Why Good Advisers Are Worth Their Weight


Chatting with a client who had moved to Australia for a fresh start lead to a much-needed $90,000 insurance payout. It’s one of the many stories former financial adviser Gary Hemmings remembers from his 34 years of working in the sector.

Having risen to the top of the corporate world of a long-gone meat processing firm in Wellington, Hemmings was looking for something new to do in the late 1980s – and helping people with their insurance needs seemed an interesting proposition that provided lots of variety.

He ended up working for Norwich Union for nine years and then in 1996 he started his own advisory business – Commonsense Concepts in Napier.

“I wanted to offer clients more products than Norwich had on its books, so I went independent,” he says.

But back to the Australian story…

Gary Hemmings, former owner of Common Sense Financial Advice
Gary Hemmings, worried new FMA rules won’t stop ‘bad apples’.

“A client had moved away and after a few months I called them in Australia to see how they were doing,” says Hemmings.

“The man’s wife said they were struggling, particularly because of her husband’s stroke. I asked some questions about the stroke, discovered it happened nine years previously, and thought they might have a claim on their insurance policy.”

Hemmings tracked down the man’s medical records and put in a claim on behalf of his client. He received a $90,000 payout from Sovereign for the stroke including nine years of returned premiums with interest.

…when clients are in trouble the last thing they want to worry about is dealing with an insurance firm…

“That’s what good advisers do,” says Hemmings. “Keep in contact with clients, listen to them, and see where one can help if there are any problems.

“And there was no question from Sovereign about paying the claim – I did all my homework to put forward a solid case.

“And that’s the value of an adviser because when clients are in trouble the last thing they want to worry about is dealing with an insurance firm.”

Hemmings is not a fan of the new FMA regulations. Even at age 74 he feels he has plenty to offer, but faced with sitting exams to stay in the game he decided to sell his advisory practice.

“The new regulatory regime is costing the industry lots of experienced advisers,” he says.

Hemmings says that despite tougher regulations there will still be some “rotten apples” in the industry.

“The costs of being in this business have gone up dramatically, and these costs do not change anything. We have had people in the industry who haven’t done the right thing, and I don’t see that the regulations will change that – there will still be some rotten apples.

“I don’t see anything in the new rules about empathy. But those who do a good job will have records for Africa to say they did a good job.”

I don’t see anything in the new rules about empathy…

Hemming’s advice to those entering the financial advice industry for the first time is to “…get some life experience before you start”.

“A good adviser needs to be able to feel for people’s situations,” he says. “You have to understand what they are going through, you have to have good people skills. What I was told in my first week sticks with me, ‘the client comes first, last, and always’.”

When RiskinfoNZ spoke with Hemmings he was in the middle of organising a team of Rotary members to help out a local orchard needing fruit pickers – government travel restrictions have prevented workers entering the country and orchard owners are short of staff.

“It’s like the Christchurch Army after the earthquakes,” he says. “But we are in Napier helping the fruit industry. It’s great to be able to help.”

It seems that even in retirement, Hemmings will continue to keep an eye out for rotten apples.

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