The power of a little extra care

For financial advisers, helping clients is what the job is about. Ensuring people are in a financial position to chase their dreams is the ultimate goal. But can that help extend beyond advice – and if so, when?

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Photo: Jacqueline Jane

The relationship advisers have with their clients, where they are privy to personal, often sensitive information often puts them in a unique position to identify mental health issues. If you they clients are suffering, can an adviser ever ask them: R U OK?

"You’re leading people to set up a lifestyle and that can't be disconnected from their general wellbeing.” - Williams

“You are in position of leadership,” Aaron Williams, CEO of Mindstar told the ANZ APEX Inspire 2018: Beyond Advice event in May. “You’re leading people to set up a lifestyle and that can't be disconnected from their general wellbeing.”

“I think you can help people to also deal with the life [issues] they have… and that’s often as easy as providing them with access to [the right] information.”

“It should be something we feel comfortable talking about.

Williams and fellow guest speaker at the APEX event Samuel Johnson both agreed it was vital for advisers to normalise addressing mental health with clients – and they have a unique duty of care to do so.

“I'd just encourage you to be casual and to normalise it,” Johnson said. “It's the difference between going ‘so, are you actually okay?” or just “so how have you been? I think the more you put on it the more uncomfortable clients are going to be.”

“I think if you create a relationship that's based on listening as well it should or could almost be able to bring that kind of stuff out without even soliciting directly.”


Advisers are in a unique position in they are exposed to an area of their client’s lives many Australians find to be a high-stress one – their finances.

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Aaron Williams Photo: Jacqueline Jane

A 2011 survey from the Australian Psychological Society found 52 per cent of Australians listed their financial health as the number one cause of their stress, above even personal health and family.

This is on top of the one in five people aged between 16 and 85 who will experience mental illness, according to the Black Dog Institute.  Over 40 per cent of Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime.

For Williams, the co-founded Mindstar, an online mental health and wellbeing tool, these are important figures for advisers to consider.

“Think about 20 per cent - one in five of your workplace, of your kid’s school, of your street, of your family, he said. “One in five.”

This of course extends to clients, too.

An actor and long-time campaigner on cancer issues, Johnson said the key to broaching the subject – with clients and anyone else – was “intellectualised and finely tuned empathy.”

“That understanding you have for them - they can be aware of that without you telling them you are there for them.”


For clients who own and operate small businesses the risk is increased, according to Williams. A 2017 study found 24 per cent of entrepreneurs said they had become physically unwell due to the effect of business-related stress.

“More than two-thirds of small-business operators have experienced personal challenges including fatigue, financial stress, loss of motivation or relationship strain because of their work,” Williams said. “More than one in 10 small-business owners have been diagnosed with depression stress or anxiety at some point.” 

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Photo: Jacqueline Jane

“The real problem is forty one per cent of small business owners say they're never going to discuss that with anyone. They’ll struggle on through in silence.”

Both speakers agreed social media played a role in increasing mental health distress.

“I think when we started to roll out social media technology there was so much excitement,” Williams said. “It was going to increase our level of connection and decrease social isolation.”

“We were finally able to connect across the world and support each other and there was amazing stuff happening online.”

He said the reality was social media did two things.

“Firstly it is an incredible amplifier of our own insecurity,” Williams said. “Because we start to think everyone we know is doing better than us or they look so unbelievably happy on social media at all times. [But] the pictures they have or the posts are often completely unrelated to reality.”

“The second thing is, while we've never been so connected we have all probably never felt so isolated and lonely.”

Research suggests people are feeling increasingly isolated  because “we’ve started to interact through Facebook or text and so we don't feel like we have that human connection,” Williams said.

Johnson said increasingly children – and adults – are far-more reliant on social media than they perceive.

“Kids are checking their Facebook 125 times a day,” he said. “They think they're checking it about 50 or 60 times a day.”

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Sam Johnson Photo: Jacqueline Jane

“You're checking it about 120 times a day and you think you're checking it 50 per cent less than you are.”

Social media is unwittingly creating two realities, Johnson said.  

“We think social media is representative of our life,” he said. “But we've got to be careful because sometimes it can just be creating an alternative.” 

The ANZ APEX Inspire 2018: Beyond Advice event took place over five locations in May, with events in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, SA and Victoria.

A combined total of over 600 attended the events, spreading an important message around mental health through the financial adviser community.  


Williams said as humans, our brains are constantly talking to us telling us stories. The problem, he said, is they don't always tell positive stories. They are often negative stories – such as worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.

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Photo: Jacqueline Jane

“I doubt whether this morning anyone got dressed, looked in the mirror and their brain went ‘Wow, you look hot today’,” he said. “All of our brains tell us things like: ‘You are going to fail.’ Or, ‘You are not good enough’.”

“The reality is life is a rollercoaster. It has its ups and it has its downs.  That's just real life.  Don’t let anyone tell you any differently.”

“The good news is we all have incredible power over how we think and feel. If you are mentally healthy, you will be successfully able to deal with those low dips on the rollercoaster of our life we all experience from time to time.”

Shane White is senior production editor at bluenotes  

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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