The Royal Commission prompted advisers to focus on enhancing the client experience, but last year’s Money Management Women in Financial Services Award’s Rising Star winner, Sunitha Chamala, is already ahead of the eight-ball, tailoring specialist technical advice for her clients to achieve their broader lifestyle goals.
Her role as a strategy adviser at Elston is to provide clients with specialist technical advice on all aspects of wealth planning that is tailored to their individual circumstances, and it’s something she says is crucial to long-term financial success.
“Strategic advice assists in maintaining a strong connection between the client’s individual circumstances and their underlying investments,” said Chamala.
It involves collaborating with professional partners like accountants and solicitors, optimising income, utilising tax structures where appropriate, taking risks, and having the right mix of assets.
It’s important, she says, because what clients need from their advisers can vary, with some needing peace of mind that they’re on the right track and others seeking a long-term relationship and a disciplined plan to accumulate and preserve wealth over time.
What’s key to technical advice, though, is that while those delivering it may only actively manage a portion of their clients’ overall assets, they must always consider these in the context of their clients’ position.
“This includes taking into consideration their other financial assets, their family situation, their personal attitudes and beliefs and their lifestyle goals,” she says.
Looking at investments in isolation is a meaningless exercise, and alone, they’re a means to an end, she says.
“What drives good advice is a trusted relationship and a deep understanding of clients’ fears, hopes and expectations. Clients will be more successful if they are engaged in the advice process and are put in a position where they are able to make informed decisions about their own financial futures.”
Something that underpins her understanding of advice is her extensive education. Chamala is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), a Self-Managed Super Fund Specialist, has a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Accounting and Finance, and has completed an Advanced Diploma of Financial Services.
“I believe that education is an important stepping stone to being a trusted adviser,” she said. “Without a degree, I would have found entering the financial planning industry quite challenging.”
While she says there’s no doubt much of what she learned over time stemmed from her experience meeting and working with clients, completing her Bachelor’s degree provided her with sound base knowledge as well as a broader understanding of commerce and economics.
“Completing the CFP Certification Program and attaining the Self Managed Super Fund Specialist Adviser accreditation has developed my technical knowledge and are powerful symbols to my clients of my commitment to education, professionalism and high ethical standards.”
And her advice to financial advice firms? Chamala says female advisers are being increasingly sought after, and firms should adapt their business models to cater to them.
“The advice that I would give to financial advice firms is to understand what drives female advisers and cater to those needs. This will be highly dependent on the individual, but I have found that businesses with a team focus, social atmosphere, flexible working hours and both qualitative and quantitative KPIs have appealed to me in the past.”