You’ve been in the financial planning industry for 20 years. How did you begin?
My husband became a certified financial planner in 1991. I had a client services and HR background, and joined him when we realised we’d need both of our skills to run a successful business. We grew our first team to 14 staff in Dubbo (with a satellite office in Orange), before selling it to spend more time with our young family. Then we relocated to Newcastle and purchased two financial planning businesses. We’re very proud of Rethink Financial Planning as it’s a culmination of a lot of learnings - what works best for our clients.
What led you to found Rethink in 2011?
We had talked for years about the challenges our clients faced when working with multiple professional services such as accounting and legal - so often they don’t interact. We decided to create an integrated business model, where clients can come in and meet with all these services at once. This ensures each relevant specialist collaborates on the issue at once, saving everyone time. We also felt strongly about the inclusion of coaching. So we set about attracting the right accountant, solicitor and coach, as well as the perfect space to house us all. We didn’t want the traditional corporate environment; we wanted a new approach to working – more open plan, collaborative, a relaxed vibe. That is how Rethink Your Workspace ended up at Dick Street, Newcastle.
What did you think was missing from your sector?
Collaboration, deeper and more client-focused conversations, ethical advice where the client’s objectives are truly uncovered and advice and fees are charged accordingly. Not simply applying the industry standards and measures but rethinking how we did what we did – with purpose! Rethink as a business name is symbolic of my desire to encourage people to rethink/reconsider what, why and how they do it. I’m not a rule breaker but I don’t believe in following the status quo. I don’t believe you make change without an element of risk and a lot of bravery. You also need to be willing to get up time and time again when things don’t go to plan.
I’m not a rule breaker but I don’t believe in following the status quo.Cassandra Kavanagh
How has your business model changed?
It’s easier to answer what hasn’t changed! What hasn’t changed is the core belief that you can create an integrated business with financial planning, legal and accounting professionals who ‘hand on heart’ put the client at the centre of the process and still create commercial outcomes to sustain and grow the business model. The belief that staying true to your values and ethics will ensure you ride the waves, trials and challenges of forging a path less walked in an industry that is rife with moral and ethical discord. Some changes include the recent sale of our accounting division and rebranding to Rethink Your Workspace.
Why add a new business arm specialising in the “aged care matrix”?
I am a big believer in responding to what shows up. For us, that was the very talented and caring Samantha Geelan, our aged care specialist and senior financial planner. She came with the same feelings and frustrations about our industry, as well as a passion for inspiring change. Some years ago, determined not to leave the industry she loved but was challenged by, she elected to specialise in aged care, and she has nailed it, building a reputation as a leader and expert in this field. She is an Aged Care Accredited Adviser (an accreditation you can only apply for if you are a CFP). I absolutely love her tenacity to ensure our aging clients are looked after in a compassionate and empathetic way (whilst giving quality advice). She is sought out by aged care facilities and social workers to support their client cases. It is the first time in the history of being in the financial planning industry that I know we are truly taking care of our aging clients with expertise advice from a diligent and highly skilled team.
The biggest concerns of your aged care clients?
Many come to us afraid of change and are able to take the time to make a long-term plan so they have more options, such as remaining in their home with appropriate support. A big myth in the industry is that you have to sell your home to fund your retirement but this is often not the case. We also get calls from people who need help navigating an aged care decision immediately. We recently began small group information sessions twice a month to support individuals and carers with strategic advice.
Your biggest concern with the aged care system?
The lack of responsibility of facilities and departments. There has been more than enough cases put forward to highlight the negligence and misconduct that continues to plague some of our most vulnerable members of society and it’s time for dramatic change. Ageism is rampant; for some it is happening at the hands of family and carers, not just facilities. Our elderly need to know that someone is looking out for their wellbeing at a time where they have become reliant on others.
What is Rethink’s new co-working space?
It is designed for professional businesses – not creatives or the average start-up. There are so many spaces in Newcastle for young start-ups but very few, I’d argue any, for small businesses such as accountants, solicitors, advisers and HR professionals.