Aviwe Gijana, 26, tells us about her job as an associate consultant at Alexander Forbes.
I finished matric in 2006. I then studied for Bcom Finance and Investments degree and honours at the University of the Western Cape in 2010 and 2011, as well as a post-graduate diploma in Certified Financial Planning with the University of Free State in 2012. I did not have a prosperous background; my parents earned just enough to cover our expenses. I realised that my life was similar to that of a lot of South Africans – people get employed and earn just enough to sustain their extravagant lives of debt. Hence, I studied investments and financial planning to learn how to add value to people’s lives by helping them manage the little they have and obtain a financial breakthrough. A lot of people believe that they must earn a lot of money in order to invest. I, therefore, believe that it is my calling to change that mindset, especially in young adults. Giving back to the community to me means that I offer proper and professional advice that is beneficial to society. My motto is that we may not know what the future holds, but we learn from the past to profit in the present; and from the present, to live a better future.
My first job was at Old Mutual. I was paid a market-related salary of R4 500.
Now, as an associate consultant at Alexander Forbes, I give professional advice to clients and generally test the market before quoting them, so as to ensure they have financial and investment advice most appropriate to their requirements; and that the advice is the best available. I make written recommendations based on client responses to risk profile questionnaire and discussions. I educate clients on basic investment principles, i.e. risk versus reward, market sentiment, trends, performance (offshore/local), benchmarks, etc. I source new business through referrals.
When it comes to the challenges I face, the financial investment industry is very different from the traditional ways of increasing income. On average, this industry is perceived with a certain degree of mistrust, especially in developing countries. There is also this stigma – financial advisers are normally viewed as salespeople. I overcome this by being as professional and transparent as possible with my clients, making communication very important in this industry. I cannot emphasise that enough. I always disclose all that needs to be disclosed (advantages and disadvantages of a specific investment option). I always make it clear from the beginning that there is no such thing as ‘get rich quickly’ in the financial investment industry. It’s hard work, and you have to be very patient. I also have to comply with the relevant regulations, so I make sure that I keep all my records up to date for reference purposes.
The best thing about my job is the impact I make on people’s lives concerning their financial well-being. I love giving financial education to remove the stereotype that investing is only for the rich. The worst thing about my job is that not everyone likes to be told what to do with their money. So, once in a while, I have a bad day at the office.
To survive this industry, you must be passionate about investments and finance, and have a great understanding of both. You need to be a very good communicator and able to make follow-ups. As an adviser, you need to be a good listener too. Sometimes, it is those things that a client does not tell you that are the most crucial. So, once you have mastered the art of listening to what has not been said by your client, then you will be fine.
Remuneration packages differ in the industry. You may find a salary-based package with a bonus structure, or a fee-based package where you are rewarded with regards to both new business and taking care of an existing client’s needs. Some organisations may pay you using a combination of the two.
If you want to follow my path, you must be prepared for client facing (working face-to-face with clients). At all times, you need to be updated on new regulations and what is happening in the markets. Informing a client using outdated information would mean that you are incompetent. You must have integrity – be honest, trustworthy and transparent. Last but not least, you must be accountable, meaning you must be prepared to take responsibility for your work and push beyond boundaries.