Meet the 2019 Rising Star winner and finalists
The AFA Rising Star of the Year Award recognises the industry’s best new advisers. Meet this year’s winner and finalists, and gain insights into their strategies for success.
For 15 years, OnePath has been partnering with the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) for the Rising Star of the Year Award. This year, after three rounds of judging, the AFA selected six finalists for the 2019 AFA Rising Star of the Year Award.
Natalie Jarvis, Head of National Sales Strategy, OnePath – who was one of the judges – said the award recognises the brightest new talent in financial advice.
“Rising Star is such an optimistic award. It’s about recognising talent, fostering that talent and providing opportunities for people to showcase their abilities and become the future leaders of the advice industry. As a testament to the award, many of our previous winners have gone on to build successful practices.”
The winner, Chris Carlin, was announced at the Gala Dinner of the 2019 AFA National Adviser Conference on 29 August.
Chris Carlin is using the new tricks of the trade – social media, podcasts and virtual meetings – to build a modern practice he can run from anywhere in the world
Chris Carlin is the Founder, Financial Planner and Mortgage Broker at Master Your Money Now, a business he launched in Geelong Victoria in July 2018.
“The name is designed to be interchangeable,” he explains. “I’ve already launched Master Your Mortgage Now and I’m looking forward to expanding into further fields."
Chris joined the financial advice industry in 2011 as a paraplanner, working as a financial adviser since March 2016 and a mortgage broker since February 2019. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Deakin University and is a certified financial planner, a qualified mortgage broker and SMSF accredited. Chris is a regular commentator on blogs, LinkedIn and Instagram on finance-related topics and his blog, Master Your Money Now, has been rated within the Top 10 Personal Finance Blogs in Australia.
Edutainment has entered the Australian financial advice industry. A melding together of education and entertainment, edutainment is a tool advisers such as Chris Carlin are using to take advice to the next generation.
Chris is a regular commentator on blogs, LinkedIn and Instagram on finance-related topics and Master Your Money Now has been rated within the Top 10 Personal Finance Blogs in Australia.
Engaging with a younger demographic is what Chris enjoys most about social media. His typical client is ‘everyday people’ aged 25-35 years old, saving for their first home and have never sought financial advice before.
“They may have read ‘The Barefoot Investor’ and googled a bit but then things have got a bit complicated. I am effectively helping my mates.”
Master Your Money Now has 45 clients which are all serviced by Chris. He hopes to expand the business to include other services such as Master Your Accounting and Master Your Estate Planning.
“The name is designed to be interchangeable,” he explains. “I have already launched Master Your Mortgage Now and I am looking forward to expanding into further fields.”
Chris is proud to be a financial planner. “To be able to set up something that can help everyday people over multiple years – yes.”
Prior to launching Master Your Money Now, Chris was a financial planner with ANZ for almost two years and a paraplanner with Catholic Super.
Moving from being a salaried planner to business owner was a challenge and required a shift from a pure client focus to managing everything in a business. To help ease this transition, Chris has not been afraid to try a different way and to set up his business accordingly.
Virtual conferencing and Zoom have been a big part of this, a way to offer financial advice from anywhere to any location. This is important to Chris, who married a New Zealander nine-months ago and can foresee a move there some day.
“A lot of my clients are around me but if they move or I move I can take my client with me.”
Chris says making the move to providing financial advice using a virtual tool such as Zoom requires some preparation. Chris says you need to review who you serve, their profiles and what service you are providing. While there may be some initial resistance, he says the prevalence of social media paves the way.
“You deal with friends and family on Facebook, so why not your financial planner? Gen X and Y are totally open to that, aged care clients probably not.”
The future of financial advice is a concern for Chris who believes most people are unclear as to who benefits from advice and who it is for.
“It’s so hard when there is so much negativity. Getting more good news stories is going to be key. How do they benefit from financial advice? We need to get that message out there, to the media, in politics – financial planning is accessible, is changing and we can help you.”
Victoria Devine believes differentiating between financial advice and financial education will significantly help more Australians get advice.
Victoria is Director and Financial Adviser at Zella Wealth, a business she launched in Melbourne three years ago. She is also founder of She’s on the Money, a website and podcast she launched in 2016 to educate women about money.
“I am very proud of where I am at the moment, having two of my own businesses.”
Prior to becoming a financial adviser, Victoria worked as a paraplanner with Conquest Services and as a culture and engagement specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Psychological Science, post graduate Diploma (Hons) of Organisational Psychology , and an MBA in addition to her Diploma of Financial Planning, Accounting and Finance.
According to Victoria Devine, Director and Financial Adviser at Zella Wealth, differentiating between financial advice and financial education will significantly help more Australians get advice.
“There is a lack of clarity in the differences between financial education and financial advice,” she says. “Often you see people reach out for financial advice when what they need is financial education.”
Victoria believes that creating a clear outline of what financial advice is and taking a step back and putting financial education in schools will help financial literacy in Australia. She believes going forward, more people will see the value of financial advice and seek it out.
“Advice will become more valued in the future as there will be increased clarity on what we as advisers do and the value we bring. There are so many great educators in the industry now.”
Victoria is also founder of She’s On The Money, a financial education business for women, podcast provider and an online community she launched in 2016 to educate women about money.
It started as a ‘passion project’ and grew into a full separate business. She’s On The Money generates leads for financial advice (not specifically for Zella) and mortgage broking. It also runs paid workshops and events.
As a young business owner in the financial advice industry, Devine says she taps in to the mentoring group resources of the Association of Financial Advisers. She also uses Zella Group CEO Dimitrious Zartaloudis, who nominated her for the 2019 Rising Star Award, as a sounding board to bounce ideas off.
Given she has businesses in both providing advice and educating Australians, it comes as no surprise that Victoria herself has a strong academic background, a quality she regards as her X-factor.
“My background in psychology is my differentiator and allows me to provide advice that fits the individual. Money is such an emotional topic and everything comes back to how we feel.”
Victoria holds a Bachelor of Psychological Science and a Post Graduate Diploma (Hons) of Organisational Psychology. She also has a Master’s of Business Administration from RMIT and a Diploma of Financial Planning, Accounting and Finance.
She says after working in organisational psychology, it became clear people were stressed about finance. Making her transition from psychology to financial advice was an easy decision to make.
“I love the tangible outcomes that can be achieved with my clients, which is what drew me to move into the industry and is the reason I’m so passionate about financial advice.”
Victoria regards financial advice as a great vocation and encourages others to seek out the profession.
“Start with a good education and think about why you are there,” she says. “I love advice because of the outcomes I’m able to achieve for my clients. Building strong relationships with your client’s needs to take first priority, the numbers are secondary. Whilst the numbers are incredibly important, understanding what makes your client tick is how you’re going to be able to have a lasting impact.”
Her future plans for her businesses are to take more of a leadership position and to train new advisers as they join the Zella team.
“I am very hands on with all aspects of the advice process at the moment. I want to take a bit of a step back so I can focus more time on growing the Zella Wealth team with the right people and provide more value back to the business.”
She would like to continue learning and growing in this space, focusing on honing her technical skills while also educating the community on the importance of financial literacy though events and online courses. Victoria recently launched a podcast, which has had more than 300,000 downloads.
Rebecca Maher takes advice to mums using Facebook and a blog to help spread the word
Rebecca Maher is the director of The Fiscal Mum, a business she launched in 2016 to offer strategic cashflow planning and life insurance advice to women and their families.
“I do what I do because financial wellness is often not a priority for a lot of people, but it’s a big determiner of happiness”, she explains. “My unique selling point is advice for mums, by mums – delivered differently.
Prior to working as a financial adviser, Rebecca was a life product manager at Zurich Financial Services and worked as an Associate Financial Adviser at WB Financial Management. Rebecca has been in the financial services industry since 2010 and holds a Degree in Business from University of Technology Sydney and an Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning from Kaplan. She is a Licensed Real Estate Agent and a Justice of the Peace for NSW.
The origins of Rebecca Maher’s business The Fiscal Mum would not look out of place as a ‘how-to’ guide in the business section of any book store.
Born from a successful blog she established while on maternity leave, Rebecca launched The Fiscal Mum in 2016 and put into practice the money tips she discussed on the money tips she had discussed on the blog.
Reflecting on the dynamism in the financial advice industry, Rebecca's business is a great example of the way the delivery of financial advice is evolving in Australia.
“The way people want to interact with advisers and receive financial advice has changed,” she says. “Rather than taking an old world offer and start that way, I decided to build my own brand, and build an advice model around the needs of my ideal client.”
Virtual advice is central to her offer, a decisive move away from the traditional delivery of advice. Rebecca says when she opened the doors to her small business, the advice she was getting on where to find new clients was to attend networking breakfasts and to meet with referral partners at their offices and do business there.
“When I went back to financial advice, it was hard for me to follow the traditional path,” she says. “With two small children, I just couldn’t ‘get out there’ in the same way others were to build their business, so I had to find another way. The virtual advice model was a natural fit.”
The other point of difference about Rebecca's business is its practical approach to financial advice, which is completely in touch with what her typical clients - young families and single mums - are looking for.
“What might be perceived to be smaller issues by an established advice firm, they (clients) were attracted to, and I was prepared to help them with those issues.”
Cashflow, debt and lifestyle goals such as holidays are the bread and butter issues Maher has built her young business on. Once these issues are under control, she then moves to focussing on ‘protecting the new world’, so ensuring her clients have the right insurances in place to maintain the new equilibrium.
The Fiscal Mum currently has 30 clients. To grow her business, Rebecca uses the online origins of her business to reach new clients, generating leads via a webinar.
“Mums love Facebook. They are looking for advice on how to be a better parent, solving problems in their family life, so me being on there talking about helping them to solve their financial problems was a natural fit.”
Rebecca’s client acquisition model is simple but has a step-by-step precision. Firstly she posts an advertisement on Facebook for a webinar. While she might get 80 to 100 responses, she has a 30-35 per cent attendance rate, which is typical for this style of online marketing strategy. From the webinar, a third will typically book an initial call, and from that point the conversion rate to client is roughly 1 in 3. This process takes up to three weeks.
Over the next three to five years, Maher hopes to spend more time with her business. As her kids become older, she can see she will have more time to grow the business, take on additional clients and expand the services she is able to offer.
Maher currently outsources the preparation of financial advice to a paraplanner and uses contractors and freelancers for website work and Facebook advertising. She says in the future, she would like to create other service offerings to work with expecting parents or separated or divorced individuals.
“I would like to explore overseas help so I can focus on speaking with clients.”
Daniel Jackson believes his point of difference is his ability to connect with clients and to explain the advice process in in a way that is both entertaining and educational.
Daniel Jackson is a financial planner at DBK Financial Solutions, an holistic financial advice practice located in Wodonga in Victoria and licensed by AMP Financial Planning. Daniel joined DBK Financial Solutions in 2013, working in administration, compliance and as a paraplanner before becoming a financial planner in 2015. Prior to this, Daniel owned an insulation installation business for 12 years.
“The biggest obstacle to people seeking financial advice is the wrong emphasis on monetary gain,” Daniel believes. “It’s not what you get from it but how you feel from financial advice.”
Daniel achieved his Diploma in Financial Planning from Kaplan in 2012 and completed his Master’s in Financial Planning this year.
Daniel Jackson has set his sights on writing a book and being a guest speaker at the Association of Financial Advisers conference in 2024.
With most of his working life spent in the insulation installation industry and less than four years working as a financial adviser, Daniel brings a unique perspective to advice. He has experienced not one but two Royal Commissions, his first in the insulation industry and the second in banking.
He is highly accredited as a Kaplan ambassador and lives by the motto ‘live your dreams’, a philosophy he shares with his clients.
Daniel joined DBK in 2013, working initially in administration, compliance and as a paraplanner before becoming a financial planner in 2015. Prior to this, Daniel owned an insulation installation business for 12 years. He joined the financial advice industry in 2011 when he enrolled in Kaplan’s Diploma of Financial Planning.
While most of the finalists in this year’s Rising Star Award are business owners, as a licensed representative with a large institution, Daniel considers himself the complete opposite to them.
Daniel says when he joined the industry in 2013, he chose not to buy a business. He regarded it as a decision heavily weighted on timing. With the Future of Financial Advice reforms just coming into effect, commission structures changing and moves to fee-for-service models, he considered it not the right time.
He is positive about this decision and his experience and freedom as a licensed representative.
“This is an opportunity to tell my story. I do not have commissions or KPIs and I provide quality advice and have a passion to be in the industry.”
In fact, Daniel hopes his nomination as a finalist motivates others.
“It’s taken a long struggle. I sought more education. I am hoping to show people if I can do it everyone can do it.”
Connecting with clients and explaining the advice process
Daniel regards his point of difference is his ability to connect with clients and explain the advice process in a way that is both entertaining and educational.
For example, by attaching screen shots of whiteboard discussions he had with his clients to their discussions file notes, Daniel is able to achieve high levels of client satisfaction and deliver an interactive and rewarding advice experience.
Identifying this strength felt like a natural skill to Daniel. “To me this was just naturally someone who I am, someone who likes to obtain knowledge and share that knowledge in a way that not only makes people feel like they are getting a real understanding to what they are seeking but makes them excited to keep learning more.”
A positive view of the future
Despite ongoing change in the advice industry, Daniel considers it as a positive for the industry rather than being too disruptive. “The financial services industry has been longing for a change. The Royal Commission has given us the change we’ve been looking for.”
Daniel considers the biggest obstacle to people seeking financial advice is the wrong emphasis on monetary gain. “It’s not about what you get from it but how do you feel from financial advice.”
This outlook guides his opinions on artificial intelligence and robo advice. While Daniel believes it is on its way to a peak, the fact that neither service can hold a customer’s hand during claim time, when their first child is born or when they pay off their house, means they will have limited success.
“There is a real emotional element to advice.”
Ellie Fordham stands behind her business decision to shun traditional revenue streams and is glowing in its success.
Ellie Fordham has been in the financial services industry for the past 13 years, providing financial advice at Dozzi Financial Advice in Brisbane since 2017. Prior to this she was an Associate Adviser at Stonehouse Wealth Management, a Senior Technical Adviser at Alman Partners for five years, creating strategies for client advice and a paraplanner for two years at Magnitude Financial planning.
“What I’m proud of is that I educate my clients so much that they’re empowered to the point where they make their own financial decisions,” says Ellie. “We see opportunities to develop new ways to provide advice and branch out to help more people whilst creating some innovation in this area.”
Ellie holds a Bachelor of Business (Financial Planning) from RMIT, SMSF Specialist Accreditation and became an accredited Certified Financial Planner in 2018.
Ellie Fordham is proud to be part of an advice practice with its own licence and believes it helps dozzi Financial Advice in Brisbane stand out from the crowd.
When she talked as a finalist in the 2019 AFA Rising Star Award judging, she responded from a business perspective rather than as an individual in the business.
Ellie refers to the decision to establish dozzi as a non-aligned advice and self-licensed practice. She says although it did not set out to be unique for its business structure, it was the ethics and beliefs of the people in the business which guided it in this direction.
Independence to dozzi Financial Advice means it can provide its customers with the confidence that the advice, strategy and investment management they receive will always be focussed on their best interests.
Ellie says to offer this type of service has come at a sacrifice, but the fact dozzi has done it is proof it can be done.
“You can make sacrifices to create a business of the future,” she says. “Creating an independent business that is future focussed, means it actually works and can be done.”
By sacrifice, she is referring to higher remuneration opportunities at aligned businesses as well as the businesses decision to turn away all traditional forms of revenue including commission and fees based on funds under management.
“I also sacrificed potential career progression by taking on a role that not only incorporated advice but also worked in many other areas of the business to get the business started.”
The upside of this was significant. “On the flip side, I’ve had an incredible experience and been part of building a business from the start which is an experience I’m sure not many can say they’ve had.
Ellie has 60 clients and while typical clients are young accumulators, it also has retirees, business owners and families.
She says being a finalist in the 2019 AFA Rising Star Award challenged her to articulate the personal value she creates for her clients. Further, it made being at the forefront of regulatory change and investing in her education worth it.
Following all the change in the industry over the past five years, Ellie considers there is room for change in terms of regulation in the advice industry.
“The legislation in place sets out to make a difference but practically it doesn’t really work as its limits access to financial advice.”
She says in response to this, different advice streams need to be opened up so people can access advice. Ellie believes this is starting to happen with the growth of financial coaching and different fee models emerging.
Further, regulatory change has impacted the way customers engage with advice. The growing popularity of money-related podcasts and Facebook are taking advice in a new direction in terms of its delivery and how Australians interact with advisers.
The future for dozzi is more of the same and then some.
“We’ve broken into the independent space and we’re doing work we’re really happy with whilst growing quite rapidly. We see opportunities to develop new ways to provide advice and branch out to helping more people while creating some innovation in this area.”
When it comes to connecting with clients, Jade loves to use social media and believes for her generation, it is an easy way to keep it light.
Jade McKay is a financial planner with Essential Financial Advice (EFA) and has recently established her own advice business Manu Forti, a business she established when she bought a book of clients and is now in the process of growing. Jade joined the financial advice industry in 2015, working as an administration manager at EFA before transitioning to become a financial adviser in 2018.
“I have an ability to connect with people on a personal level,” says Jade. “This allows me them to open up to me. I helps me frame their advice to suit their needs.”
In addition to a having a Diploma in Financial Planning, Jade is also a qualified veterinary nurse. She holds a Diploma in Hospitality, Diploma in Tourism, Cert 3 in Accounts Admin and a Cert IV in Veterinary nursing.
Jade McKay launched her own financial advice business only six months after transitioning from being a Client Administration Manager into being a financial adviser. Her relaxed approach to business flows through to her style of financial advice. She says her X-Factor is her ability to build meaningful relationships with her clients and her ability to turn an advice conversation into a personal conversation.
“I have an ability to connect with clients on a personal level which allows them to open up to me. It helps me frame their advice to suit their needs.”
When it comes to connecting with clients, Jade loves to use social media and believes for her generation, it is an easy way to ‘keep it light’.
She says positivity and being open to new ways are qualities advisers can use to help them cope with change. She also believes these can help more Australians to value advice and to seek it out.
“More positivity is needed. You always hear the negative. We need to scream from the rooftops the successes we’ve had.”
Jade provides her clients with assistance in setting goals as well as risk protection and debt reduction. An area that she also specialises in is financial separation, helping support clients to get back on their feet after a relationship breakdown, establish new financial habits and create a fresh plan moving forward.
While new opportunities such as artificial intelligence may help streamline some back-office processes, Jade says it is too much of a personal issue and doesn’t believe it will take over.
“Robots will never truly understand the emotional aspect to financial advice and wouldn’t be able to connect in a way that I can with clients.”
Over the next five years, Jade wants to build a base of happy, healthy clients, have bedded down the fee-for-service model (next six months), and provide more cost-effective advice to those who really need it.
Jade says she has fallen in love with the finance industry and it makes her incredibly happy to provide advice.
“I love working with people and creating meaningful connections with them. Knowing that I can help others to achieve their dream lifestyles and also be there in some of the toughest times to help support them and get them back on their feet is an incredible privilege.”
The decision to take a leap to commit to financial advice as a career and to buy a business, was all upside for Jade, giving her the opportunity to be self-employed and to have a career that complements her dream lifestyle.
It also meant she could reach areas less accessible to financial advice.
“I wanted the flexibility to be able to reach out to more rural areas and to take my skills to towns that may not necessarily have access to financial advice.”
And this is what she would like to give back to the industry - to give back to the community and increase the access to financial literacy.
“Education is such a powerful tool and if I can help educate others in making smarter financial decisions the world will be a happier place. “
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