By Irene Gerardi
A few weeks ago, we published an article on the 6-hour working day and the response was phenomenal.
In our search to find an Australian company that successfully applies this principle we stumbled across First Class Wealth, a financial planning firm based in Sydney.
First Class Wealth is not only about Financial Planning, their mission is to improve the lives of their clients, and they have won awards from AMP Financial Planning (AMPFP) for the past three years and was part of the top ten finalists for the Association of Financial Advisers Rising Star Award (AFA) in 2015. We met with Scott Miller, Director at First Class Wealth, to understand how they successfully implemented a 6-hour working day and what benefits they have since realised from this.
Scott, tell us a bit more about yourself and your career.
I am the director and practice principal for First Class Wealth. I was driven towards financial planning through personal experience. I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease at the age of 18 and spent the majority of the next 6 years in and out of hospital, surgery, and battling simple daily tasks. Because of this chronic illness, it forced me to ask some tough questions. I didn’t want to live a life that wasn’t filled with memories and I didn’t want the negative impact of financial hardship that chronic illness can bring to happen to my friends. It is because of this, that I chose to go into financial planning. I convey this to every client the importance of starting early, you’re never too young to have insurance, to organise your super, and to begin investing to grow your wealth. This is my passion, this is what drives me, and this is why my experiences are so important, as it guides my future decisions and outcomes.
First Class Wealth operates on a 6-hour working day, how did you decide to implement this system and why?
Having worked in the corporate environment my entire career, I noticed one major flaw in most large corporations – there is not enough emphasis on the importance of having a happy and inspiring work/life environment. People spend the majority of their lives at their jobs and around their colleagues. If you are unhappy at work, the negativity and stagnant energy will seep into other areas of your life.
When it came to establishing First Class Wealth, I did not want to foster a stressful and unhappy environment for my team. This is when I found out about the Swedish six-hour working day and decided to implement it into our culture. Society is now moving towards office designs that are more like spaces that people would want to go on their off days such as cafes and bars. This creates a relaxed team mentality and not only a sharing environment, but full of creative ideas and innovative initiatives. This is what I aim to achieve with my team and our work environment through our flexible working arrangements and shorter day.
In addition to our 6-hour working day, my team can choose to work from home, come to the office in casual wear (given they don’t have to see a client) and get unlimited leave paid for. This flexibility requires a lot of trust in my team to self-manage their time to get the work done as needed – therefore I hire only the best of the best to be part of our team. This type of culture won’t work with people who are not independent workers. Trust is key.
How do you deal with clients who need to contact you after hours?
Our clients range from contractors to high-level executives. We accommodate our schedule to match theirs for any phone calls and meetings that they require. We understand that our clients have busy schedules, so we make it a priority to put their needs first. This is why we have a 24-hour access service for our clients who need next level service, we may only work within the 6 hour time frame but we are always available by email, text, and phone if it is an emergency and our clients understand they can always contact us but to be reasonable with their requests out of hours.
How often have you tried to contact your accountant, lawyer, mortgage broker, real estate agent for something urgent and you don’t hear back for a few days? This is something no client of First Class Wealth ever experiences. Our team are driven to outperform our client’s expectations and this 24-hour access service is what differentiates us for our clients. It’s truly a value add to their lives.
Some companies that implement this type of system require their employees to be available after hours, this sometimes leads to some being on call 24/7 – how do you manage this?
This is definitely hard to manage and can sometimes impact your work-life balance. Our 24/7 offering is not for everyone, but only our ongoing service clients or situations where our clients need to contact us in an emergency.
For example, we request our clients call us anytime they are in hospital as their insurances need to be handled immediately to make sure they are looked after financially and their adviser is usually the second person that is called after their immediate family.
The office phone is always forwarded to either myself or Stevan (financial adviser), after hours and on weekends as we want to make sure that our clients are always looked after. This is something that my team understands going into their roles that its always client first and they’re happy to work for a team that cares so much about the lives of others.
Did you notice a productivity increase using this system?
Definitely! It is silly to think that everyone works and learns the same. At First Class Wealth, we aim to harness individual productivity and efficiency by giving the team the freedom of where and when they work. With client meetings that can take place at any time during the week, it makes sense to me to give the power of self-management to the advisers and other team members to create an enjoyable work life. Having said that, we have two meetings a week where everyone needs to attend to ensure that communication within the firm never falters.
We often hear that 6 hours only would never work, that would be too difficult to implement in a large corporation, what’s your take on that and do you think large companies would incur any additional costs?
I can see the challenge large corporations would face changing from a 9-5 structure to the 6-hour working day structure. I believe that introducing the 6-hour working day structure to smaller teams within the large corporation make help make the transition smoother and they work very well with boutique businesses. It’s a challenge but well worth it for the well-being of everyone here.
Lastly, First Class Wealth seems to be winning award after award, do you think you and your team are so successful because of this innovative way of working?
Yes, I believe it is our relaxed and flexible culture that allows us to continually innovate not only the financial advice profession, but also the work culture in Australia. Although, the main reason for our success is the mentality in which the team operates. We all work towards a common goal, not driven by individual objectives, but a collective objective. Each team member has an entrepreneurial mindset in which they value discovery, innovation and creativity. The working environment of flexible self-managed time allocation is paramount to generating a different way of thinking.
For example, Stevan previously owned a café before transitioning to financial advice, Kinza co-founded the UNSW Financial Planning Student Group as she saw a need for more support in financial planning at UNSW, William is a double degree major in Engineering and Finance with a keen eye for detail and Sharon was a former musical theatre and contemporary dancer. Each team member has something unique to offer and I welcome input from everyone who works with us as it allows us to better understand our clients and what they need.