From financial adviser to financial coach – the journey and the philosophy

Heidi Schwegler, AHS Financial principal, always wanted to become a financial adviser with an underlying desire to help people make sense of their finances.

Now, 10 years into her profession, running her own practice in Parkville in Melbourne, she has reshaped the traditional path she was on, learning the importance of polishing her ‘soft’ skills and refining her communication style to truly connect with her clients.  It’s this connection married with her technical skill that underpins her success with her clients, helping them make smart decisions, put their minds at ease and change their lives.

Here she talks about her journey and work as a financial adviser, which she affectionately describes as a financial coach.

1. How did you come to be a financial coach?

At school I did work experience with a female stockbroker who explained half of her work was investing in the market for clients but the other part was helping clients reach their financial goals. I was drawn to that part of the business and I always wanted to be an adviser. Coming out of uni my technical skills were good but I didn’t have the people skills. I thought that being a BDM (business development manager) would give me the opportunity to meet clients and learn to communicate. I did that for five years and then I took over a client base from another adviser in 2008. It’s been a long journey. I injured my neck in 2013 and was out of work for a year during which time I realised I couldn’t keep going as a transactional adviser – advising on just super or insurance – I would have to become a much more engaging adviser to survive in the long term. I’ve now become a financial coach to my clients.

2.Why are you a financial coach rather than a financial adviser?

In this shifting world of advice, those advisers who work in a transactional way will find themselves ‘uberised’, the work can become robotic, automated and clients can access a lot more than they could previously. For many of my clients, when we go through the ‘financial planning process’ they find the experience enlightening, empowering and daunting all at the same time.  I need to have a robust, and often tough, conversation with them to find out what their priorities are and what they need to do to reach those goals.  I talk about a whole range of topics including their life, their finances, their non-negotiables in life and try and build something around these areas appropriate to them. It’s really about their life journey.  What you can do to enhance your current situation?  I don’t tell clients it’s coaching, I say “I’m here to help you make smart financial decisions”. As a professional industry, we have to have robust, difficult conversations with clients so that they remember these conversations and change their financial behaviours. This needs to remain top of mind every day when they are making decisions on what they can afford.  

3.   From a business point of view, what has the transition meant to you?

It put more focus on the clients we wanted to work with. We now have much deeper client relationships. We have a service relationship and most clients have come on board saying they didn’t realise we did more than super. Others have been happy to have a relationship where they pay as they go. For most Gen X clients – they want to focus on debt reduction, savings and spending and underpinning this – superannuation and structure. We have pre-retiree clients who want to know that as they move closer to retirement, they have confidence in their financial position.

4.  What’s next for you?

Currently around one-third of my clients are single women over 60. I’m keen to run a women’s morning tea focusing on financial literacy and advice – which may mean potentially expanding.


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