Nicole Heales has spent the last seven years building up a reputable and successful planning business and, at the age of 52, she can finally say she is “doing what she’s supposed to be doing with her life”.
It’s been a long slog, and her achievements came about not through promotion, cronyism or luck, but from a distaste for sloppy work, sexism and bad business practices.
Take, for example, the first time she went to see a few less-than-professional planners when she was in her mid-30s.
“I didn’t have a lot of money compared with their clients and I think the planners couldn’t see much point in me becoming a client,” Heales says. “I didn’t understand a word they were saying and I thought that I could definitely do a better job.”
So Heales, who was working in intellectual property law at the time, decided to become a planner. She went on to work for a couple of Melbourne businesses that gave her an insight into what not to do.
“They were quite sexist and there were not a lot of women in senior roles,” she says. “In the end, I was earning $60,000 a year and pretty much running this other planner’s business for him.”
Once again, Heales had an “I could do this better” moment and quit her job to establish her own planning business.
She didn’t buy a book of clients, preferring to start from scratch and build up over many months.
Looking back, she’s glad she leapt when she did. The older she gets the more autonomy becomes important to her.
“Running your own planning business means you’re in control, and you’re not justifying your job to someone else every day,” she says. “When you’re 50, do you really want to work for someone else? I didn’t want to go to sales meetings and talk about targets, I wanted to take the skills I have acquired over 20 years and apply them in my business.
“I also wanted to choose the people I work with, and not have to deal with people who don’t listen. It also allows me to run the kind of business I want to run and I would never recommend a product to anyone that I wouldn’t also recommend to my parents.”
Heales also tailors her advice to suit women, as female financial literacy is a cause that is close to her heart.
“I have both male and female clients, but I do find that women approach money quite differently, so the tone of the conversation changes,” she explains. “Women are concerned about security. If they’re married, they want to know they would be OK if something happened to their husband.
“And I think they want the feeling of being in control, but I don’t think a lot of men talk to women this way.
“If a couple come into my office, I always make sure the woman leaves with a good understanding of what we were talking about and has her concerns addressed, too.”
Heales also offers her services as a mortgage broker to clients, and admits to being concerned at times by the inflated state of the property market.
“You do see a lot of people who are heavily indebted,” she says. “Wage growth is stagnant, but there are young people borrowing quite a bit of money just to get into the housing market, which is why I am so cautious with what I think young people can borrow.
“I think all it would take would be a few interest rate rises and we could see some trouble.
“I genuinely hope, though, that I’m wrong about this.”
Name of firm: Nicole Heales Financial
Name of licensee: Capstone Financial Planning
Time in the industry (Previous roles?): 12 years; before joining the industry, Heales spent 12 years in top-tier law firms, specialising in intellectual property law
Academic qualifications: Masters in financial planning (with distinction), mortgage broking Certificate IV
Professional association memberships: Association of Financial Advisers and the Finance Brokers Association of Australia
TOPICS: Capstone Financial Planning, Nicole Heales