Following her win as AFA 2013 Adviser of the Year, Jenny Brown, director of JBS Financial Strategists, talks to ifa's Rachael Micallef about beating the naysayers.
When Jenny Brown started out in the world of finance in 1992, she was given some words of ‘advice’ from a manager that she remembers to this day:
“Women don’t make it in this business and you’ll be no different”.
But it seems like Ms Brown, who just celebrated her win as the Association of Financial Advisers’ (AFA’s) Adviser of the Year – which she refers to as “a bit like the Oscars of financial planning” – got the last laugh.
“It’s really interesting, because right now I’d go and tell [that manager] to take a hike, but back then it really had quite a profound effect,” Ms Brown said.
“I finished my acceptance speech at the AFA awards by saying that’s what I was told and encouraging everybody – whether they’re male or female – to make sure no one steals their dream. I could have let that happen but I guess at the time, I actually had no other option.”
That’s because Ms Brown started her financial services career with a baptism of fire – in the middle of Australia’s “recession we had to have” and after being made redundant from her job in advertising.
With a freeze on hiring in the sector, Ms Brown took a sales course and answered an ad from an insurance company that said “think and grow rich”, falling into her dream job of financial planning along the way.
“I was self-employed there for basically three years and then moved across to the Bongiorno Group – again, still self-employed, but that’s where I learnt about financial planning,” she said.
“Tony and Joe Bongiorno taught me all about tax structures and really understanding how business clients work.”
At the time, the financial services industry was in its infancy and there were no accepted rules covering the need for staffing or business structure. “The way advisers did it back then ... was very much a ‘flow’ into financial planning – through meeting people, being mentored unofficially and asking lots of questions,” she said.
Borrowing from the expertise of the Bongiornos, combined with her own interest in learning, Ms Brown started the business that would become JBS Financial Strategists.
Her lifetime love of learning has seen her study constantly and even become an early adopter of SMSFs, which along with risk has become a core focus of Ms Brown’s business.
“I had a girlfriend that said I needed to know about it,” she laughs. “It’s really funny – she’s a great adviser and I remember sitting down and she said ‘you need to know about this’, so I did a course.”
It also led to her becoming one of the founding members of the SMSF Professionals’ Association of Australia less than six months after the group formed, as well as a member of the AFA and part of the Inspire group, which aims to support women in finance.
Inspire is one of the main focuses of her agenda following her win as Adviser of the Year.
“If I can make a little bit of difference to somebody and help them with someone, then I’ve done my job,” she said.
“The more we can help give women the confidence to do what we want to do then I think we’re going to be better off. I still go to functions where I’m in the minority.
“That’s why I specifically put my hand up to be involved in the Inspire initiative because I think there’s too few good female role models.”
Ms Brown said she hopes that in 10 years’ time, her business will be “bigger, stronger and better”, but she wants the culture of her business, with its close-knit group of staff and clients, to remain.
“I’m not here to go out and to tick off all the awards, and I don’t want to be a 50-people practice,” she said. “So I don’t have any dreams of being twice or three times the size.
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