Thuli Nkomo, a Private Wealth Manager at NFB Private Wealth Management, grew up in a community where people believed the only safe place to keep money was in the bank and where they only consulted a financial planner to buy a funeral policy. That inspired her passion for educating people about the importance of well-rounded financial planning and for helping them to grow their wealth. We spoke to Thuli about her career in financial services and her advice for women who want to take control of their financial futures.
Q: Please tell us a bit about your background and how you became a financial planner.
I completed my BComm Accounting degree at University of Johannesburg in 2009, then took my first job as a fund accountant the following year. This gave me a good grounding in preparing financial statements, management accounts and handling tax queries. But after three years, I started looking for a position in the private wealth sector because that was where my passion lay.
I applied for a financial planner assistant role with NFB in 2013 because I knew it would give me a foot in the door. At the same time, I fast-tracked my training and built my industry knowledge by studying for a Post Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning, specialising in Investment planning. In 2016, I became a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) with the Financial Planning Institute, and NFB promoted me to my dream job as a Private Wealth Manager.
Q: What are the highlights of the job?
I enjoy meeting people from different walks of life and consulting with them on their journeys to financial wellness. It makes my day when a client smiles at me because we have implemented a financial planning solution together that makes them feel that they have taken charge of their future. I’m also excited about taking my knowledge and experience back to my family and community, educating them about financial planning.
Q: What advice would you offer young women looking at a career in wealth management or financial planning?
Don’t be put off by the fact that this is still a male-dominated industry – the picture is changing fast and there is plenty of room for women in the sector. Your people skills need to be as finely tuned as your financial expertise – you need to have the empathy to talk to people about a topic that many of us find sensitive. It’s also important to be a great listener, so that you can provide the right advice for the client’s circumstances. Finally, treating your clients as you would like to be treated will help ensure your success.
Q: Is the wealth management sector doing enough to promote diversity? What more should be done?
Most definitely. Women have been chosen as the FPI Financial Planner of the Year for the past two years running, which shows that women are making an impression on the sector. Many key employers are also aggressively recruiting women as wealth managers and financial planners, or upskilling those that started in advisory support roles so they can become private wealth managers.
Our company recruits interns from The Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA) graduate program, for instance. The programme offers opportunities for underprivileged graduates with financial planning qualifications and most of them are female. I would like to see the industry market the sector to high school youth – I was not aware of the career opportunities in the field until I started working.
Q: Do you see any differences in how your male and female clients approach investment?
Women are often more conservative than men in constructing their portfolios. In my experience, men tend to take higher risk in order to maximise their capital growth, while women tend to minimise risk. I enjoy working with clients who are open and transparent about their finances, because it is easier to assist them with their financial planning needs.
Q: What are your top five tips for a woman seeking to achieve financial independence and build their wealth for the future?
1. Start by paying off debts with high interest rates as quickly as possible -- unsecured loans, clothing accounts, credit cards and so on. Try to avoid most debt, apart from healthy debt like your home loan and car instalment.
2. Create a savings account to provide for rainy days, so you don’t need to turn to a lender in the case of an emergency.
3. Consider putting money aside in a dedicated savings or investment account for your children’s tertiary education.
4. Plan for retirement, making use of the retirement planning tax benefits.
5. Live within your means.