One of the biggest benefits for Anne Graham of being involved in the AFA Female Excellence in Advice awards has been a chance to get a third-party perspective on her financial planning business.

Graham, managing director of McPhail HLG Financial Planning in Melbourne, says the application process has been “a really good exercise because you get to actually have a look at what you do and how you do it, from an external person’s point of view”.

“It’s a good way to analyse your business and find out the good points and the ones you can work on,” Graham says.

So her advice to any female planner nominated for the award is “you’ve just got to go for it”.

“Put your hand up and do it,” she says.

“There’s nothing to lose – there’s no downside risk.”

Ambivalence gave way to reality

Graham (right) says she was initially ambivalent about the idea of female-only awards, but recognises that women do face challenges that their male counterparts tend not to.

“The questions are very targeted at the female angle,” she says.

“I was a bit ambivalent at first, and I put in my application that one day it might just be called the Excellence in Advice Award. But the female part of it automatically gains attention in the media, and gets the message out to female advisers that they’re not alone and that there are other female advisers and professionals in financial services. It just brings it to the fore.

“I was involved in a panel discussion for young people looking to get into financial planning – a bit of a Q&A with uni students and people changing career. The people who came to me afterwards were the women, and I’ve since been in touch with them separately, just giving them clues on how they can get into planning and what they can look for.

“I recognise that for some people it’s easier to approach women to talk about these things. I’m very happy to help, and personally, I like talking to other female planners as well. But not to the exclusion of male planners – I’m married to one.”

Role models in the making

Graham says the finalists in the awards will inevitably be regarded as potential role models for other female advisers, and for people considering entering the industry.