Over the last 15 years, Damien McKern and the team at McKern & Associates have built a loyal base of accounting clients. With a view to provide an even more comprehensive service to his clients, in 2015 Damien decided to establish a financial advice arm, McKern Strategic.
As part of this transition, McKern Strategic joined the Count Financial network in 2016 and has already exceeded expectations for a first-year member firm. Thanks to their efforts, Damien and his team have also been recognised with Count’s New Member of the Year Award for 2017.
You started as a traditional accounting firm – how did you make the journey into financial advice?
We saw the changes to the accountants' licensing exemption as an opportunity to expand our service offering. We had previously been referring a significant number of clients to financial planners – so we were already doing a lot of that work without having the revenue stream.
I felt I was having half conversations with my clients, where I was getting to the point of saying, ‘If I could give financial advice, I’d be able to tell you more’. It made sense to look around for a licensee who could help guide our firm through the transition.
Why did you decide to join Count Financial?
The more I spoke with Count, the more I realised they were in line with what I wanted to offer our clients. While we’re a team of four here, we now have the resources of a team of 100 through Count – so the opportunities are there if we choose to take advantage of them.
Count has shared with us the systems and procedures to assist with time-consuming documentation for strategies we want to adopt for clients. And through my Practice Development Manager, Malcolm Hills, I can talk to more experienced members and get guidance – there’s a whole network of support whenever I need it.
What advice would you give to other firms looking for an advice licensee?
I believe you get as much out of a partnership as you put into it, so you really need to make sure both parties are on the same page and going in the same direction.
We searched for a licensee with goals and philosophies that align with ours. With Count, we’re comfortable knowing they fit really well with what we stand for as a business. As a result, I gained a sense of belonging and also found a lot of enthusiasm across the network.
How do you continuously improve your processes and service offering?
Through the New Member Program, I’ve learned a lot about strategy. I’ve also learned the systems and documentation needed to ensure a high standard of service across the end-to-end process – from meeting the client to providing long-term quality advice. I’ve gone from having the theoretical strategic knowledge of how to advise a client to being able to implement the advice.
What does winning New Member Firm of the Year mean to you?
First and foremost, it’s about peer recognition. Standing up in front of 600 people at the Awards night was a great feeling. But it was also good to see the size, scope and diversity of the Count network and to understand the strength of our industry partnerships.