Nicola Beswick had her career mapped out. After completing a masters of science in genetics she combined her background with a strong interest in law to forge a path in intellectual property law in New Zealand.
When her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 55, however, Beswick was exposed to the benefits of financial planning.
“That’s essentially the reason I got into financial advice,” she tells Professional Planner. “Fortunately Dad had an income protection policy, so when everything happened it made me realise the importance financial planners have in peoples’ lives.”
She says she felt “selfish” considering a career move amidst the trauma of her father’s illness, but eventually realised that moving to advice would put her in a position to help others who, like her father, would benefit from sound planning,
“I started learning about advice when I was still in the legal world and realised there was so much good planners can do,” she recalls. “You can change the course of someone’s life if you get them onto the right insurance or help them put more into super at the right time.”
Seven years later, Beswick is now a senior financial adviser at mid-sized Melbourne practice FMD Financial. The firm has over 20 advisers running a holistic advice model with more than $1 billion of client funds under advice.
Beswick had to pay her dues, working in paraplanning while she got a handle on the intricacies of advice. But it’s an experience she wouldn’t trade.
“It gave me a really good background in terms of the context of the information you need when talking to clients,” she says. “You also get pretty familiar with SOAs, which comes in handy!”
Along the way, she started giving back. Beswick is a board member of the Pro Bono Financial Advice Network (PFAN), which helps connect advisers willing to give pro bono advice with people experiencing financial hardship – particularly where MS or other progressive neurological diseases are involved.
Beswick says the experience with her father and the ongoing work she does with PFAN has helped her become more empathetic with clients.
“You can understand if someone is going through an emotional time,” she says. “I’ve dealt with a lot of clients that have gone through trauma and divorce and things like that. Sometimes the greatest thing you can do for someone is just listen to them.”
The help advisers give clients is something she’d love to see get more attention.
“The good that financial planners do is sometime missed but that’s because media in general sell sensational news,” she explains. “That’s why I like talking about what we do and the pro bono advice network, it’s really important to me.”
Getting on with it
As a relatively new entrant in the advice industry, Beswick has a fresh perspective on the issues facing advisers. The dark days of the royal commission might be two years back, she says, but building trust is still the biggest challenge for advisers – especially with new clients.
“The royal commission has been front of mind for people,” Beswick says. “It means new clients are a little bit wary.”
The industry is headed in the right direction, she believes, with the FASEA education mandate bringing advisers on par with other respected professionals like lawyers and doctors. “And that’s where we should be,” she adds.
The pushback on tougher compliance, ethics and education standards from some corners of the industry shouldn’t hide the fact that the silent majority of advisers are on board with the changes, she reckons.
“I think the vast majority of advisers are just getting on with it,” Beswick says. “If we want to get to a higher plane we need to set a benchmark for that so we’re taken seriously from a consumer perspective.”
Beswick says she’s booked in to take the next FASEA adviser exam, which she put off while completing her Certified Financial Planner designation. She still has “a couple” of units to go to attain degree equivalency, but will start a Masters in Financial Planning directly after the exam which will make her a fully qualified adviser well before the cut-off date in 2026.
A real privilege
The industry is in a good place, Beswick reckons, but it still has issues to work through. The debate around conflicts is “tricky”, she comments, but crucial to the integrity of the industry given that it’s addressed in FASEA’s code of ethics.
Conflicts always exist where a product is being recommended, she believes, but the imperative is with the adviser to always prioritise the interests of the client.
“If you’re doing that and you explain it and the client can see the benefit then I don’t think people should be concerned from a legislative perspective,” she says.
That job – explaining things to people – is what Beswick identifies as the best part of her day.
“I love talking to my clients,” she says. “You’re almost like family to them, it’s a real privilege.”