“Winning the competition gave rise to a whole whirlwind of new experiences,” says Hester van der Merwe from Ultima Financial Planners, the 2020 FPI Financial Planner of the Year. “On a personal level I have been connecting with awesome people, doing things I have never done. For the practice, it has given our business development team a very positive new angle to work with.”
On 25 October this year, Hester will pass the baton to a new winner, and they will experience their own “whirlwind of new experiences” as they spend 365 days in the limelight. That’s the power of FPI’s most prestigious award, something that 2013 winner Barry O’Mahony from Veritas Wealth will testify to: “When we won, the effect on existing clients alone was extraordinary,” he says. “They were so proud of their own decision to choose us. Additional business, referrals and public engagements followed. In the years that have passed, we are still living off the title.”
Financial Planner of the Year was launched in 2000 for FPI members, and the inaugural winner was crowned in 2001: Debbie Netto-Jonker, the founder of Netto Capital and Netto Invest. “The whole team was infused with a new sense of purpose and rediscovered pride in their work,” she says, remembering that moment. “It’s something that continues to this day.”
Back when Debbie won, the media was filled with stories about people suffering the consequences of inappropriate financial advice. The mainstay of the industry at the time was the sale of risk and investment products, often recklessly and with disregard for the people who were buying said products. Financial Planner of the Year changed that, shifting the focus from commission-based sales to fee-based advice, with the client’s financial wellbeing front and centre.
The award also highlighted the importance of professionalism in the industry and went a long way to reverse the negative public perception that had dogged financial planning in the past.
“When we won, the effect on existing clients alone was extraordinary.”
Over the years, the competition has evolved to become even more stringent. Besides the standard client testimonials, finalists also have to have financial plans assessed, and they are judged on competency, practice management skills, knowledge of the wider industry and their ability to be a spokesperson for the profession.
Financial Planner of the Year is not the only FPI award. At this year’s Gala Dinner, winners in five other categories will also be announced:
FPI Professional Practice of the Year: BDO were the inaugural winners of this new award in 2020, which recognises that successful financial planning is always a team effort.
Diversity and Inclusion: This award honours an individual who goes to great lengths to raise awareness about the financial planning profession in diverse communities. Last year, Didintle Mokonoto, a writer and financial inclusion strategist, was the winner.
Harry Brews’ Award: Previously the Chairman’s Award, this award was introduced in 2010 to celebrate a remarkable individual who has served the financial planning profession over a lifetime. In 2020, the winner was former divisional executive of regulatory policy at the FSCA, Caroline Da Silva.
It Starts with Me: This award highlights a financial planner who works tirelessly to promote the CFP® certification. Last year’s winner was Francois du Toit, the founder and Director of PROpulsion Learning and Technology.
Top Candidate: This award recognises the year’s top-performing candidate in the FPI’s CFP® Professional Competency exam. 2020’s brainiac was Brandon Else.
Why awards matter
FPI’s awards are important for a number of reasons. By entering, CFP® professionals become better at what they do. By pitting themselves against the best in their field, they are immediately made aware of areas they can improve on, and how they can better their client service.
Should they win, or even be shortlisted, their reputation will be instantly enhanced, and they will benefit from incredible marketing opportunities. They will simultaneously begin to attract top talent to their practice and existing staff will be motivated to go the extra mile for clients.
But perhaps most importantly, the awards move the whole industry forward. Recognising the outstanding achievements of colleagues raises the bar for all financial planners and practices, and is central to achieving FPI’s vision of better financial planning for all South Africans.
This year’s Gala Dinner is imminent… Who will be smiling in 2021?