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18 May 2018

This is what makes a Rising Star

Fiona Harris examines the characteristics and traits that this year’s award nominees share.

The Association of Financial Advisers’ Rising Star of the Year Award finalists are always an impressive group of candidates, optimistic about the future of the Australian financial advice industry and what advisers can do better.

The 2018 finalists are no exception.

This year the six judges of the award have joined the dots in terms of the common characteristics, motivations, habits, outlook and traits among these Rising Stars.

Rethinking advice and doing things differently

Passion, energy, x-factor, belief, curiosity, authenticity and positivity are qualities Rising Star finalists have in spades, characteristics, the judges say, that propel them forward and set them up for success.

They are motivated by the desire to help people and they believe in what they do. The finalists live and breathe financial advice and are curious about the industry, which all contributes to their delivery of great client service.

“These finalists are not falling into the status quo as to how advice goes,” says OnePath head of sales Don Sillar. “They are rethinking advice and doing things differently and are prepared to challenge the traditional ways.”

And despite a challenging year in the advice sector, with the public hearings of the royal commission highlighting poor advice experiences of some Australians, this group of advisers does not use blame to explain what’s been going on.

Instead, one of the judges, Rising Tide director and senior financial planner Matt Hale, says this group of finalists have empathy towards all involved in the advice process.

“There is a focus on the greater good, on building trust and credibility to overcome some of these challenges.”

Fellow judge, WB Financial director and financial adviser Patricia Garcia, agrees: “They want financial planning to be a profession and want to change perceptions. The royal commission is really bringing out this reaction, so they are even more driven.”

Advisers that take responsibility for change

Rising Star finalists understandably want the advice profession to thrive and don’t want advisers to lose the trust of the community they work to assist.

So despite the many trials of the advice sector in recent years, their energy, optimism, client-focus and innovation mindset sets them apart.

In this respect, Rising Star award finalists ‘bring the future forward’. AFA chief executive officer Philip Kewin explains this by saying the nominees clearly show the future of the profession in their own practice of, and approach to, advice.

Going a step further, Sillar defines the Rising Stars as advisers “[that] want to create change – they feel they have a personal responsibility”.

Hale agrees they are the best candidates to bring through change in the profession and to ensure more people have access to financial advice.

And on this latter point, the belief that all Australians deserve good financial advice is something all finalists share.

Next Evolution Performance chief executive officer Vanessa Bennett, also on the judging panel, says the growth and opportunity mindset of Rising Star finalists reflects their egalitarian outlook towards accessing advice.

“They believe everyone deserves financial advice,” she says. “They want it to be sustainable and don’t have biases or barriers.”

Focus on clients’ fundamentals and behaviours

JBS Financial Strategists founder and chief executive officer Jenny Brown says a focus on money fundamentals such as cash flow, superannuation and insurance is a consistent theme from the Rising Star finalists.

“The importance of budgeting and getting the basics right stood out.”

Their focus was not just fundamental, but holistic: Rising Stars consistently focus on clients’ behavioural change and link financial wellbeing with mental wellbeing.

This is influencing the study plans of finalists, who identified psychology and behavioural finance as future choices.

“Training in different personalities and how they respond and relate to advice is something they want to do,” explains Garcia. Finalists also take care of themselves and have a real balance in their lives with other interests, study and professional development.

They are involved in community work, often providing pro bono services to groups in need. “They are organised in terms of their professional development,” says Sillar. “They are curious about the industry and this drives them.”


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