Planner profile pic.jpgIn journalism it’s known as “joining the dark side”: when a reporter leaves the job behind to join the industry they’ve been writing about.

Sometimes they fall victim to the mistaken belief that the grass is greener; in other cases it’s because a reporter enjoys a privileged position and gets to know an industry or business closely, and can make an informed decision.

Victoria Young joined the dark side this year, when she left journalism and enrolled in AMP’s Horizons Financial Planning Academy.

Young was then deputy editor of a financial services industry publication. She says she’d thought about changing careers long before she found out about the academy. “After doing some research I thought my only way into the industry would be to join one of the large banks or dealer groups and work my way up through the ranks from client service officer to paraplanner to financial adviser,” she says.

“I found out about Horizons…after I inter- viewed [AMP Financial Planning CEO] Michael Guggenheimer and wrote an article about how successful it had been. Frankly, Horizons offered the only viable avenue into financial planning. There were no other large, reputable Australian financial services companies offering an ‘earn-while-you- learn’ financial planning boot camp.

“A work/life balance was one of the main things that attracted me to a career in financial planning. Through my previous job I’d met so many financial advisers who had terrific careers without having to sacrifice a quality family life.

“Journalism is certainly not nine-to-five work, and neither is financial planning. You’ve got to react when the story breaks or be there when a client needs you. The impression I got from meeting and interviewing planners was that they worked hard and played hard, so they enjoyed a good family life, which is ultimately the most important thing to me.

“A passion for people attracted me to financial planning. How extraordinary would it be if my skills could help people make smart decisions about their money and make a huge difference in their life? If, by following my advice, they could afford to put their children through university, live out their retirement in comfort or take control of their financial future.”

Young says she believed establishing a career as a financial planner would also be a way to become “a respected part of the community, to be my clients’ trusted adviser [and was] the opportunity to stand out as being a successful female in a male-dominated industry”.

“Also, to be part of the new generation of financial advisers who are building up the industry’s reputation and turning it into a respected profession that sits alongside accounting, law and medicine,” she says.

But first there was the issue of actually becoming a planner, and that involved an intensive 14 weeks of study. “My first impression of Horizons was one of surprise,” Young says.

“There was such an eclectic mix of people of all different ages from a myriad of backgrounds. We had a former professional footballer, an ex-under- writer, a horticulturalist and a teacher of ancient history and Spanish.

“The curriculum was intense and was packed with three-hour lectures, assignments and tutorials. Horizons put together a curriculum from the best financial planning tutors in the business, including Ian Taylor from Oratrix, Matt Fogarty and Graham Peatey from The Encore Group, and Leyla Banaei from Adviser Quest, as well as some of the top local AMP financial planners and staffers.

“The course was varied, challenging and stimulating. As provisional planners, we had substantial support from the Horizons staff and our planner development manager, Deborah Hickman. The course kicked off with a heavy focus on soft skills training and then progressed into technical knowledge and strategy.” Young admits that her time at the academy was “one of the most stressful times in my life”.

“It’s tough to give up a job you enjoy and leave behind great colleagues to try something new,” she says.

“During Horizons I had a few ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’ moments. Also, it’s difficult to learn as an adult, and there’s a lot of information to take in. There are so many rules, regulations, processes, procedures and strategies to learn as a financial planner.

“Despite our disparate backgrounds, all the provisional planners became very tight-knit because of the shared challenges Horizons presented. We all helped each other through – celebrating the wins and commiserating the losses. It’s been a terrific grounding for real life planning.

“In my past life as a journalist I’d muddled my way through, building rapport and gaining people’s trust. The course really polished and honed my relationship-building skills. Horizons has given me a good grounding and now I have to keep up the momentum of study and on-the-job training.”

Young went through the academy before it introduced a formal internship element to the pro- gram. She says an internship would have “boosted my learning”, but in any case, leaving the academy and venturing into the real world she felt “buoyed by confidence and excited about my new career”.

Young moved from Sydney to – coincidentally – Young in country NSW, to join a practice owned and run by Justine Back.

“I’d always wanted to work under a brilliant mentor and when I heard of Justine Back’s reputation I sought her out,” Young says. “She’s a CFP [Certified Financial Planner] with 18 years’ experience, and was the first female member of the prestigious Amicus Club.

“Back to Back Financial Planners has won two national AMP accolades – the 2005 Innovation & Financial Planning Excellence Award and the 2007 Excellence of Advice (Wealth Accumulation) Award. It has a strategy team managed by Justine’s husband, Rob Back.

“[But] the best thing about going through AMP’s Horizons Financial Planning Academy is that I still have their support and I can phone my colleagues and staff at the academy any time for advice and support.”

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