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These are the leadership traits that will lead to success in financial advice

In the first of a two-part series New Model Adviser looks at the issue of leadership in the licensee industry. You can read Part Two here.

Peter Ornsby, RI Advice

Nothing stays the same for very long in the financial advice industry. Financial advisers, advice practices and licensees alike are being challenged to keep up with a pace of change unlike anything we’ve seen in this industry before.

Managing an organisation through change requires strong and positive leadership, says Peter Ornsby, co-winner of the CoreData 2020 Licensee Leadership Award

For the past four years Ornsby has led the IOOF-owned licensee RI Advice. In early September this year he was also handed responsibility for the Financial Services Partners (FSP) and Consultum Financial Advisers licensees. 

And this came hot on the heels of IOOF’s announcement of the $1.4 billion acquisition of MLC Wealth from National Australia Bank, with up to 900 financial advisers set to move into the IOOF advice network. Depending on how many ultimately move across, IOOF will become the largest provider of financial advice by adviser numbers, with almost 1900 on its books.

The next three years look likely to be an acid test of Ornsby’s view that “going forward, the most successful businesses will be those that can manage change faster and better than anyone else”.

Clear principles

Ornsby’s principles of leadership are clear: collaborate; set up those around you to succeed; and recognise and address your weaknesses. 

“You’re never going to be a successful leader unless you surround yourself with the right people – the right people, with the right skill sets, to work autonomously, so you’re working alongside them,” he says.

People are also an organisation’s source of competitive advantage.  

“If we can attract the best people, we’ll be the better business – the best people for the roles and responsibilities we need to implement our strategy,” he says.

If we can attract the best people, we’ll be the better business.

Peter Ornsby, RI Advice

Ornsby says it is beholden upon a leader to create an environment where others can feel safe to speak openly, contribute constructively to decision making, and express their thoughts. 

“They may be way-out thoughts, but they should always be considered,” he says.

“Most people can come up with a great strategy, but in the end you have to implement it. If you do not have a well-thought-out strategy that considers the implementation components of it, which in many cases are behavioural, you’re going to fail. So it’s a philosophy of bringing people along.”

Collaboration wins the day

Ornsby says the principles of collaboration and shared success apply equally in organisations large or small, and businesses most often succeed when a leader has an open mind.

“You’re going to gain a lot more traction in what to do, be it in a small business or a large business, if you’re open to different thoughts, different aspects, different options,” he says.

“A collaborative mind is often an open mind. Those behaviours, or skill sets, are relevant in any small business or large business environment. The people I have seen succeed in almost all cases are really driving towards that collaborative approach. You’re going to get the best out of everyone when you apply that approach.”

Leadership has gone through a number of iterations over the years.

Peter Ornsby, RI Advice

Ornsby says the skills and attributes that make a leader successful at a moment in time may not be the same as those which lead to success at a different time or place. 

“Leadership has gone through a number of iterations over the years,” he says.

“Go back 30 years, and the old Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap style, he was going and transforming businesses and cutting heads and reducing expenses, and for a while everyone looked up to him and he was the guru. But they found out, 10 years on, that none of those businesses survived because they weren’t built sustainably.”

Invest in the success of others

Ornsby says leadership need not necessarily be visionary, but it must bring clarity and certainty of purpose to a team.

“For me, the primary principal is about arming people to succeed,” he says. “That means clarity of direction, clarity of role and responsibility; but all the tools, everything they need to be successful. Some of that is motivation and some of it is guidance, so it can be physical and it can be mental. But if you go around that primary aspect of wanting to see people succeed, then in my books you’re going to be a competent leader.”

Ornsby says leadership must be consultative. No individual has all of the answers to every issue an organisation will ever face, and nor should they be expected to. But an effective leader brings together the best minds they can find and finds a way to help them work together.

You’ve got to have conviction in your leadership and goals.

Peter Ornsby, RI Advice

“You’ve got to have conviction in your objectives and your goals, and then once you’ve got that strategy right – which has to be consultative – you’re really then got to think about the people you’ve got around you. 

“We’re working with a number of other leaders within our business, and we’re working with a number of other leaders across the industry. If the industry is going to be successful and sustainable we have to work incredibly collaboratively. Collaboration will always win. As a leader, working with other leaders, you must have a willingness to work collaboratively for a greater goal.”

An honest appraisal

Ornsby’s philosophy of leadership has been forged in practical, hands-on experience, tempered by formal training and guidance, and honed by an honest willingness to appraise his self-identified weaknesses particularly, he says, around time management and prioritising issues.

“I needed a behavioural shift around time management and prioritising, and I realised that was one of my weaknesses,” Ornsby says.

“Having a coach to work alongside me for a while on that specific issue did help that issue. That was probably six years ago now.” 

Ornsby also has a mentor – a lecturer at Stamford University in the US, whom he talks to every six weeks or so.

“When I’m really stuck on certain issues that are beyond me, I’ll bring that to the meeting,” he says.

“That’s very informal. He’s someone who I can rely on who will broaden my mind on certain aspects, where my line of sight might be quite linear.”

The CoreData 2020 Licensee Leadership Award reflects financial advisers’ ratings of their respective licensee leaders on the level of understanding the leader has of the adviser personally and the adviser’s business; and on the level of empathy the licensee leader demonstrates towards advisers and their businesses.

New Model Adviser is a website powered by CoreData, showcasing our research and insights on financial advice: the profession, advisers, advice practices, licensees, legislation and more.

One Comment

  1. brett.schatto@prideadvice.com.au' Brett says:

    Peter is one of the sincerest people I have met in our profession.
    Not only that but also trustworthy and honest.
    We need more like him.

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