“How do you prepare for a job that doesn’t yet exist, using technology that hasn’t yet been created, to solve problems we don’t yet know about?” – quote from “Did You Know?” – download 2016 video here.
For those like me born in the 1960’s, who would have predicted the tremendous economic boom and transition to the digital economy ahead.
The two careers I’ve had so far didn’t exist back then. So how do you prepare for an unknown future, where what you are learning today, is likely to be outdated tomorrow?
Being in the right place at the right time and seizing the opportunities has been the key to my own and the success of many of my contemporaries. So what I’ve learned is you need to take control of your own career and have the confidence to give things a go as with evolving industries it’s new for all of us!
- Growing up in suburban Melbourne
A typical family, dad the breadwinner, mum raising the kids, home on a quarter acre block, with a Holden Monaro in the driveway. Life was less structured, out playing until dark with no mobile phones keeping tabs or “play dates”!
Each week, mum would write a long letter to her mother. Newspaper clippings and magazine articles filled the envelope. Today we curate content and share on social media!
When I left home, all I had was my bedroom furniture, some old crockery and a couple of beanbags. Kids today expect a similar standard of living to their parents, putting an Ikea furniture package on credit and the latest big screen TV.
- Carefree school days
I enjoyed learning new things, and an early report card said I had “an inquiring mind!” I don’t remember any career counselling, but being one of the smart kids, I did math’s and science. On reflection I probably should have done business and psychology, ending up in finance and personal investing.
My extracurricular activity was music. Playing the flute led to trips with the school band, joining the local symphony orchestra and teaching music. This provided experience in working with a diverse range of people pulling together as a team.
I also joined the young liberals, mainly for the social aspects, but also got involved in election campaigns and state council. This was the start of making a contribution to the community and my networking journey.
There was no one from Asia around when I was growing up, just a few Greeks and Italians. Today Australia is one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world.
My first career
After my Higher School Certificate, not getting my only choice to go to the conservatorium of music, I took a local job in retail sales. Back then you could deliver your hand written resume direct to a prospective employer. Today you hope you have the right key words for search engines to find you on LinkedIn.
My first corporate job was in the city at an insurance company. Back then we searched for client policies on “microfiche”, input details on the “VDU” and had letters prepared by the typing pool. We also clocked in and out, lunch at the staff canteen and a “tea lady”!
I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew I wanted more!
Securing a role at a merchant bank, I was the settlement clerk for the Foreign Exchange dealer who joined from a US investment bank. The Australian dollar had just floated. The industry was very new, doing deals over the phone and via “telex machines” with prices coming out of squawk boxes.
The dealing sheets were handwritten, and eventually, we were able to provide market updates to clients using “fax stream!” Deals were settled via cheque, with couriers running around town. I remember one day a colleague on the money market desk took home a million dollar cheque – to show his mum!
However I found what I was learning during my part-time banking and finance degree was already becoming out of date. Helping companies who were importing and exporting to hedge their currency exposures, I wanted to know more about these businesses, many of whom were the entrepreneurs of the day, what they did and how we could help. After a decade in financial markets in Melbourne and Sydney, trading millions of dollars lacked personal meaning.
My second career
My fiancé, then husband, was earning a good income in Information Technology back when computers took up a whole room. I’d been referred to an accountant and we engaged a financial planning firm, learning how to effectively manage cash flow and debt. We leveraged into the share market, where back then the ASX index was 1,300 verses 5,300 today.
So finally, I’d found a career where you could help people and make a difference to their lives.
Financial Planning was relatively new. I started the diploma, attended industry events, and talked to a lot of successful people, which is how I continue to build knowledge today. I joined a firm in my current career which had a financial planning arm and set about working on a transition plan.
Back then, financial planners focused on clients about to retire, but with my personal experience, I knew we could make a bigger impact by helping people much earlier. This was my first step in looking to do things differently, becoming a Wealth Creation specialist.
- Networking as a lifelong skill
A colleague referred East Coast Business Women’s network with networking guru Robyn Henderson. I then heard about Women in Finance in QLD and ended up setting up the NSW branch.
I was able to build a range of skills from engaging members and sponsors, business planning, marketing and events, and working with amazing speakers.
When I moved to my next role, Women in Finance was part of the value I brought, but interestingly, when some committee members changed jobs they dropped out. Today Women In Banking & Finance is a major industry association.
Invited to be on the Financial Planning Association’s annual convention committee, I also set up their career expo, and became a judge for the inaugural Value of Advice awards. However, I wanted to have a bigger impact, creating awareness of the value of financial advice.
I refocused my networking to where potential clients may be, taking up an offer to be part of the American Chamber of Commerce new Women in Management committee. A range of networks followed, internally and externally, depending on development needs and interests. Networking has, and continues to be, the key to my success.
- Building a Niche
My financial planning clients were increasingly being posted overseas. Strategies such as paying down the family home and leveraging into shares and property were flipped for those living in countries such Hong Kong and Singapore with different tax regimes.
Moving into Private Banking, I was privileged to work with business leaders in managing their personal wealth. We worked closely with big four accounting firms, providing integrated strategies, across tax structuring, employee shares and cross-jurisdictional advice.
I undertook the Cultivating Advice mentoring programme which included how to build a niche, as a pull marketing strategy to attract clients to your expertise. I chose Company Directors, specifically senior executives aspiring for board careers.
The process involved interviewing a range of movers and shakers across the industry, to understand their issues and challenges, and look at how they could be addressed, resulting in my first white paper.
Next, I focused on expats, and prompted by a business colleague at PwC, promoted this as my core client value proposition. This was my second white paper, published by NAB.
- Becoming a speaker
Having attended numerous speaking courses, I finally found a programme that resonated. Thought Leaders Global with Matt Church showed “how to capture, package and deliver your IP for commercial success”. The framework helped me with simplifying complex financial concepts and how to look at information, to evolve my own thinking as a trained thought leader!
Interestingly, sometimes the skill you think you have is not how others see in you. One of the participants was incredibly successful selling BMW’s. Her skill was database management and client service strategies. Mine was identified as a networker and connector!
- Developing my curiosity about Asia
Attending my first overseas business mission to the Asian Financial Forum in 2013, with David Thomas of Think Global, I saw for myself on the ground the scale of the opportunities. My observations were:
- The financial services were like Australia twenty years ago
- Regulators will take five if not ten years to catch up
- Meanwhile, expats are living like it’s the 1980’s!
Having built many new connections, and armed with my networking and facilitation skills, I started a regular discussion group called Expat Advisors Community. We hold regular forums for professionals with internationally connected clients, across banking, tax, legal, culture, and consulting. A key benefit is “issue spotting,” enabling you to identify issues for clients outside your own profession.
In 2012, the government introduced the Significant Investor Visa (SIV) migration programme. For an investment of $5M, permanent residency can be obtained after 4 years. Without a requirement to speak English, this is attractive for those from China, so with my cross-jurisdictional experience, I seized the opportunity to learn a completely new area.
Our first SIV roadshow to migration agents saw a number of us with diverse skills and cultural backgrounds coming together with a common objective. To me, this was the epitome of a team, and how far we’d come from when I was growing up in the suburbs!
- Bringing it all together
Working with these Chinese clients, I found there was a considerable difference between Australia’s financial services regime and business culture. With specialists within my network, I compiled the booklet “Smooth Road to Travel – China to Australia.”
Produced by China PR firm AccessCN, it provides simple messages on navigating Australians financial services and migration landscapes using why, what, how, a framework I’d learned and importantly how each professional is regulated.
I set myself a goal at the start of 2015 to be on all the SIV speaking platforms in Australia, and then ran an SIV workshop in Hong Kong as part of my fourth business mission to the Asian Financial Forum this year.
The Independent Financial Advisor magazine did an article on SIV and quoted me as “arguably Australia’s most prominent SIV specialist financial advisor”. So with my inquiring mind, ability to seize new opportunities, and all the mentoring and personal development over the years, set me up to become a leader in the SIV industry.
My third career
Portfolio career is a term I first heard a number of years ago having engaged an executive coach, Peter Black, who specialises in retirement, not in the financial sense, but in reinventing and re-positioning your career for the next phase:
“What do you have to offer? What is your relevance going forward? How are you keeping up with technology?”
At a personal branding workshop whilst writing my expat paper, my good friend Brooke Alexander from The Legacy Project was discussing social media. I had no idea what she meant by “sharing”! Today I have 6,700 LinkedIn connections, curating content on China and evolving opportunities, and of course networking. I’ve recently been invited to the LinkedIn office having achieved a Social Selling Index of 83!
Now, my Expat Advisors Community website, is a conduit for events, profiles of community members and partners, and blogs sharing insights with an Asia lens. Creation of this network, initially to hang out with like-minded professionals, has become the platform for my next career that clearly wasn’t on the radar when I was at school!
- So how can you prepare for an unknown career?
Whilst you may have an idea of what you would like to do, it needs to be flexible to take advantage of evolving opportunities. Innovation comes from combining different perspectives, so it’s about collaborating, co-creating, and sharing ideas.
The internet contains an overwhelming amount of information. What is needed is ongoing learning, perspective to solve problems, and do things only humans can do. The pace of technological change may seem scary, but armed with curiosity and your unique lens, the future looks bright for those that can adapt.
- Known Unknowns
I don’t know exactly what this new phase holds for me, but I believe there is a massive shift happening.
With the knowledge obtained from being a “China groupie” over the last several years, numerous business missions, including the recent government delegation Australian Week in China, and signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), I have my “thought leaders Asia lens” on a number of evolving opportunities:
- Exporting Australia’s financial services capabilities – tapping into the increasing wealth across Asia with the various passporting and mutual recognition initiatives
- Wealth succession and philanthropy in Asia – transitioning the first generation from business to financial families
- Innovation and disruption to financial services – perspective on the massive technology changes unfolding in banking and wealth management
- Significant Investor Visa – bringing together SIV industry participants across advice, managed funds, venture capital and other professional services for an integrated client experience
- Australian delegation – to the HKTDC Asian Financial Forum in January 2017 – taking over from Think Global and engaging the funds management industry
I’m also looking to pursue Asia connected board roles and of course continuing to build the Expat Advisors Community network and partnerships across Australia, Hong Kong and China.
The only constant is change
Whilst many jobs have been superseded by technology, other opportunities are evolving, with flexible working, bringing together diverse skills for projects, and collaborative working. I’ve navigated change before and feel confident with my Expat Advisors Community platform, adaptable skills and riding the innovation wave, opportunities abound to add value.
China is moving from manufacturing and infrastructure, utilising using Australia’s resources, to services and consumerism, which provides opportunities in sectors such as financial services, tourism, aged care, food and agriculture.
For those at school today, change will be exponential. Education is focusing on STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. So maybe I was on the right track with my subjects at school, just not the right time.
Remember that quote from Darwin:
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.”
Adapted from a keynote presentation to Harvard Women in Power delegation at Parliament House on 9 May 2016. This half-day workshop featuring a range of political leaders was hosted by Liana Allan, Migration Alliance and 2014 alumna member.
You can download Stacey’s presentation slides here.