Where do financial advisers come from? Quite often they come from support roles, in a case similar to BT senior adviser Jules Bernstein.
Her work experience in the BT Contact Centre – where she answered customer queries on a range of BT products - honed some of the most important skills of an adviser – listening to what clients want.
Starting in the contact centre – Jules took client calls on managed funds, super, and BT Wrap. After a stint on the phones, she said she missed the sales aspect of work and she joined the general advice team giving advice on Super for Life. A short time later, the BT phone advice team moved from Brisbane to Sydney and Jules found her calling. She quickly completed her Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning and when Westpac was first to offer virtual planning, she was the first planner to provide it. She travelled ‘virtually’ to Karratha in Western Australia where a link provided financial planning services to the highly paid mine workers in the iron ore and gas town.
However, Jules hit a block to providing full advice as the phone team was not considered a formal part of the advice business. She became a relationship manager with the idea of learning from senior advisers. Finally she called one of the advice businesses regional managers to discuss job opportunities. Fortunately, someone in his team had just left and Jules was offered the role. This was in mid-2013 and she has been in that team ever since.
“Leaving advice to become a relationship manager made me realise that I really wanted to become an adviser,” Jules says.
Jules now specialises in providing advice to Westpac group staff members.
“Before becoming an adviser I was worried I wouldn’t be good at it. I didn’t enjoying looking at the market every day and then I thought I’d give it a crack. I think females do that. We worry about the things we’re not good at.”
There are two things Jules says she enjoys most about her role now. “Firstly, I feel that with the role I have the freedom and flexibility of working hours. I feel I have a very good work/life balance and I really like the income that you can earn,” she says. “Secondly, I enjoy being able to help people build their wealth in ways they didn’t realise themselves. It does make you feel good being able to help people put themselves in better positions.”
For example, one couple, both Westpac staff, were hesitant to come to advice but when they did I found one was stressed about the mortgage. “To me and her partner it didn’t seem high but she was stressed. I helped her restructure her mortgage and that gave her peace of mind. One day I bumped into her, and she said, ‘thanks so much I’m seeing the mortgage come down now and it’s made me feel really good about coming to see you’,” Jules says.
“It [the mortgage] had been blocking her from taking holidays and now she does take the holidays and it has created a better quality of life.”
Jules believes there is still an unconscious bias against hiring women in financial advice, and a boys’ club atmosphere still exists, but says it does feel like it’s slowly changing. Jules says that when she started in advice, she had a crisis of confidence. “I didn’t realise I could actually do it,” she says. “My current manager has been one of the best bosses I’ve had. She really gives people confidence and she knows that women need more confidence building.”
“There’s a young adviser on the team that had been trying to move into advice for a couple of years, no-one would give her a chance until my boss, and she will be one of the top planners as she’s amazing.”