14 November 2023

Written by Milpark Communications 

Noel’s motto is, “We’re all things for some people, not all things for all people, and we’re very specific about who those people are and who we think it would serve. I call it integrated financial planning.” Noel uses the analogy of visiting a doctor to explain his financial planning philosophy. "Imagine that you've had a headache for a while, and you visit your doctor. You tell him what is wrong with you, and that you would like some prescription medication to get rid of the headache. If you were a half-decent doctor, you wouldn't give your patient what they wanted without first asking further questions regarding their symptoms, as well as performing a number of tests. If however, you were an ethical doctor, truly upholding the Hippocratic Oath, then you wouldn't shy away from telling your patient that although they've requested medication to solve their headache, your analysis shows that it is actually a symptom of a far more serious illness. Headache medicine will not solve the problem." 

"As it is their body and health, you can still give them what they want, however, a truly ethical doctor would plead with the patient to start a process of treating the illness and restoring them to long-term health. You would not just prescribe short-term treatments, but an integrated plan for the long-term, that would include lifestyle changes and a treatment road map. You would be walking a lifelong journey towards health with this patient. This is how I see my role as a financial planner. The majority of clients don't need a Retirement Annuity or a Life Policy. They need a long-term, integrated financial plan, and a professional with the guts to tell them what needs to happen, while being able to empathetically help them implement the advice and stay the course as life happens." 

Noel, who completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning at Milpark in 2017, believes that this holistic approach will lead to a relationship that has lasting impact on not only the client’s life, but for generations to come. This isn’t unusual for his personality type, who are known as Advocates. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa were also Advocates. “Although I'm a serious introvert, I've found that, because I care so much about fighting injustice, I give myself for people to care for them and to see justice done.” 

Pro bono work takes up a significant time for Noel after he realised his knowledge as a financial planner could help those less fortunate. “I work with a lot of local schools and municipalities. A lot of the people I see are policemen, teachers and nurses. To me, those are the people that really connect communities. I want to make this country a great place for my kids to grow up in, which means that I have to care about the children and the communities that are around them. By helping these groups of people, I believe that I can uplift the communities around me.” 

Perhaps due to this unique approach Noel has to the world of financial planning, he has been placed in the top three of this year’s Financial Planner of the Year Awards – a prestigious recognition of the best in the field in South Africa. Last year, he entered and made it to the top five, still a stellar achievement for being one of a few thousand Certified Financial Planners. 

“When the competition process starts in the beginning of the year, you have to submit an entry application, where you mention your qualifications, background, career, clients, the things you are accredited to give advice on, [as well as] a little bit of your values and why you want to enter. If your entry is accepted, you are asked to submit one of your client's financial plans to be audited.” The next part of the process typically sees five people chosen who go to the second round. 

Although he never made it past the top five last year, the two-hour long interview that the five need to undergo is what pushed him through to the final round this year. “[The interview] is incredibly in depth. It goes into everything from how you work as a practice, who your clients are, the type of work you do for them, to compliance and technical standards. Some interesting questions that came up this year were about behavioural sciences and how we use technology in our practice. They really want to understand who you are, what you do and why you do it.” 

This year’s awards will take place on 14 November and Noel is confident that he has what it takes to bag the winning spot, based on his ethics and work standard. “I believe that one thing they’re looking for is an ambassador for the Financial Planning Institute (FPI) and the profession. Regardless of the outcome, if I win or not, I could not have done better in the competition, and believe that whoever wins will be deserving of it, and will be an amazing ambassador.” 

In terms of the future, Noel continues to study and upskill himself so he can better help his clients. “I believe that the nature of the profession, or especially who I try to be to my clients, is that you can’t stop. There’s so much ongoing change from technical and legislative points, that you have to stay on top of everything. For future studies, I'm deciding between an Advanced Postgraduate in Investment Management or Estate Planning; whichever I believe will suit my clients' needs best.” 

Noel’s story is an inspirational one and shows just how important it is to have financial planning professionals that care about community and uplifting others. It will be interesting to witness the impact that people like Noel will have on the profession and the country as a whole.