Interview with CEO of Fin Freedom on independent financial advisory (Part 2)

Have you heard of the term – investment purification? Wonder how the analogy of cooking a delicious curry – selecting the right ingredients and then mixing them in the right amount – could be used in the investment portfolio selection methodology & construction adopted by Fin Freedom? After all, having too many products to select from but without the right methodology is as bad as having no options to select from. It is not something desirable if advisers themselves got lost in the process and could not justify their product selections to clients. In this Part 2 interview, Ms Sin Chee Kwan elaborated how she led an in-house team to resolve this common challenge among independent financial advisers in independent financial advisory practice.

curry cooking

Then I further asked Chee Kwan on the public perceptions and objections towards independent financial advisers. She was brutally honest – “…without understand in detail an independent financial adviser, many people would have perceive that an IFA is just another salesman.” And what she meant by that is the common practice of pushing products and its features, rather than understanding client’s needs and putting their interests first.

However, she strongly believed that this is just a transition period because the industry is in a relatively infancy stage compared to the conventional agency model.  Time and patience is much needed to educate the public. Practitioners who believe in the independent financial advisory industry must persevere and do what is correct to uphold the profession.

I then became curious on how has the industry evolved in Malaysia compared to overseas and that is when Chee Kwan vividly recalled the early years of her independent financial advisory career.

“People have no direction. We aren’t sure who are the right people who are suitable to be independent advisers, and what are clients needs. We still tend to do things the old way – except that we carry a bigger bag, have more products to choose from but we just normally sell products who we are more familiar with….There was no voice to represent the industry”

Now as the industry is slowly but surely maturing, there are fee-based IFA and commission based IFA, or a hybrid of both. In many developed countries, independent financial advisory firms are public listed entity in the stock exchange. She foresee that day will come eventually in Malaysia. Overall, it has matured into a process driven service…which means understanding the clients’ needs or goals first before using the products available to meet the goals.

Just last year (2012), another milestone has been achieved in the industry – all independent financial advisory firms came together and form the Association of Financial Adviser (AFA) – visit AFA is the official association endorsed by the regulators to benchmark the industry best practice model and also spearheading the changes in the Malaysian financial landscape which is in line with the Bank Negara Malaysia blue print in the Financial Sector Master Plan and Securities Commission Malaysia in The Capital Market Master Plan.

independent financial advisory

My final two questions are the more difficult ones. I asked –

  • What are the steps Fin Freedom management  take to ensure the quality of its services
  • What are the things people should have in mind if he or she never encounter any financial adviser before?

We save the best for the last, and since I don’t want to spoil the best for you, you could listen to the final part of the interview below.

Side joke – there are people who walked into Fin Freedom’s office in Penang and asked for money lending service. They thought the term Licensed Financial Adviser is equivalent to Licensed Money Lender.