Helping women to reach their full potential– personally and financially–has been the single biggest goal of Sarah King’s career.
With 13 years experience in financial services and operations roles, King is now the Head of Advice and Client Care at Stockspot, Australia’s largest online investment advisor. The position has solidified her belief that although women make great investors, they are often less likely than men to know where to start. King believes we need more open dialogue with our girls about personal finances to ensure they’re prepped for their future.
“Helping women to have a positive and open relationship with money is something very close to my heart,” she recently shared with Women’s Agenda.
“Talking about finances shouldn’t be taboo. The more we arm ourselves with basic financial literacy skills (which our education system has failed to provide for too long) the better placed we are to make good financial decisions.”
Below, King tells Women’s Agenda about her career trajectory in the financial services sector and why she thinks women are often innately equipped to be successful investors.
Can you tell us a little about the early stages of your career? Did you always see yourself in the financial services space?
Growing up I dreamed about being many things, but never a financial adviser. I didn’t even know what one was until I finished university and was introduced to one.
I completed my business & international studies degree and majored in corporate finance, but I was unsure of which direction to take. Finance is broad and also seemed a little scary to me. I applied for a few graduate positions at big investment banks but didn’t make the cut. I was quite deflated but not long after my boss at the gourmet deli I worked at suggested I speak to her financial adviser to get some insights into the industry.
After our first coffee I was offered a job. I started at a grass-roots level and was soon studying (again) for my graduate diploma in financial planning. I progressed to become a paraplanner where I helped prepare financial plans and present them to clients. Managing client relationships was also a big part of my role which I loved.
After 5 years, I moved to London. It was incredible but finding work in financial planning was tough. It was at the peak of the Global Financial Crisis and the industry had been torn apart. I gave up on being a planner and ended up at investment bank, Morgan Stanley, working as a senior executive assistant for the Global Head of Real Estate. Even though it seemed to be a backwards step, the skills I learnt have been valuable to this day. It was a work culture that taught me resilience and how to stand up for myself in a very alpha male environment.
The early stages of my career were windy, but worth every minute of the exploration.
What initially sparked your interest in working at a company like Stockspot?
I’d been studying coaching for a few years and realised helping women to reach their full potential, personally and financially, was something I deeply wanted to pursue. It became clear that working in a meaningful role, with the capacity to fundamentally help others was more important than staying in a comfortable job with nice perks.
Next, I wanted to put some money into index funds. I didn’t want to see an adviser and pay big fees to let them manage it. I also knew I didn’t want the hassle of doing it myself because it’s so time consuming. Around the same time, I read Sally Krawcheck’s book ‘Own It’. Sally is one of the most successful women to have worked on Wall Street. Sally openly shares her challenges working in the epitome of a boys club and how the industry did nothing to make investing (or anything financial) approachable for women. Post Wall Street, she founded an online investment platform created solely for women called Ellevest. Wow. I was inspired.
This was the final piece of the puzzle that lead me to discover Stockspot. I was sold on Stockspot’s philosophy. It’s a company where I can bring my ‘real self’ to work, feel supported to share ideas and help more people build sound financial futures.
What makes you passionate about empowering other women in wealth creation and investing?
I grew up seeing my mum struggle financially. My dad left when I was just six weeks old and my brother two and a half. We had next to no financial support from him so mum was back working after a few months of having me. We moved in with our grandparents for a few years which was a saving grace for us as a family.
Mum remarried when I was three. My step dad was a beautiful man but there was constant stress over finances. I think there was a lack of communication about money and he was too proud to share his true financial situation. In the end it came crashing down and the marriage ended. I was about 23. It was devastating. I’ve since witnessed mum continue to worry about her future financial situation.
Helping women to have a positive and open relationship with money is something very close to my heart. Talking about finances shouldn’t be taboo. The more we arm ourselves with basic financial literacy skills (which our education system has failed to provide for too long) the better placed we are to make good financial decisions.
Then there’s the statistics. The gender pay gap continues in Australia, with women earning 21.3% p/a less than men on a total remuneration basis. They also retire with around 37% less in super than men.
Empowering women to feel confident in negotiating higher salaries, better maternity provisions and flexible working is a key area of focus in my work as a coach.
It’s also why I love my role. I get to talk to women (and men) about many financial topics like saving and investing, and how to get started. Women 100% have what it takes to be good investors. That sense of risk aversion you might feel is actually what makes women great investors.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give to someone who is looking to dip their toe into investing for the first time?
I’d say just get started. You only need a couple of thousand dollars and you can invest more gradually over time as you become more confident.
The best way to start is via exchange traded funds (ETFs). ETFs are a popular type of investment listed on the ASX. Instead of purchasing shares in a few random companies (which can be quite risky), ETFs invest small amounts in all the companies listed on the ASX’s top 300 companies. It means your money is spread across hundreds of different companies at a fraction of the cost of trying to do this yourself.
Some ETFs invest in the top 100 companies in the US, others invest in the best companies in emerging markets.
It can be tricky deciding which ETFs to buy, so I think it’s best to use the services of an online investment company that provides personalised advice and portfolio management. Technology and automation means online investment companies like Stockspot are able to keep fees very low, while doing the investing for you.
What is the biggest motivator for you when helping others improve their personal finances?
Explaining the difference between saving and investing and how it can change a person’s financial life is hugely motivating! It motivates me time and time again.
Too many of us park money in a savings account or term deposit for too long, earning a really low rate of interest (think 2% p/a). Let’s look at an example: Depositing $50,000 in a savings account for 5 years earning 2% p/a interest will earn you interest of $5,204, with a lot lost to tax. Investing that money instead into a growth portfolio earning 8% p/a over 5 years could earn you $23,466. It’s a huge difference. If you extend this over 7, 10 or more years, it’s life changing.
Savings accounts have their place for short term goals (3 months – 3 years) but not for money you want to grow over the medium to long term (3 years or more).
How can more women be encouraged to step into a career in financial planning?
The finance industry has been a boys club for so long, men hiring men just like them. It’s a deep-rooted culture and it naturally affects how women perceive the industry. Organisations need to actively recruit diverse teams, and this has to start from the top down.
I’d like to see organisations invest more into recruitment campaigns, networking events and university graduate programs to attract amazing female talent. A lot of these programs have focussed on recruiting those with the best technical skills. Most technical skills can be taught along the way, but the relational skills can’t. These relational skills also need to be sought out by employers.
The shake-up from the Royal Commission into banking misconduct, presents an opportunity for government, industry leaders and organisations to carve out a new direction for financial planning in Australia. One that’s inclusive, transparent and ethical. If this happens I think we’ll see more women wanting to participate in financial services roles.