Talking ringgit and sense
When it comes to personal finance and money matters, we can sometimes be clueless in what we want to achieve. Moreover, there are many financial products out there to overwhelm us with promises of return of investment, etc.
Even if we know what we want, how we work towards our financial goals may have been through our own research, trial and error, or through advice or recommendations from close friends and family members.
Have we ever considered engaging an expert in the field to help us utilise our money?
We caught up with Gunaseelan Kannan, known as Guna, who is among a handful of licensed financial advisors in Malaysia, to learn about the role he plays in this financial space.
The role debunked
“Essentially, I provide clients with financial advice based on their requirements and needs – always with clients’ best interest in mind.
“This role involves researching and recommending clients on available and relevant products and services to ensure clients are always aware of market changes,” explains Guna, who holds a post-graduate Masters degree in Business Administration (Finance) from Multimedia University.
To execute his role effectively, Guna regularly meets clients based on appointments set by his case manager. In an introductory meeting, he will get to know his clients and their needs, and build solid relationships with them.
Based on their response, Guna will provide advice, and recommend products and services that best meet their requirements.
He also meets up with existing clients from time to time to explore further avenues of investments that are aligned with their financial goals.
The stringent process
Knowing that at the end of the day, financial advisors are also out there to secure a sale, I was skeptical as to how they operate in the best interest of clients paying for their service.
“The Malaysian regulatory bodies have very stringent requirements to become a licensed financial advisor. This is aimed to uphold high ethics and integrity of the profession,” assures Guna, who is happily married and is a proud father of a young daughter.
“It is not enough to hold a Registered Financial Planner (RFP) or Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification. The regulators will go through your personal records from the Malaysian Department of Insolvency, CCRIS (Central Credit Reference Information System) report from Bank Negara and credit profiles from CTOS, a leading credit reporting agency.
“Once these records are satisfactorily cleared, the licence, renewable on a yearly basis, is finally issued to the person,” clarifies Guna, a CFP holder and a recognised financial advisor by the Financial Planning Association of Malaysia.
The spark of interest
Coming from a humble family, Guna’s knack for numbers was identified early in his life. As a child, he used to help his father, who owned a newspaper vendor business, to sort out newspapers. He also used to help sell newspapers at one of their family stalls by the roadside before going to school.
“In secondary school, Accounting Principles was one of my favourite subjects. It is no coincidence that what I’m doing now opens the doors of opportunity to deal with numbers.
“I always look forward to sharing knowledge and helping people understand the world of finance for their own good. In this profession, I can convey my sincere intention to individuals and corporations alike of the way healthy finance should be,” Guna shares.
Source of inspiration
Asked what inspires him in this role, Guna says, “My clients inspire me. When they achieve their financial goals and they refer you to others, it shows that they value you as their financial advisor.”
The financial journey between Guna and his clients is very much anchored on trust. He believes that today’s business equates to building solid relationships and connecting with clients. Being able to fulfill clients’ financial needs ensures a long lasting professional relationship.
“I believe financial reward will follow you when you do the right thing for your clients. Clients will see your sincerity to help them, and appreciate your efforts in servicing them relentlessly and diligently,” continues Guna.
The journey thus far
Guna admittedly says that the industry is still in its infancy in Malaysia. Generally, the public lacks awareness and the necessary knowledge of financial planning, let alone the importance of engaging a credible person to help them execute a plan to achieve their financial goals.
After all, fee-based advisory services are quite new to Malaysian consumers, at least from an individual’s perspective.
“It is my personal goal to see people learn to articulate and write down their financial objectives. I hope to one day write a book on financial planning in an effort to transfer my knowledge to the masses,” replies Guna to the question of what he wants to achieve through his profession.
“I’d say that my journey as a financial advisor has just started. There is so much more to learn and accomplish in the industry and from your peers. It’s a continuous process of discovery and learning,” says Guna, who cites Robert Kiyosaki as one of his role models and a true educator.
We asked Guna what advice would he give to those who might want to explore this career option. His response:
“You need to make sure you have these qualities – integrity, honesty, trustworthiness and truthfulness. Without these traits, you won’t go far as a financial advisor.”
“It is also of utmost importance to always prioritise the client’s needs above your own. Our duty as financial advisors is to give the best recommendations to clients without bias,” concludes Guna.
In whatever we do in our careers, it still holds true that we recognise why we do the things we do in our work. And once we know our purpose, we can then execute our roles excellently.
Care to share your story of your dream profession with us? Send us a short write-up of your journey with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment in the box provided. For more A Day In The Life articles, click here.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 16 May 2015