Helping victims of domestic violence, encouraging more women to join the industry, supporting young families and starting small businesses – a government initiative could take all of it away.
Over the last 12 months, the financial advice sector has come under heavy attack from the mainstream press, driven largely by a string of scandals at bank-owned wealth divisions. Whether or not this negative publicity has tainted the entire advice industry is a matter of debate. But one thing is for certain - the ongoing royal commission into financial services is only showing one side of the industry. The other has hardly been reported on at all.
Melbourne-based financial planner Pamela Anderson has worked in the financial services industry since 2006. Today she is the director of her own business, Beyond iWealth, which employs a number of female staff.
In a recent letter to deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek, Ms Anderson outlined exactly what her life looks like as a financial adviser, business owner and mother staring down the barrel of FASEA’s stringent new education requirements.
“I have a young family with two daughters aged six and three,” Ms Anderson said.
“I started my practice when my youngest daughter was still being breast-fed and would bring her with me on appointments for feeding. She usually slept and the clients rather enjoyed a cuddle. Both my girls have many surrogate grandparents, aunties and uncles as a result.”
Like many of her peers, the Melbourne-based adviser is concerned about the proposed FASEA education standards. Along with fellow advisers Phillipa Hunt and Halle Yilmaz, Ms Anderson believes that female advisers with young families could be forced out of the industry if they are required to dedicated significant amounts of time to meet the new regime.
“I am already stretched with looking after my young family and operating a young business,” she said.
“I employ female staff. I provide pro bono advice to women who are leaving domestic violent relationships or facing financial hardship. I have a lot of lawyer friends who send them to me as they simply cannot sit and talk to a man.
“If I am required to dedicate 15 hours of study a week I would have to make my staff redundant, but I could still stay in the industry. I would seek to reduce my cost and sadly my support staff would be let go in favour for possible low cost off shore replacement.
“I would be devastated to lose my staff as they are brilliant workers and I am very passionate about keeping jobs in Australia. To seek support off shore would be against my standings and sadly reducing Australian jobs. I would also have to stop the pro bono advice for women as I simply would not be able to afford the time on not revenue producing advice.”
Many of her fellow female advisers have told her they simply would not be able to continue in their chosen profession.
“The demands of young children, family, work and the reduction in income with the continued cost of child care make it impossible for them to remain in the industry,” Ms Anderson said.
“The tragedy of this is that these women have very loyal clients who would be extremely upset to lose their adviser. They are great advisers who have experience, knowledge and skills. They have worked hard and now they face the reality of giving up their dreams due to unreasonable timelines.”
Over the course of her 12-year career in financial services, Ms Anderson said she has seen the advice industry struggle to attract women to key roles. Many stay in support roles despite their desire to become qualified financial planners.
“Over the past 10 years, I have been delighted to see more women join the industry as advisers or progress their career to become advisers. I followed this path and absolutely love the job I do, helping people is the most satisfying job in the world,” she said.
“The financial services industry needs to continue to evolve as we pioneer towards becoming a professional occupation. It is, however, the people in the industry now who are imperative to this success.
“FASEA can be the greatest change in the industry if implemented correctly, if not it could be the sole contributing factor to the demise of the female adviser and a key contribution to the continuation of the pay gap.”
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