Chris Oates first started in the finance industry as a client service officer in a financial planning firm. Although he grew up on a farm in Orange, and had the option of becoming a farmer, the world of numbers took him down the financial path. He has never looked back, but still enjoys returning to the family farm when he can.
One of the most rewarding aspects of Chris’s work as a Certified Financial Planner at RSM Financial Services Australia is seeing the difference that objective, sound financial advice and planning makes to all clients.
“Everyone’s situation is different and there’s no doubt the financial world can be complex and challenging,” says Chris, who has significant experience advising clients on superannuation, managed investments, retirement income streams and life insurance.
“What’s important is to talk to people about where they’re at, educate them and help them with a plan for moving forward. At RSM, we start by getting to know each individual. No-one is a number here. We treat people as people, and with the same importance as if they were a member of our own family.”
Developing a close, long-term relationship with a financial planner is key because life’s priorities and challenges change during the years.
“It’s never too early to focus on your financial future,” says Chris. “Clients often think ‘financial planning’ is just what happens in retirement, but we educate them about how valuable it is to establish short, medium and long-term goals. This builds confidence with financial decision-making at all stages of life.”
Short-term goals could involve a younger couple planning to buy a home; medium-term goals could be starting a family and ensuring there’s enough money for kids’ education; and long-term goals could be building wealth to have sufficient disposable income to enjoy financial freedom in later years.
Chris accepts that some clients feel a bit nervous ‘telling all’ to a financial planner, but says it’s the best way forward.
“The more we know, the more we can help clients with sound strategies that make sense to them and take into account their overall situation rather than just one aspect,” he says. “Many clients know what they want to achieve, but they don’t necessarily know where to start. It can all seem overwhelming. Our role is to get each client focused on a goal.”
One client Chris recently worked closely with had lost a spouse who had always handled all their finances. The spouse left behind knew there was superannuation, investments and various bank accounts but didn’t know how everything worked together or what to do with all the financial elements. The client was baffled and wasn’t comfortable making financial decisions for fear they would get it wrong and lose money.
Chris systematically assessed the finances and explained, in clear language, how everything worked and how the client could take advantage of their investment portfolio. Once the client understood it, they were empowered to move forward with their financial future.
Not all of Chris’s clients are in financial strife, even though some face unique and unexpected challenges relating to the impact of COVID-19 on employment and the economy. Some clients have accumulated a lot of debt on credit cards and through personal loans.
“In these cases, we sit down, examine the facts and get the client thinking clearly and prioritising what’s important to them,” says Chris. “It’s about tailoring a strategy and methodically implementing it one step at a time.”
Chris works with private and public sector clients. His deep knowledge of Australian Government-defined benefit superannuation schemes has helped enhance the lives of many public sector employees and their families.
At RSM in Canberra, the financial planning team is close-knit, bound together by strong relationships, common interests and specific expertise in superannuation and the public service.
“It’s a great team and a caring team,” says Chris.
He works closely with fellow RSM Certified Financial Planner Lindsay Walker. Both are experts in their field, which includes superannuation and retirement planning. Clients also benefit from their complementary skills, with Chris specialising in life insurance and Lindsay on aged care.
“We cross over when needed,” says Chris.
Chris and Lindsay are also supported by paraplanner Ross Trimboli, who is an expert on the ins and outs of share registries.
“With Ross’s knowledge, we’ve helped people find details of lost share portfolios, which is valuable for estate executors,” says Chris.
RSM’s team of accountants, auditors and advisers in Canberra have been operating in the region for more than 30 years with individuals and businesses. A huge advantage provided by this local team is the international best practice of the RSM global network.
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