With a background as a physical education teacher, the 2018 FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award recipient, Michael Carmody CFP®, knows a thing or two when it comes to dealing with people.
In fact, the Perth-based planner at Viva Wealth attributes some of his success as a practitioner to his teaching skills, which enables him to more easily communicate with clients. This includes conveying often complex strategies in a more digestible format that clients are better able to understand.
“My teaching career provided me with a great foundation for working with people. When I was a teacher, I was working with the most valuable resource in the world – young people – and helping to shape them and their future,” Michael says.
“So, my time spent working with people in education, whether it be in good times or bad times, has really helped me to better relate to people and has taught me how to communicate with them on a level they can understand.”
As a planner, Michael has been fortunate to transfer most of these skills across to his clients today. However, he is mindful that most consumers don’t have the necessary financial literacy to make informed decisions about their financial wellbeing, and that’s where he believes planners can take on a greater role as the financial teacher or coach for their clients.
“Helping people manage their money opens the doors to what they want to do. And that is a very privileged position to be in. So, as planners, one of our key tasks should be to help improve the financial literacy of all Australians.”
He adds: “The two key things clients are looking for from their planner are ‘trust’ and ‘communication’. If clients trust their planner and if the planner can communicate on a level they understand, then clients will have comfort and confidence in the financial planning process. And improved financial literacy is a big part of achieving this.”
The gold standard
The 2018 FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award is presented to a CFP® practitioner who embodies the highest professional standards and has delivered best practice, which has led to superior client outcomes.
And it would seem Michael’s approach to financial planning, with skills developed during his teaching years, has served him well, with the judges acknowledging his dedication to delivering excellent client service throughout the financial planning process, and “going above and beyond” to provide clients with the best possible outcomes.
Commenting on the award, FPA CEO Dante De Gori CFP® said: “Michael embodies the facets of an exemplary financial planner: outstanding technical knowledge and capability, as well as care and understanding as a financial coach and mentor to his clients, helping them create a vision for their future, and bringing organisation and accountability to their financial lives.”
By taking out the coveted 2018 FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award, Michael says it has given him personal validation for the work he has been doing with his clients, which he unashamedly says is “gold standard”.
“The award also provides me with a sense of achievement that, as a business, we’re heading in the right direction,” he says. “The awards process also offered me a good opportunity for self-reflection into what I was doing and how I was doing it.”
According to the Perth-based sole-practitioner, the actual awards process itself was robust, requiring a combination of written application, examples of written advice provided to clients, and as the final hurdle loomed, a face-to-face interview with the judges.
As the winner of the top gong for CFP® practitioners, Michael believes there is great value in being a CFP® professional.
“When it comes to technical knowledge, this designation is the high watermark of excellence and technical competency,” he says. “The CFP® designation is recognition that you are one of the best in the industry, by aligning your own personal standards to the profession’s highest education and professional standards.”
Glass half full
Michael has a ‘glass half full’ attitude to life. It’s hard not to be swayed by his optimism and upbeat attitude. Even the Royal Commission doesn’t faze him, although he concedes that consumer confidence has been dented. But typically, he says it’s up to the profession to re-establish consumer confidence by simply behaving in a “highly ethical and appropriate way” that clients and colleagues expect.
He also views the new FASEA education standards as presenting an additional challenge for planners, particularly for practising practitioners who will require additional learning.
“These education standards will come at a cost to the profession,” he says. “There will be the cost of time, which will ultimately be a cost of money. There will probably also be a cost in lost expertise, as some planners may simply choose to leave the profession completely.
“However, while I have no doubt that the higher education standards will be a significant improvement for the profession, it means the next three to five years will be a challenging period for planners.”
But challenges aside, this ‘glass half full’ practitioner brims with confidence at the opportunities ahead for the profession. And with so many Australians still unadvised, Michael believes the profession is well positioned for sustained growth.
“There’s plenty of third-party evidence that shows that people who don’t seek advice generally don’t achieve the level of financial return they would have otherwise received by using a planner. I believe consumers are ready to be assisted in achieving the type of lifestyle they want, and that’s what motivates me to get out of bed each morning – helping others to achieve their dreams.”
And while Michael agrees there are opportunities around Baby Boomers entering retirement, he is excited by the opportunities that Gen X and the Millennials present, although he says these generational cohorts will require a different approach when it comes to servicing their needs.
“While there is much more information available in the marketplace for Gen X and the Millennials around products and services, their financial planning needs will revolve around aligning their personal values and goals to the overall financial planning process. I think that will be the next phase of where we need to go as a profession,” he says.
Just be yourself
Michael strongly encourages any planner who is serious about a career in financial planning to become a CFP® professional, and offers his three best tips for any aspiring professional.
“My first tip is be to be authentic. When working with people, be yourself. It’s important to build trust and trust comes from being yourself.
“My second tip is to have a strong worth ethic and be committed to what you are doing, whether that’s obtaining education or experience. You need to be open to learning new things, and education is a lifelong journey.”
And Michael’s third tip?
“Ensure you maintain your honesty and integrity at all times. That’s just a given!”
He firmly believes all three tips form the bedrock of building trust with clients and consumers.
And he sneaks in a fourth tip: be prepared to give back to the community where you can.
To demonstrate the point, the father of three, who is always up for a new challenge, recently completed the 2018 Future2 Wheel Classic, managing to cycle just over 1,000km in eight days from Canberra to Sydney to help raise funds for the FPA’s philanthropic arm, the Future2 Foundation.
The Future2 Wheel Classic presented Michael with the opportunity to not only become physically more active, but on a philanthropic level, he was able to demonstrate to his three daughters the importance of community involvement and participating in worthy causes.
And for his efforts, including raising over $2,500 for disadvantaged young Australians, Michael received the ‘Purple Pedal Award’, which is given to the cyclist who demonstrated the most determination, grit and courage to complete the entire ride.
Not bad for a MAMIL who only started riding in March 2018!
The FPA congratulates the runners-up of the FPA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional of the Year Award: