Becoming an adviser at the most difficult time for the industry has only reinforced Stellar Wealth founder Nicole Gardner’s belief in maintaining high professional standards.

Gardner worked in banking for 10 years then decided she wanted to become a financial adviser, doing undergraduate study, a master’s degree and completing the certified financial planner (CFP) designation.

“I guess I became an adviser at the point where it was most difficult to become one,” Gardner tells Professional Planner.

“Things are getting easier now, they’re relaxing the university degree requirements and they’re making the exam easier.”

Gardner is referring to adviser exam changes from earlier this year that converted the exam to multiple choice, along with draft legislation that promotes greater flexibility for tertiary education requirements, and the experience pathway.

Gardner is a big believer in the education standard and “loves” that financial advice is becoming a fully fledged profession.

“The thing that’s missing is we need the public to see it as a profession as well,” Gardner says.

“If you ask any clients who’ve actually dealt with a financial adviser, they’ll rave about their adviser and the results they’ve gotten, their trustworthiness.”

Gardner says the reputation of advisers has improved because of the steps the industry has taken to professionalise, citing the education standard and Code of Ethics.

“The minimum requirement is the [bachelor’s] degree, and I chose to do the master’s and the CFP because I want to give my clients the absolute best advice possible,” Gardner says.