Meeting my mystery client.

 In Gender equality

The world is a funny place sometimes. I had a slightly strange and yet incredibly gratifying experience in the last few weeks. I’m not a big believer in fate at any real level, I believe in hard work and preparation mixed with luck and perseverance. However sometimes the universe seems to speak and say, you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. It’s a nice story so I thought I would share it.

The story has its origins in September 2014, I had quit my job in the corporate world and set myself to do something new. To be honest I didn’t know exactly what that would be, it was probably going to be more of the same just somewhere different, after 10 years I was ready to move on and the opportunity of a redundancy was too good to refuse.

I thought I would do some consulting work in the financial services sector, though to be honest this was rather ill-defined. I took myself off to a Women’s networking event at the local council, I’m not sure what I expected but I thought it was a good place to practice my pitch, listen to an interesting speaker and not much more. Most of the women at that event were local businesses with little connection to what I was trying to do, but they were lovely and I enjoyed chatting to them about what they did and the challenges they faced. When they asked me what I did I bumbled something fairly incomprehensible about business consulting to the financial planning, insurance and superannuation sector and they gave appropriately glazed looks back at me, smiled and nodded. One lady at the end of the night came back to me and asked, so ‘do you still do financial planning?’ ‘No, no I replied, I don’t think I’ll return to that’. She said that it was a shame, and mentioned that she had a friend who needed a good female financial adviser.

Over the days that followed this niggled at me. Why were there so few women in financial planning? Why do women feel frustrated in the industry? Why isn’t the industry more accepting of women who want to work in it part-time? Why does financial planning not work for women as clients? What is it that happens in the marketing and the actual client experience that puts women off or leaves them dissatisfied, disappointed or disadvantaged? Having worked in the industry for the last 14 years the answers to those questions were not that hard to find.

Then the creative side of my brain kicked into gear. In the weeks that followed I started to imagine a financial planning service that actually worked for women, as clients and advisers. A service that removed the power imbalances in the financial planning relationship. That treated all clients with respect and didn’t assume that the female was disinterested or disengaged. A service that could be trusted to be supportive and non-judgemental at a time when women feel at their most vulnerable. A service that supported and encouraged women to feel empowered in their financial decision making, who could appropriately mix high level technical taxation and investment strategies with down to earth discussions about cash flow and spending management. I started to think about a business that could be built from the ground up around the preferences and needs of the women who would work in it, as well as use the service. One that could design systems and process to support women who wanted to work part-time. A business that truly understood the desires and barriers that its clients face and meet them at a time and place that worked for them. A service that understood the power that emotion plays in money and dealt with honesty, practicality and inspiration, helping women to face their fears instead of preying on them. A service that truly helped women develop their financial security and independence.

As the months went by I analysed the market like the true MBA graduate that I was. I researched and networked, modelling, prototypes and market research were my home. One of the toughest decisions in business however is the decision to launch. While I have always been fascinated by business, I was the daughter of a small business owner and had never personally had the desire to own my own business. I never had those rose coloured glasses. However, I felt it was a concept that was very hard to shake. I longed for someone to pay me to build this, because I thought I was much more comfortable being the employee and manager, even managing director, but not the owner. A few ‘real jobs’ were dangled in front of me, but I struggled to give up my women’s financial planning idea, I had found my thing and did not want to let it go. I’m not sure what trigger would have made me start the business, but in a lovely quirk of fate I received an email from an old friend 24 hours after re-registering myself with the Financial Planners Association. She had been looking for a planner and wanted to know if I was available. It never ceases to amaze me that had she searched their website just two days earlier, my name would not have been there, I never would have received that email. Would I have taken that chance and launched the business? I won’t ever truly know.

The intervening 18 months has been an amazing time. I have learnt so much about the fundamentals of small business. So many small business lessons learned from my Mum came back to me about staying positive, investing for the future, treating all enquiries with due respect even when they are not going to be your clients. I have taken my professional networking to a new level, building relationships with men and women from many different industries, finding out how their businesses work, keeping an open mind about what people have to teach you and looking for ways to help each other and collaborate. I have learned so much about social media and marketing, using the classroom principles of marketing and branding to build the Finance Women brand that can consistently articulate what it is about and to deliver on what it promises. Finally, I have built a wonderful base of clients who are delightful to work with. These women are passionate and honest, creative and warm, humorous and inquisitive. I’ve enjoyed sharing their lives and been happy to share my own experiences and fallibility with them.

Last week, I met a new client. She had found me through Google. She didn’t know exactly what she was looking for, but when she saw my website, she knew that was what she needed. When we sat down to speak, she told me that a strange thing had happened the night before. She had told her friend that she couldn’t meet for coffee because she was meeting her new financial planner. Her friend, in some psychic type manoeuvre, guessed my name. In fact, she had met me at a local business networking event about 18 months ago. It turns out that my new client’s friend was in fact the lady who had asked me about a financial planning service for women. The friend she spoke about was sitting in front of me.

On the back of a one-line question, I built a business for a woman I had never met and knew nothing about, other than she needed a good female financial planner. 18 months later she found me on Google, and felt I was exactly what she had been searching for.

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