Sunitha Chamala, technical specialist and strategy adviser at Elston, has been named this year’s Rising Star at the 2018 Money Management Women in Financial Services Awards.
Nominated for her attention to detail and ability to effectively communicate complex strategies to help clients understand, she credited her successes to a strong foundation of technical knowledge and knack for building rapport and trust with clients, which is what led her to planning.
“The reason I specifically went down the financial planning path as opposed to, say, investment banking or accounting [because I actually have an accounting degree] is just the fact that you get to meet so many different kinds of people, which is really what drives me,” she says.
Over the last eight years, Chamala has worked to attain her certified financial planning (CFP) qualification, and achieved the highest result in Australia, which came with a $1000 prize.
Chamala says she took the prize to her grandparent’s home in Hyderabad and donated it to a government school to help high school girls go to university.
“I then came back and tried to expand on that and complete the SSA certification, so I’m a self-managed superannuation fund specialist.”
Chamala says she was driven to do this by her client-centric ethos, and if clients were to pay for advice they should receive it in the highest quality.
“And it should be in their best interest not ours,” she says.
While she has generally been supported in the industry, Chamala says being thrust into a senior role at the beginning of her career meant she has had to overcome some personal challenges but looks to other women in the industry as role models.
Chamala also found it challenging to break down first impressions as a young woman in the industry, but she has worked to leverage her strengths and use them to avoid sales tactics and allow for a more emotional, empathetic relationship with her clients.
In five years, Chamala hopes to use her experience to mentor the next generation of financial advisers and to advocate to businesses the benefits of diversifying their workforce.
“Part of this will be continuing to contribute to raising the education standards within the industry and increase Australians’ trust and respect for the profession.”