School never out for award-winning financial planner
Source: Professional Planner Magazine 14/11/16
Every bit of success that Simon Clifford has enjoyed in his life comes back to his education.
The partner with Adviser fp, which recently won Practice of the Year at the Lonsdale awards, has spent a decade enrolled in one course or another, with his studies in financial planning complemented by an MBA.
“Education is everything; it’s the centre and the hub, and it’s the future of the industry,” he says. “And I think if I have enjoyed a measure of success in life, I owe it to education.
“The MBA didn’t necessarily give me any more knowledge about financial planning, but it taught me a lot about how to run a business.”
Clifford values education so highly because he has seen how it – alongside a bit of pluck and dash – fundamentally changed the course of his life.
When he was at school in North Sydney, he was bright but unfocused. “I left before finishing Year 12 because I was having too much fun at school and knew I wasn’t on the right path,” he says.
There was nothing wrong with his work ethic, however. Clifford was, and remains, a keen motorcross enthusiast and he took a paper route, and worked in a fruit shop and the local butchers, to raise money to fund his race meets.
Excelled as a butcher
When he left school, he took an apprenticeship with his local butchery and excelled: he won Apprentice of the Year through East Sydney Tech and was promoted to shop manager by the age of 21.
“I was earning great money, had a convertible car and about $30,000 in the bank,” he says.
Clifford had an inkling, however, that his future might lay in another field. He would read the Australian Financial Review religiously every day in the tearoom, and already had a small share portfolio.
Eventually, he took a job as a night porter at a Sydney hotel, and this is where fate intervened.
One night, he was called to deliver some club sandwiches and beers to a room of inebriated suits.
“Their ties were pulled off to the side and they were slightly drunk and disheveled, and one of them asked me how I spent my money,” he says.
“So I went through my share portfolio and stocks and they looked gobsmacked. One of them gave me a card and told me there was a job for me if I wanted it.”
Clifford dismissed the offer as a drunken tomfoolery, but he called the number on Monday morning anyway. “I had nothing to lose,” he says.
Excelled as a salesman
The job ended up involving selling insurance for a US insurance firm, which Clifford excelled at immediately, becoming the number one agent among the new interns within six weeks.
He went on to join MLC as an insurance agent, but it wasn’t until he joined the same financial advice firm where his brother, Michael, worked that everything fell into place.
“It was a non-aligned firm, and I wasn’t just representing MLC,” he says. “It meant, too, that I could talk to people about investing as well as insurance.”
Clifford was in good company, and he wanted to make sure he rose to the challenge. “That was the point that I realised I needed to start all of my education,” he says. “The more I studied the more I had in my arsenal to talk to clients about.”
While he is passionate about education, Clifford values interpersonal skills just as highly.
“Education is the basis for a more professional industry and it plays a central role, but that comes with a caveat,” he says. “You still need to be able to sit across the table from a client, look them in the eye and have a good conversation with them.”
Name of firm: Adviser fp
Name of licensee (if not self-licensed): Lonsdale
Years in the industry (previous jobs?): 26 years as a financial planner
Academic qualifications: Certificate Financial Markets, Dip FP, MBA,
Ernst & Young Prize Dux of State “Understanding Company Reports” in 1993.
Accreditations: Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Accredited Adviser FBA (Family Business Australia).
Professional association memberships: Financial Planning Association (FPA).