People often ask me what my job is, how I work or why I became a financial adviser. This statement answers those questions and will help you gain an understanding of my approach.
My career has been a journey of discovery. That journey has taken me from my native home in Durban to the heart of three of the world’s greatest cities; London, Hong Kong and for the past six years Dubai. I love the enormous energy these iconic cities generate and the sheer diversity of human endeavour within them. I am constantly astonished at the vast range of goals that people are working to accomplish. I am fortunate because my professional life exposes me to those goals, and in many cases, gives me a role in helping them become a reality.
The reason is that whether we like it or not, money has an impact on almost every aspect of life. And since I help people manage their personal financial affairs, their goals are the central pillar around which I base all my advice.
People are striving for vastly different things. Their requirements vary significantly, even when it comes to universal financial needs like pensions, savings plans and insurance. Some are looking for safe, steady growth, others are prepared to take on more risk in return for potentially spectacular returns. One high earning client working in the technology industry wants to invest in potentially risky tech startup and cyber currencies. Another, working in conservation, is only interested in sustainable eco-investments.
The point is the client sets the objectives and parameters, and it is my job to find the vehicle and design a plan to make it happen. And that’s what I love about my job, using my knowledge and experience to help my clients get to where they want to go.
Over the course of my career, I have assisted thousands of clients. I have developed professional relationships with all kinds of professionals in the financial and related fields; investment and fund managers, lawyers, accountants, insurers, technical experts and government departments. Working with international expatriates means that some financial issues can be fiendishly complicated, particularly tax and inheritance planning, domiciles and jurisdictions. It is my job to filter that for the clients and help them understand the choices they have available to them.
Not everyone is good with money or has the time or interest to effectively manage their financial affairs. Even people that excel mightily in other fields can have chaotic personal finances. Many people find financial issues a chore, and few relish the prospect of spending hours researching financial and insurance products in detail. As a financial planner, I do that for them, presenting potential solutions to their particular needs.
At the same time, no matter how much they dislike the detail of finance, I think it is essential they are fully informed about the key points they need to consider and understand. That’s why I write articles and host webinars on financial issues – because well informed people make better decisions. Ultimately those better decisions result in improved financial outcomes, which have a positive benefit on their lives.
‘Positive’ is not always a word associated with financial advisers. We all know stories of corrupt or incompetent advisers. The industry doesn’t like to talk about it, but I think the elephant in the room needs addressing. This starts by acknowledging that terrible advisers exist, who put their client’s money in the wrong investments, sometimes for personal gain, sometimes through sheer ineptitude. Others don’t return calls or even disappear without a word or a trace.
This is utterly reprehensible and a stain on the profession. Chancers and cowboys cause immense damage to lives, and on too many occasions, I have had to help people pick up the pieces, having falling victim to bad financial advice. It is incomprehensible to me how people can operate in such a callous fashion with other people’s lives.
My guiding principle is that I am only successful when my clients succeed. That way, our objectives and interests remain perfectly aligned. It is the foundation on which I built my career and practice. It’s the reason why I have retained so many clients for many years, spread around the world and why they write and say such nice things about me.
I have been fortunate in my career to share many touching, profoundly life-affirming moments, here are just a few examples:
- Meeting with a longstanding client’s new wife and sharing their optimism and joy as they make financial plans to build their life together.
- Helping proud parents establish an education fees savings plan shortly after the birth of their first child.
- Witnessing another set of proud parents as they send their children to university, safe knowing that the savings plan they put in place years ago will meet the bulk of the costs.
- Observing the nobility of the supremely talented woman from humble origins, whose genius, success and foresight provided her with the means to lift her entire family out of poverty.
- Celebrating a retirement with clients that know they have a pension that guarantees financial independence and security for the rest of their lives.
- And finally, sharing the sheer joy and optimism of a family obtaining their new European passport, enabling them to relocate to Europe in search of expanded opportunities and a better life.
It was a privilege to play a role in these experiences and others like them. It gives me immense personal and professional satisfaction to help empower others to achieve their dreams. Most of all, these moments are a constant reminder that although my job involves money, it is really about people.