Australian adviser shows skills in Nepal

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Sometimes when you get a bit fed up with the system at home, it pays to take a look further afield to reposition your perspective.

Risk specialist Meike Suggars learnt that lesson this year. Suggars is an authorised rep for Synchron, and partner at Suggars Associates with her father Jeff Suggars. She joined the business in 2009, following seven years in marketing, as part of her dad’s succession plan. However, before taking over the business completely, Suggars thought she would see a bit of the world.

For two weeks in July this year, Suggars spent time in Nepal, putting her financial planning and marketing skills to good use.

She says that her friend established a charity in Nepal called Seven Women, which gives disabled, widowed and divorced women handicraft skills, then imports and sells their products in Australia. Despite being “inspired” and “motivated”, the women didn’t know how to create a plan, but that’s where Suggars came in.

Using the same skills that she applies to her financial advice business, Suggars says that she asked the same sort of questions and took her usual approach of looking at the bigger picture.

“Using those skills that I apply when talking to a client…We translated that into helping them create an action plan and help them prioritise certain areas that needed resources.”

The experience opened her eyes up to how things are in Australia, particularly when it comes to female equality.

“We talk about how women have low levels of super and our incomes aren’t necessarily equal yet. We still obviously have a lot of issues to address in terms of gender equality here in Australia, but seeing it there in Nepal really took my understanding of that to a whole new level,” she says.

“I love risk and I love risk because of the certainty it gives my clients. In a way this trip cemented that for me because I got to see how little people live with comfortably and happily…We spend so much time trying to figure out how to make more money and it’s often not about making more, it’s just about knowing how to do more with what we’ve got.

“So that really did have an impact on what I prioritise personally, as well as the sort of conversations I have with clients.”

As a risk adviser, the most frustrating thing for Suggars, back in Australia, is the constant blame being placed on advisers for problems within the industry that are outside their control.

The sustainability of insurance companies and the ‘so-called’ churning issue are a couple of the gripes she has to contend with. She says that if insurance companies are facing a sustainability issue then it’s not good for her as a risk adviser, but it’s hard to fix a problem without knowing what’s causing it.

“I’d love to see FSC start tracking the reasons behind lapses and give us a standard definition across the industry about what constitutes a lapse. Is a death claim a lapse? Is an income protection policy that expires at the age of 65 a lapse? Give us some definitions that are firm definitions that we can all work to.”