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Feature by Annie Kane - August 5, 2019

Career advice from the leading women in finance 2019

We asked the winners of the Women in Finance Awards 2019 to share their top pieces of career advice to help others succeed. Here, we reveal their answers.

The Women in Finance Awards 2019, presented by Momentum Media in association with principal partner AMP Bank, saw more than 700 representatives from across the financial and professional services industries gather on 1 August to celebrate the work of the women making a difference in accounting, banking, insurance, financial advice, funds management, mortgage broking and superannuation.

Emceed by journalist and TV presenter Shelly Horton, with speeches from AMP Bank CEO Sally Bruce and sex discrimination lawyer and gender equality advocate Elizabeth Broderick, the cross-industry awards and networking event showcased the star performers working in finance as part of Momentum Media’s aim to help broaden the talent pool of financial and professional services.

To understand what has helped inspire, motivate and assist the leading women in finance, we asked each of the finalists for their best piece of career advice.

Advice from those in the mortgage industry

A common theme throughout was being brave enough to take risks, persevering even when the going gets tough, ensuring that you are continually developing, and having a passion for what you do.

The winner of the Mortgage and Finance Broker of the Year award, Deslie Taylor from Mortgage Choice Ormeau, said that the best advice she had been given was “work hard, be humble, believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

“That’s when great things happen,” she said.

Outsource financial’s CEO, Tanya Sale, who won the Chief Executive Officer of the Year award, said that while being a leader was a daunting prospect, it was important to enjoy your work, too.

Ms Sale said: “There is no such thing as instant gratification; being a leader can be scary but exhilarating. Work hard, back yourself and have some fun.”

In a similar vein, Ms Sale’s executive assistant, Madeleine Dart (the winner of the Executive Assistant/Personal Assistant of the Year) added: “Be passionate about all that you do because passion fuels inspiration; inspiration fuels motivation, and motivation fuels success!”

Others that said passion was important for a successful career included Marketing Professional of the Year Claire Vale, from Allianz, who said: “Find a role that you enjoy and that challenges you.

“Have passion for your career, and keep striving to achieve the biggest goals.”

Be brave enough to take risks

Several winners talked about bravery in work decisions, especially when taking risks. The winner of the Business Development Professional of the Year, Stacey Williams from Gallagher Bassett, said: “Be brave enough to take risks and recognise opportunities when they are presented.

“Don’t let yourself be confined to traditional career pathways; seek out experiences and opportunities to learn something new.”

Likewise, the Bookkeeper of the Year winner, Allison Gardiner from Carbon Group, said: “Trust your instincts and be prepared to take risks.”

Prezzee’s Claire Morris, who won Entrepreneur of the Year for starting up the online marketplace for digital gift cards, added: “Be brave! Big dreams have small beginnings, and most importantly, never, never give up.”

A specialist in giving advice, All in Advisory’s Aly Garrett (Small Business Adviser of the Year) said: “Embrace change; see it is an opportunity, not a threat.”

She added: “Bravely do things differently, think outside the box and take action.”

Financial Planner/Adviser of the Year Emma Arthur from Lifewise Financial Solutions & EKA Wealth Management said that “there is no substitute for hard work”, adding that persistence and belief are key.

“Never give up, never stop believing and keep fighting for your dreams,” she said.

Katie Cox, product owner at digital super fund Zuper (Young Leader of the Year), advised that it was important to not be afraid to ask “for what you want”.

“People can’t read your mind… [If you ask], you might just get it,” she said.

But while gumption was important, Auditor of the Year winner Naomi Kewley (Peak Super Audits) said it was important not to rush things: “Look for the top of the mountain. Remember it. Then focus on the rock three feet ahead. Scale it one rock at a time.”

Likewise, Innovator of the Year, Kelly Chard, director of medical accountancy firm GrowthMD, said it was all about timing: “Choose your time… and then go for it. You will surprise yourself. It might be difficult, but it will be worth it.”


Having the tenacity to keep going even when setbacks appeared was another shared piece of advice.

The Accountant of the Year, Simone Palfreyman from Palfreyman Chartered Accountants, offered: “Have faith in yourself. Follow your dreams and never give up.

“Treat setbacks as a challenge, and always try to achieve.”

Likewise, Fintech Leader of the Year Debra Taylor, chief operating officer at loyalty program technology platform Open Sparkz, noted that “challenges and opportunities are plentiful” in the fintech arena, but she had found that “being persistent and resilient is key to a successful career”.

This message was mirrored by ClearView’s Ann Pearson (Mentor of the Year), who advised: “Nothing is impossible. You will find a way. You just have to want it enough.”

Keep learning and be as skilled as possible

Many winners of the Women in Finance Awards 2019 suggested that continual learning and professional development was the pathway to success.

For example, SMSF Adviser of the Year Jemma Sanderson from Cooper Partners Financial Services advised: “Whatever it is you do, you have to master your craft. Why settle for mediocrity when excellence is an option?”

Director of the Year Michelle Saunders, the managing director of tax consultancy Cooper Partners, likewise suggested: “Be a lifelong learner, no matter what stage you are in your career. Skills are more important than job titles.”

This was echoed by Northern Territory-based accountant Cheryl Mallett (Regional Professional of the Year), who stated: “Embrace as much professional development as possible. If you have a question – ask!”

However, while Ms Mallett said it was important that you “love what you do”, she counselled that it was important to “maintain a life apart from your career”.

Ethics and integrity

Outside of having passion and determination, having an honest and ethical outlook was also put forward as a key piece of advice.

SMSFcentral’s Millinda Cobban (Office Administrator of the Year), told Momentum Media: “Be true to yourself and honest always, but also remain agile and never stop learning.”

This year’s Thought Leader of the Year, Robyn Jacobson, senior tax trainer at TaxBanter, was of a similar mind, saying that her best advice was to “maintain your dignity and integrity at all times”.

“Don’t be mediocre; do your absolute best. Never stop learning. Believe in yourself,” she continued.

Natasha Janssens, the founder of Women with Cents (who has won the Women in Finance Awards’ category of Women's Community Program of the Year for the past three years), said that keeping the right company was crucial to ensuring you stay at the top of your game.

“Being successful does not automatically make someone a good mentor,” she said. “Surround yourself with those who will encourage and inspire you.”

Some of the company award winners also offered corporate advice, ­­­with Employer of the Year (SME), Stanford Brown, offering: “Talk less. Listen more,” while a representative of OnePath, Training and Development Program of the Year, concluded: “Be authentic and trust your people.”

This article originally featured in The Adviser