Leading the way to a seat at the table

25 October 2021

Deborah Kent

Deborah Kent CFP® is Director and Owner of Integra Financial Services and Director of FASEA. Having worked in the profession for over 30 years, she is passionate about the difference financial advice can make to the lives of all Australians.

Deborah Kent CFP® has held many leadership roles and is proud to have been in the financial planning profession for more than three decades. She reflects on the many parts of her journey and shares what she’s learned along the way.

I’m celebrating 33 years in financial advice this year. From the beginning I always believed in what I do as a financial adviser and the impact we have on our clients lives.

When exploring my career path, I considered what was my purpose, what did I want to achieve. Starting out the industry was new and growing, it was changing rapidly.  For me, I knew I wanted to be part of something that changed people’s lives and the evolution of financial advice.

I have had the opportunity to be active in many discussion groups, committees and board positions, including my current role with FASEA. All these roles come with a commitment, something that many of us running financial advice businesses juggle to balance with our other responsibilities.

When I started my journey in financial advice, my attitude and values provided me with a vision that I knew I wanted to achieve; I needed to put them into action.

There have been many challenges for me over the years to reach where I am today. From a court case with a licensee many years ago, leading the Association of Financial Advisers during a volatile time of change, transitioning to a licensee who is a better fit for my business to assuming my director role with FASEA. During my personal battle with breast cancer, I spent time reflecting on these challenges and what is important to me. I know that I could not do what I do without family support and my great team.

Leading the way takes hard work, the right people around you and resilience to push through the criticism. It can only make your resolve stronger and resilience higher.

The elephant in the room…

There have been many conversations over the years about stepping up and taking on different leadership roles, from participating on a committee to board positions. There are challenges to achieving these opportunities and the time it takes to meet the commitment.

Finding time to run a business and do all the extra work isn’t easy. Stay committed, you will make it work but it will encroach on your personal time. The positive is that the satisfaction you feel as part of a bigger picture for the benefit of others will outweigh the negatives. Position yourself as an influencer in your field and champion what you believe in and always do your research.

When I developed my Dare to Dream series, it was based on the things I have drawn on over the years that have allowed me to be who I am today. Here are some key things for you to consider:

Authenticity

Be who you are and don’t try to be someone you are not or the person you think others want you to be. By being your natural self, you will invoke trust in those around you. As financial planners we are attuned to the attitudes and behaviours of our clients. Likewise, people are intuitive and sense when you are masquerading as someone other than yourself. If you are going to be able to influence people and lead them through change, they need to have trust, so be yourself.

Resilience

We aren’t born with resilience, but it is something that comes through life experiences and challenges. It’s what drives you to step up and face into issues and deal with them head on. Many of us have had to find our true grit to allow us to get through difficult situations. It is a testament to who you are, that your resilience not only allows you to get through these experiences but also to learn from them.

Mentors

A great mentor experience can be a game changer! All my career I have drawn on the experience of different types of mentors. They have been so important to my personal and professional growth. A great mentor is the type of person that is willing to guide and be honest with you, having the tough conversations and making you think about your actions. My first mentor was Gwen Fletcher, who pushed me to take a leap of faith and get involved with the industry back when the FPA first launched. Gwen gave me the confidence to step up and make a difference.

Learning

Education builds not only our knowledge but confidence in ourselves and how we implement it. In 2012 I was fortunate enough to go to Stanford Executive Business School to undertake their Executive Leadership course. It was thought-provoking and challenging. I came out of the experience a different person which gave me the confidence I needed to lean in and take on the roles I wanted.

Stepping up

Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith to take on a role, whether it be in your business or within the industry. I have had many discussions with women who have lacked the confidence to look at a role or a promotion, worrying they are not up to the tasks. It’s time to back yourself. If you don’t know everything you need to know, research it so that you have the confidence to take your seat at the table.

Reflection

What you have done and what you are doing, does it fulfill your sense of purpose? We don’t always get it right; we may not always win the debate or get what we want but you must be confident that you have tried your best. Think about the decisions you have made and how they affect you and others around you. Understand that this may draw negative feedback as part of your growth.

Where to next?

This year I’m celebrating  25 years in business with my own practice, Integra Financial Services, and I am extremely proud of the work we have done. During this time, we have continued to support the clients that started this journey with us. We have loved welcoming new clients and their children to the Integra family. They know they can come to us and discuss their goals, aspirations, and dreams, and we will get them on the pathway to achieving them.

I have seen much change in financial advice. It is an industry that has struggled for many years to meet the definition of a profession. Change affects us all differently. Some will embrace it, some will fight it, but change is in inevitable. I envision a positive future for advice. Yes, we need to get through these difficult times but those of us that ride that wave will see the benefits in the future.

My focus is to see a future where financial advice as a profession that young people aspire to be part of,  and where more women can step into leadership roles; importantly for more Australians to seek advice and build wealth for their future. My hope is that the scandals of the past become an event in time that is taught in financial advice degrees and courses as a turning point in the evolution of our profession.

I want to encourage others to follow their pathway as financial advice influencers themselves, achieving their own sense of purpose.

My personal journey has not finished. I will continue to step up and lean in to do my part in this evolution and enjoy providing financial advice for many years to come.

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