Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.
A career in financial planning offers women both flexibility and advancement, but there are challenges to overcome. Dawn Thomas CFP®, Michelle Tate-Lovery CFP®, Patricia Garcia AFP® and Kearsten James CFP® share their insights on how women can make the most of opportunities available across the profession.
In a profession dedicated to improving the lives of everyday Australians, women have a great deal to offer. This is why the FPA chose What a Difference a Woman Makes as the theme for our panel discussion and webinar held to mark International Women’s Day in 2021. Hosted by Marisa Broome CFP®, Chair of the FPA Board and Sue Viskovic, founder of Elixir Consulting, this event brought together a panel of extraordinary women who work in financial advice. All at different stages in their careers, these four planners have a shared passion for enabling more women to thrive in the profession just as they have. They shared their thoughts and insights on a number of key issues and opportunities for women looking to build a rewarding career.
Flexibility in financial planning
Having started as a Client Services Officer 16 years ago, Kearsten James CFP® has enjoyed working in a wide variety of roles in financial planning. Switching from client facing to support roles and back again has enabled her to make the most of her career and family life. “In my experience, the profession offers a good career path for women,” says Kearsten. “When I started in financial planning 16 years ago I quickly discovered the joy in helping people do positive things in their lives. After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce and Financial in 2006, I moved from a client services role into paraplanning. I enjoyed the technical side of things, but I missed seeing clients as I really enjoy the process of uncovering their values, discussing goals and what’s important to them. So I transitioned to an associate adviser for Neil Kendall at Tupicoffs.”
At this time, Kearsten was commuting from the Gold Coast to Brisbane. When she had her son in 2013, she went back to a technical support role so she could fit her work around her role as a new parent. “When my son started school I knew I could get back to seeing clients again but wouldn’t be able to fit in a three hour commute with the school day,” says Kearsten. “Joining a practice on the Gold Coast has allowed me to enjoy the best of both worlds. I get to see clients and be there for my son.”
As a financial planner running her own practice, Your Vision Financial Solutions, Patricia Garcia AFP® also started early in the profession. “I bought into the business at the age of 30,” she says. “But I think financial planning has a lot to offer women at any stage in their lives. Older women entering the profession bring life experience. They have are often part of the sandwich generation, caring for kids and ageing parents. This gives them the insights and empathy to help other women like themselves.”
“Women are often used to being time pressured so they make excellent project managers,” Patricia adds. “When they’re committed and adept at managing all the pieces of the puzzle and get a kick out of seeing people progress in life, they can really get a lot from working in financial planning.”
Invest in education
Patricia had the benefit of having positive female role models in her family. “My Mum and Grandma were strong women and they were leaders in their community,” she says. “It gave me the confidence to see myself as a leader.” But even with these positive examples to follow, Patricia says she needed to work hard to overcome imposter syndrome. She credits her commitment to education for giving her the extra confidence to keep backing herself as a leader.
“Investing in your education is so important,” she says. “Attending conferences and roadshows delivers great value for money as you can learn from so many different people in the profession. I’ve also benefited from business coaching and embracing all the support that’s available from the industry, in the form of seminars, events and professional development from service providers.”
Know your clients
Another business leader on the panel, Michelle Tate-Lovery CFP® from Apt Wealth Partners knows what it feels like to be starting out with gaps in knowledge to fill. Getting to know a particular type of client really well was an important part of her solution to this issue. “I was challenged as a young inexperienced planner running a business and I felt I needed to focus energy into a particular client market,” she says. “I also wanted to help people who were as passionate about what they were doing as I was.”
This led Michelle to work with clients from the allied health space. “I became completely absorbed in their issues for their workplace and what they were sensitive about around money,” she says. “This gave us a focus for everything we worked on from seminars and presentations to our newsletters. I see more and more financial planners thinking about that market segmentation. It allows them to both hone their skills and really enjoy connecting more deeply with their clients over common values.”
As a financial planner who joined Cooper Wealth Management just as the company was starting out, Kearsten understands the importance of planning for growth and a sustainable business. “I joined a financial planning practice with a zero client base,” she says. “So begin with it was a case of if you have a heartbeat I will help you. All businesses have cash flow pressures, they have to meet costs and pay salaries so you have to be able to win clients. In saying that, you also have to be profitable and can’t overdeliver. A more targeted approach to the services you offer and the clients you work with can help you market and speak to those individuals in a way that resonates.”
Dawn Thomas CFP®, financial planner with Wealthwise in Perth agrees that it’s not possible to offer services to everyone she’d like to be helping. But she has a strong sense of responsibility to find a way to support and educate more people for better financial outcomes, regardless of whether they can afford her services. “We can’t be all things to everyone,” says Dawn “The key thing is sustainable business. Whatever I want to do to help people, I do with my videos and podcasts. I make time to fulfil my day-to-day truth which is to help people even if they can’t pay for advice.”
Develop your networks
Staying true to her purpose has been one of Dawn’s guiding principles for career growth. Another has been to seek support from her peers and network. “Mentors are very important,” she says. “I have five to six I can turn to at any one time, some who work in the profession and others that don’t. You can’t feel that your world is this small. When you look outside the industry at people facing other challenges you can get a perspective that can help you discover there’s a way through. That’s essential for making career decisions that are right for you.”
“Although it’s a job where you get to help people, it can be isolating,” she adds. “So it’s important to find ways to network. As a Mum I can’t attend events so I do this via LinkedIn and connect with people who can give me a broader view on my situation.”