The very first Financial Planner of the Year

Debbie Netto-Jonker, CFP®, Financial Planner of the Year 2001, recalls what winning the award meant to her.

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I received the inaugural Financial Planner of the Year award back in 2001. This was a time when negative stories of people suffering the consequences of inappropriate financial advice filled the media. Up to this point, the sector generally only recognised the best salespeople for their selling accomplishments – not necessarily for giving the most appropriate financial advice, which led to a negative perception of the industry.

The value of advice

With the introduction of the Financial Planner of Year award, clients and prospective clients were exposed to the fact that it was possible to engage with quality advisors who used a sound advice process as the capabilities and skills of the top 10 finalists were written about, and they were invited to speak at financial planning events that were open to the public.

Determining a winner of the award was based on client testimonials, the assessment of technical advice, compliance, and practice management. The focus is on the quality of the advice given and the processes and procedures backing it up – not the number of products sold. Bruce Cameron of Personal Finance, Professor Colin Firer of UCT Graduate School of Business and the panel nominated by the Financial Planning Institute lent the award a combination of credibility and legitimacy.

Determining a winner of the award was based on client testimonials,
the assessment of technical advice, compliance, and practice management.

After being recognised with this award I found that clients became more comfortable with the value of advice and that their confidence in its process increased.

Clients now wanted to learn from us, ask questions and be empowered to make good decisions. And because clients knew that we were working in their best interests, the level of cooperation we received from them also improved. Now that people out there knew there were a few good-quality advisors, all they had to do was find them. This is where the media played such a crucial role in transforming the industry.

A long-overdue makeover

Selling risk and investment products had been the mainstay of the financial advice arena. Now, with the focus shifting to serving the best interests of the client, fee-based advice was highlighted as the alternative to the typical, commission-based form of compensation. In fact, we were referred to as “brokers” back then. A term that persists to this day and that does not do us any favours!

The Financial Planner of the Year award was one of the first initiatives that accentuated the importance of professionalism in the industry – this was before FAIS was enacted in 2002. And it encouraged others to embark on a journey to enhance client service and experience. The media gave extensive coverage to all the finalists, profiling all of us in detail. This coverage also explained what financial planning was and raised the profile of the financial advisor’s professional standing.

The Financial Planner of the Year award was one of the first initiatives that accentuated the importance of professionalism in the industry.

I must make special mention of Bruce Cameron and Laura du Preez of Personal Finance, Andrew Bradley of iPac and the FPI who sponsored the award in 2001. Their sponsorship at the very beginning demonstrated a foresight into the need to focus on the client that has largely changed how the industry operates today.

What the award meant to me

Anyone who has ever received this award will tell you that they did not win it alone! Professional financial planning is a team event. I could not have achieved this accolade without the expertise of Ian Beere and my team.

As a result of the award, the whole team was infused with a new sense of purpose and rediscovered pride in their work. Something that continues to this day. With increased credibility, we became more desirable as an employer and more attractive to prospective clients and our professional network was even more confident in referring clients to us.

Recollections of winning

  1. I felt that the value of my input became further recognised in the financial planning community.
  2. All the hard work I had put into building a practice management system was vindicated.
  3. Receiving the award reassured our clients that their financial plans were soundly designed.

Debbie Netto-Jonker, CFP®, is the founder of Netto Capital & Netto Invest