spent considerable time developing our values and the beliefs that underpin our actions. Our goal is to create and lead a community which shares the same beliefs and is aligned to a set of actions.

So, what are our beliefs? We have an unwavering belief that Australians who receive professional financial advice have more fulfilling lives, less stress and make better lifetime decisions. This underpins our advice-led strategy. Our mission is to build and lead a community that is at the forefront of the evolution of advice.

There are some headwinds at the moment. However, it is our belief in the benefit of the advice industry that provides us with the conviction to keep challenging the status quo and to build for a brighter future.

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1 McCrindle Research. Generation Y.