Be yourself and shine

22 February 2022

Money & Life team

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.

With a strong focus and commitment to her local community, Leanne Bielik AFP® has taken out the 2021 FPA Financial Planner AFP® of the Year Award.

Name: Leanne Bielik AFP®

Educational qualifications: Grad DFP

Position: Financial Planner

Practice: 2020 Wealth

Licensee: Capstone Financial Planning

Years as a financial planner: 10 years

Working out of her Somerville office on the Mornington Peninsula, Leanne Bielik AFP® personifies what it means to have genuine pride in your local community. The mum of three is incredibly active in her community, working closely with single mums throughout the COVID lockdown, as well as assisting single parent groups.

“I knew these single mums and parents were doing it tough, so I reached out to them. Not only did I offer them my services, I felt that is was important that somebody checked in on them emotionally, to see how they were coping during those challenging times.”

Leanne’s enthusiasm for her community is palpable, and she is a strong advocate about the importance of the profession remaining close and engaged with local communities.

“Financial planners can really be a force for positive change and empowerment within the community. People and businesses are always in need of help. Being actively involved in the local community and giving back to it, even by participating in community events, is just so important for me as a practitioner,” she says.

“So, as the recipient of the FPA Financial Planner AFP® of the Year Award for 2021, it’s fantastic to be able to bring this award back to my local community.”

And the FPA Awards judges agreed, saying they were impressed with Leanne’s commitment to her community, noting how she had paved the way to help those in need receive the help and support that only a financial planner can provide throughout the pandemic. They also acknowledged her time spent in online networks supporting single mums and clients who have had previous poor advice outcomes to get their lives back on track.

Leanne Bielik AFP®
2021 FPA Financial Planner AFP® of the Year

Giving back

This sense of ‘community’ and ‘helping people in need’, were some of the core drivers that first drew Leanne to financial planning.

“I first started out working at the Commonwealth Bank as a teller, where I would endlessly follow our Branch Planner around. I would listen to what was happening in her world, and watched how she would put clients in a better financial position. Her work with clients had a profound effect on me.”

This early introduction to financial planning, along with encouragement from her inspirational colleague, motivated Leanne to seek a career in the advice profession.

“I saw how financial planning could make a real and very tangible difference in the lives of people, and that was something I could relate to. So, I took that next step and became a financial planner, which is a decision I have never regretted making.”

Ongoing development

As a practitioner, perhaps the one area that Leanne constantly finds challenging is the extent of red tape and regulatory change she has to deal with. Add to this her own ongoing education and professional development, as well as managing her practice, 2020 Wealth, and she confesses that time management is a fine balancing act.

“Realistically, I’m trying to complete two units a year for my Graduate Diploma of Financial Planning, while juggling the competing demands of my business and young family. It’s tough,” she says.

Leanne’s approach to managing her time is centred on her business plan and diary.

“Whether it’s my own education or working on my business, you need to have this in your business plan and commit to it. When it comes to time management, my advice to anybody is to put it in your diary. I live by my diary, so if it’s not in the diary, I don’t do it,” she says.

“Every second Friday is my study day, which I assiduously commit to. But if this means I have to work Saturday to see clients or catch up on work, then so be it. The important thing is I have scheduled my study and commit to it.”

Included in Leanne’s two year study plan is not only a commitment to complete her Graduate Diploma of Financial Planning, but also to finish the CFP® Certification Program. She accepts it is an ambitious target, but one she is confident of making. And the key to this, says Leanne, is the importance of managing her health and wellbeing.

“Never underestimate the significance of health and wellbeing,” she says. “I’ve been a victim of burnout, and it’s not good! That’s why it’s so important to set boundaries and time for yourself.”

Leanne also points to social media, which along with its many advantages, like social connectivity, can also be a demon.

“Little things like turning your phone off and distancing yourself from social media for a period of time is really important. We all need some time away from these constant distractions to wind back and re-energise,” she says. “I really believe it’s something we all need to be doing, as a way of better managing our own emotional health and wellbeing.”

The glass is half full

Despite the numerous challenges facing the profession, Leanne maintains an optimistic outlook, preferring instead to focus on the opportunities ahead for the profession. She cites three of these opportunities being: intergenerational clients; technology; and owning the client relationship.

“The generation gap in advice is a massive opportunity for planners,” says Leanne. “Practitioners need to nurture the next cohort of clients, particularly Gen X and Millennials, who will be the beneficiaries of the intergenerational wealth transfer from Baby Boomers.”

In this respect, Leanne believes it has never been more important to ‘know your client’, particularly since the roll out of FASEA’s ethics standards, to understand broader family relationships, including their long-term goals.

“It’s important to get to know family members, including their kids. Planners need to have an active presence with the whole family, not just the immediate clients they’re dealing with.”

Leanne also points to technology as a huge enabler for the profession over the next 5-10 years.

“The financial services industry is at the forefront of technology adoption. Using technology to streamline our services will help reduce the cost of advice, making it more affordable to consumers. We can also use technology to help better educate our clients and improve financial literacy.”

Leanne praises the advancements in technology – like Zoom and DocuSign – that have come to the fore during the pandemic. These technologies have enabled planners to work remotely, while also allowing clients to conveniently access practitioners from anywhere in the world.

The third opportunity Leanne touches on is the ability for practitioners to own the client relationship.

“Owning the client relationship means being at the top of our game as advice specialists. This will enable planners to respond more effectively to the many changes confronting our profession, like robo-advice,” she says. “The nature of financial planning has changed, from focusing just on investment management, to client-centric holistic advice. That’s our value proposition and it will clearly differentiate us from the likes of robo-advice.”

Be real, be yourself

For anybody considering joining the profession, Leanne offers the following advice: “Learn to be adaptable, because there is so much change within the profession.”

She also offers the following advice for new entrants and career professionals; advice that has stood the test of time, and guided her through life: “Just be yourself.”

“As a planner, you’re put inside a lot of different scenarios, with a lot of different people. Some of these situations are emotional, others stressful. The best way to deal with these different scenarios is to simply be yourself. You need to be real and empathetic,” Leanne says.

“Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Why would you? Just be yourself and shine.”

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