Tara Ross is a positive influence on the traditional stereotypes that have been present in the financial services industry for decades.
Increasing costs of delivering advice, a new wave of advice consumers, significant market consolidation and a limited talent pool has created opportunities for bright young talent to take the hot seats across the sector.
For GPS Wealth, appointing Tara Ross represented an important shift to ensure that leadership aligned to the significantly younger than average and more diverse client base it serves.
“GPS Wealth also has a high proportion of female advisers, currently almost 30 per cent which is proof of how far we have come,” Ross tells Professional Planner. “We’re seeing a new generation of financial advisers not only participating in the profession, but excelling and building highly successful businesses, there has been a significant shift in what a financial adviser looks like.”
Like many, she admits she fell into the financial services sector. She grew up in New Zealand, moving to Queensland not long after finishing high school.
She worked her way through the ranks after starting out as a practice support manager, eventually moving to Sydney when working for BT Financial Group, and later this year will complete her Master of Financial Planning with Griffith University.
Ross admits she’s had her fair share of professional challenges, recalling her involvement in shutting down licenses. She admits she became disillusioned by the finance industry for a period.
She opted for a new challenge, moving into a senior management position within a stockbroking firm prior to joining GPS Wealth.
“The combination of being in the right place at the right time and having really good people around me gave me faith that I could take on that role,” she says.
Before long, the opportunity to move back into advice came along, which she grabbed with both hands.
“By this time, I felt reinvigorated and ready for a new challenge,” she says. Ross was appointed as head of GPS Wealth in September 2021.
Ross has been buoyed by senior management putting their faith in her, trusting her judgement and leadership skills.
“The focus on client outcomes and engagement as well as the opportunity to lead an already successful and well-respected network in an exciting time really appealed to me,” she says.
Leading in financial services means being able to work at a fast pace, adapt and being able to deal with constant change and noise.
“We have been through the period of difficult regulatory change, and there’s now an opportunity to shift focus back to business efficiencies and client outcomes,” she says. “To be successful you need to be surrounded by really smart and honest people who are always going to challenge you, but support you at the same time.”
She says there is a “huge opportunity” over the coming years to rebuild public trust in the financial services sector – a journey she’s grateful to be part of.
“The key to leading during this phase of transformation is to stay super focused, be clear about what success looks like, spend energy on the controllables and hold a genuine belief not just in what you do but why you do it,” she says.
She’s the first to admit she’s a perfectionist at heart and working hard is natural when you have that self-belief.
“It’s been rewarding but also challenging for me, particularly over the past few years as I’ve moved into a leadership role to take things with a grain of salt and not personalise outcomes that don’t go the way I envisaged,” she says.
The current environment presents an opportunity for a new wave of leaders emerge, she says.
“Significant changes to our profession means we need strong leadership who look for new ways of thinking and new ways to achieve better outcomes.”
For Ross, it’s about continuing to learn because being a younger woman in advice comes with its own challenges.
“But that’s what gets me up in the morning,” she says. “There’s nothing more empowering and motivating to me than being the perceived underdog.”
She believes diversity in the workplace needs to extend beyond simply gender. “Hiring people from a diversity of backgrounds, ages, upbringing, culture and thought processes is evidence of a strong and inclusive team,” she says.