Getting to Know: Simon Hassan

Simon Hassan made the switch from teaching to try to educate New Zealanders about their finances.

Friday, July 7th 2017, 11:00AM

by Susan Edmunds

Who are you and what do you do?
​I am Simon Hassan and I am a professional financial planner.​

How did you get into the industry?

​In 1989, in my late 30s, a few years after relocating from Invercargill to Auckland as a secondary school 'senior master' (these days they call that 'assistant principal'), I found myself looking for another career. With five kids and one teaching salary, I thought we would never get financially established in the big smoke.​ ​I couldn't afford a job that would require ​an initial reduction of income, and settled on financial advice after a friend pointed out that few Kiwis were saving enough for retirement, that this needed to change, and that you earn a good income helping. My teaching career had equipped me well to help, and I was confident that I could 'make a go of it' in business, away from the protection - and limitations - of the salaried world. So, in July 1990, I started out with Prudential as an agent (focused on retirement planning and investments). But I wanted to work as a professional. I was keen to work for fees rather than commissions; helping people solve financial problems rather than simply selling them products. I started running regular seminars and experimented with fee-based remuneration (somewhat to the consternation of my layers of bosses). Within a year or so, I discovered financial planning and realised that this was the name for what I'd been trying to do all along. That same day, I joined the professional body (then the IAFP) and enrolled in the Massey diploma! Soon, I was moved into management at Prudential, where I helped set up a fee-based investment planning service. Rosemary joined me there, and then (as happens) Prudential restructured. This was the push we needed and, in June 1995, with another husband and wife team, Rosemary and I set out on our own - as fee-based, professional financial planners. We never looked back!

If there is one thing you would like to change about the financial advice industry, what would it be? 

​I'd love to see a fully developed financial advice profession, with members who are generally trusted and respected: both by the public and by the other professionals they work alongside (accountants, lawyers, mortgage and insurance agents and brokers) in helping clients solve financial problems and achieve their financial and lifestyle goals.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

​When I was learning the ropes as a new financial planner, I was mentored by 'the Jones boys' (RIP) at NZAM. Something they once told me has always stuck​: "Simon, whatever you do, whatever you ​say, remember that one day you'll end up having to stand in court and defend it. Make sure that when that days comes you will be ready!" 

What could financial advisers learn from other industries?

​Clients don't mind paying well for quality. Don't be ashamed of what you earn. Just make sure you are worth at least that.

How well do you think the FADC has worked so far?

​So far the Financial Advisers Disciplinary Committee has had very little to do - with only 1800 largely very well-behaved AFAs to deal with - but I think has done it very well. ​Our Chair, Sir Bruce Robertson, is a level head and has been great to work with.

What could be improved?

​I look forward ​to the FADC's oversight taking in a wider range of those delivering financial services to consumers. With an overarching 'client's interests' Code, and requirements reflecting levels of potential risk and complexity in types of advice and services delivered, the FADC could be more useful to all kinds of adviser and those that we advise.

Are you a KiwiSaver member?

​Yes​.

If so, what’s your investment strategy?

Balanced.

Outside of work what do you do? 

​I enjoy my wife Rosemary's company, and I love books, movies and the arts generally. We both also love the company of friends and family, laced with laughter and spiced with wine. And I am still honeymooning as a golfer of just over five years.​

What would you say if one of your kids told you they wanted to be a financial adviser?

​A great job ... and pity you didn't ​let me know a few years ago before we sold the business! Not so much a first job though - you need a pretty deep appreciation of people and life's challenges to do it well. But still, a wonderful, enriching career!

What’s one thing people may be surprised to know about you?

Not sure.... That I have a Masters with first class honours ​in English?

If you weren’t in this job what would you be doing? 

​Working with people to solve other problems​.

Tags: FADC Getting to Know KiwiSaver Massey University\ NZAM

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