Pro Bono Advice – how does it work?

By Nicola Beswick, Chair, Pro Bono Financial Advice Network

Our vision is to ensure that Australians living with a personal health crisis who need access to financial advice but are unable to afford it, can obtain it through the Pro Bono Financial Advice Network (PFAN). To achieve this vision we work with the fantastic financial advisers in our network to connect them to the  individuals in need who are experiencing significant financial hardship, specifically as a result of serious illness or disability, and require financial advice assistance.

Two questions we are often asked is how does the PFAN referral process work? and what is expected of PFAN advisers?

How does the PFAN referral process work?

For advisers who want join PFAN

Advisers who wish to join PFAN complete an application form which identifies their areas of advice expertise. The application must then be signed by the adviser’s licensee to provide approval to deliver pro bono advice.

Once the application is processed, the adviser is added to our PFAN adviser register and receives their welcome and onboarding information.

For Clients who want advice

PFAN clients are referred to us by the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Australia network who promote the availability of pro bono financial advice via advertising and informational webinars.

On referral to PFAN, individuals complete an application form which details their personal circumstances, and financials. This information is processed through a simple algorithm which determines client eligibility for pro bono assistance.

The adviser and client matching process

As PFAN clients are identified within a particular region, the PFAN support team emails all advisers within the region with high level details of the advice assistance required and to seek willingness (and availability) to assist with the pro-bono case. The support team confirms adviser approval to take on the case and then connects the adviser with the client via an introduction email.

What is expected of PFAN advisers

Advisers are expected to make contact with the client within two working days of the case being assigned and then progress with the relevant advice delivery process. The advice or financial guidance required by PFAN clients varies greatly – it may be as simple as assistance with completion of forms or more complex cases such as identifying insurance benefits in super. In our experience to date, we have found the vast majority of cases to be relatively simple requirements and only a one-off advice consultation is required.

From time to time, clients who receive financial advice may as a result of this, no longer be in financial hardship and be able to fund any ongoing advice requirements. This is a negotiation between the adviser and client and any revised arrangement is then put into place. PFAN is clear in setting expectations with the MS Network referrers and clients who use the service that the pro bono financial advice only applies where financial hardship is evidenced and ongoing.

Once advice has been successfully delivered, PFAN Support team gets in touch with both adviser and client to discuss satisfaction with the process and obtain (optional) testimonials which are extremely valuable in marketing and promoting the PFAN service more widely in the community.

On behalf of our clients, we thank you

We thank all of the wonderful PFAN advisers who have provided invaluable and often, life-changing assistance to our PFAN clients.

And if you would like to consider pro bono advice, remember that just taking on one case a year will make that life-changing difference to a person in need.

Join us and our mission to improve the financial wellbeing of Australians living with MS through providing pro bono financial advice. The more advisers we have as part of PFAN, the more communities we will be able to serve.  This ultimately makes our profession stronger through building awareness of the benefits that financial advice can bring to all of us.

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