Andrea Reid of Aliya Insurance Brokers shares how applying for a Financial Advice Provider (FAP) licence has helped her build a better business one step at a time
The qualities of strength, trust, family, and wisdom are at the core of Aliya Insurance Broker’s Waikato-based business – and reflected in their approach to full licensing too.
Andrea, a former Authorised Financial Adviser, formed Aliya Insurance Brokers with her husband Sanjay in 2021, after the window for FAP transitional licence applications closed, which meant the pair had to jump straight to the more rigorous process of applying for a FAP full licence.
In conversation with the FMA’s Anita Frazer at the Licensed to Succeed seminar last month, Andrea shared what she personally has learned from the experience.
Please note this is an abridged transcript of an interview that was conducted as part of the Licence to Succeed webinar hosted by the FMA and attended by representatives of Fidelity Life and Partners Life. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the subject profiled and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the FMA nor is it an endorsement of any person or entity mentioned in it.
Andrea, can you start by telling us a bit about your decision to set up a financial advice business.
“Yes, I’m a former Authorised Financial Adviser and qualified recruitment consultant, with around 24 years’ experience in the insurance industry. Last year, Sanjay and I decided to make the leap to owning our own financial advice business.
“Aliya is the Sinhalese word for elephant – a nod to Sanjay’s heritage – and representative of the four values that are the foundation of our business: strength, trust, wisdom, and family.”
That strength must have been put to the test last year; unlike many businesses you didn’t get the chance to operate under a transitional licence for two years but had to go straight to applying for a full licence.
“For us, last year wasn’t just about getting prepared for full licensing, it was setting up a whole business from scratch. Fortunately, the two go hand in hand. When you think about all the processes you need to have in place when you’re setting up a business, they actually tie in really well with what’s required for FAP licensing.”
What tools and resources did you find useful?
“I used the FMA website; I also knew from my role at Fidelity Life where I had been working with advisers over the last couple of years that Fidelity’s Building a Better Business programme has really great tips for the policies and procedures you should have in place for a best practice business.”
Where did you start?
“I downloaded the FMA FAP Full Licence Application kit and used it to write a list of all the policies and processes we needed to have in place as a Financial Advice Provider.
“Then I pulled them together from a whole lot of places – I used some Partners Life material, some Fidelity Life material, the internet – you’d be amazed at what you can find in terms of examples and documentation that’s already been created and is available online.
“I’m not saying copy it – but use it to get examples of words and phrases that you look at and think, ‘That’s exactly what we want to do in our business,’ or ‘That’s what we are already doing, so I’ll use it as a starting point.’”
It’s interesting that you say use the internet – I know when it comes to Business Continuity Planning (BCP) for example, there are some great existing documents out there. But as you say, the key is not to copy them; it’s to use them as a starting point for writing something that reflects what you actually do in your business. And as you say, all the documents FAP licensing is asking for go hand in hand with running a successful business – and looking after your clients.
“Yes, very much so. One thing I got taught early on by my grandfather is that there’s only one thing you can leave the world with and that’s your good name. We started by asking ourselves: ‘How can we do the best thing for our customers?’ The model for our business is based on looking after our clients; that’s more important to us than any growth strategy. So really all we were thinking about is how do we best service these clients? And then it’s just about putting in place – and documenting – the processes that ensure that we can do that.”
Any other tips for people who at the point you were a year ago, of just starting on their full licence application journey?
“I would say the first thing you should do is use the FMA website for everything that is required; make yourself a list. Then go through it, and ask yourself: ‘What I have already got in place? What needs to be updated or tweaked and what do I still need to build?’
“If it’s something like a business continuity plan (BCP) that you need to write – jump on the internet; read other people’s docs, you’ll get ideas and wordings to help you document your own processes. “Or you might even think, ‘Gosh, we hadn’t thought of that; that’s something that we need to start doing and include in our business.’
“The other thing I’d say is that these documents don’t have to be 30 pages long and cover every possible scenario; they just need to reflect your day-to-day business. If you’re a small business you’re not going to need staff management plans, for example.”
Yes, your approach has to be right sized for your business! You could also get someone to look it over. Ask a peer to have a read and check, ‘Does it actually reflect what you really do in your business?’ They might also pick up on some things that you still need to do.
“Keep it simple, keep it reflective of what you do. Also, remember your business evolves over time; these are living documents and they will change as your business does. They should be something you’re working with all the time and continually checking; asking yourself, ‘Right, are we still doing what we say we’re doing?’
“Don’t be scared of it – we only made the decision to do this in May last year, and we had our licence by July. It’s not onerous; the application process itself is the easy bit; it’s the getting your documentation ready that requires a bit of work. But do a few a week over a couple of months and you’ll get there.”
What does it mean to you to have your full licence now?
“For us, we were in a slightly unique situation in that we needed to have our full licence in order to make the leap through to where we are now. I guess now for us that it’s there, it’s done, and we can actually get on and just focus on day-to-day business.
“Each month we now also just go through and check, ‘What policy are we updating? What’s changed? What do we need to update?’ and just keep working through that best practice.”
Yes, that’s a good point: documentation doesn’t have to be perfect on day one; it doesn’t have to be perfect when you put your licence application in. In other words, don’t stress about documents set in gold – they’re not going to stay that way.
“Yes, these are living documents, business changes and we recognise our documents need to constantly change too.”
Ready to start your own FAP full licence application journey? Check out the FMA’s 8-step action plan for a summary of top tips and tools to get you on your way.