Generalist Or Specialist: Five Steps To SMSF Success



If you want to make self-managed super a sustainable part of your business, Aaron Dunn, Managing Director of the SMSF Academy, believes you need a strategic plan to drive your business forward.

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“Accounting firms that understand the opportunity and plan properly are the ones that will succeed,” Aaron said. “It’s not just about plugging an immediate gap, it’s about considering what you want your business to look in 3–5 years.”

Here are Aaron’s key steps for accountants who want to steer their SMSF activities in the right direction.

Step 1: Reflect on your business

Before focusing on your SMSF offering, think about your firm as a whole — how will your SMSF services fit with and complement the rest of the business?

“Firms need to step back and look at what they’re doing today, so they can build a framework and business model for the future,” Aaron said.

For many firms, that could mean deciding whether to incorporate all their SMSF activities into their general practice, or to create a specialist arm focusing on SMSF administration.

Aaron commented, “Keeping up with legislative change is one of the greatest challenges for generalist firms, because of the diversity of their offering. For specialist firms, the number one challenge is to build efficiency — but if they get that right, it then allows them to build capacity.”

Step 2: Know who to target

Once you’ve mapped out the kind of business you want to build, think about who your ideal clients are — consider their demographics, behaviours and needs, and how they prefer to engage and communicate with you.

“Try to really understand the type of trustee you’re looking for,” Aaron said. “Then, drill down into the value you can provide and the type of relationship you want to build with them.”

Aaron also emphasises the importance of educating your clients about their responsibilities and opportunities, so they’re empowered to take an active role in their SMSF journey.

“When it comes to building trust, education and technical support are key,” he said. “One way is to share industry information with your clients — you don’t need to create the content yourself, you can curate content that’s already available in the market or via the ATO.”


Step 3: Work smarter, not harder

For your SMSF services to be cost effective you need to invest in the right technology so you can streamline your processes wherever possible.

“Over 60% of new SMSFs are being set up by around 10% of SMSF practitioners, with successful firms integrating their administrative platforms so they can automate their processes,” Aaron said. “In fact, we’re seeing firms who move to the cloud becoming 40% more efficient within three years.”

Aaron also says to make sure you have the right resources to support your SMSF activities — and that could mean creating new roles.

“You need to leverage that time saving to focus more energy in marketing, support and educational activities that will grow and nurture your client base,” he said. “It’s important to be clear on the types of positions you need, and that will depend on the size of your business.”

Step 4: Show what you can do

With downward pressure on pricing for SMSF services, you need to be able to demonstrate the additional value you can offer — or your clients may look elsewhere for a cheaper solution.

“We’re likely to see a real contraction in pricing, as low-cost providers ramp up their use of technology so they can deliver wholesale-priced SMSF services,” Aaron explained. “Accountants need to show a distinction between core compliance work, which the client will expect anyway, and more strategic advisory services.”

Accountants moving into the SMSF advice space may also benefit from shifting away from traditional time-based pricing to a value-based fee structure.

Aaron commented: “Going forward, it will be critical for accountants to be able to articulate the value of what they do. That might also include taking a more hands-on approach to client engagement.”

Step 5: Be adaptable

With Aaron estimating a 3–5 year timeframe for smaller accounting firms to build a successful SMSF business, your strategic planning shouldn’t be a case of ‘set and forget’. Instead, you have to regularly track your progress and adapt your strategy as needed.

“It’s only when you get through that first 18 months to two years that you start to think about the next stage,” Aaron said. “Even if you start out with a strong strategy, further along you may discover opportunities you didn’t know previously existed. That’s when you’ll need to revisit your strategy and make new decisions about the tools and partners you’ll need to keep your business moving forward.”