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Getting to Know: Liz Koh

Adviser Liz Koh says she deliberately set out to build a public profile.

Friday, September 8th 2017, 11:00AM

by Susan Edmunds


Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Liz Koh and I am a financial planner. My principal office is in Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast, and I also have an office in central Wellington. I work as a sole practitioner with an office assistant.


How did you get into the industry?

I set up my own business in November 1999, after a career in general management. As a solo mother with three children, I wanted to have my own business close to where I live with the flexibility to combine working hours with being a mum. I have a background in Economics and Accountancy and I really love working with people, so a move into financial planning was a logical step for me. An opportunity came up to buy a franchise on the Kapiti Coast, which offered the kind of lifestyle I was looking for. My office is a ten minute drive from home and the beach is just down the road.


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

I would make it a profession rather than an industry. It is still seen to be product sales-oriented and we need to keep building on all the elements that make up a profession. That includes having a single professional body that sets and monitors standards of advice.


What’s the best advice you have ever received?

Don’t ever dwell on the past. Mistakes are just opportunities to learn. I have learned a lot!


What could financial advisers learn from other industries?

I am a member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) and I think they provide a good role model for how we could operate as a profession rather than an industry. I am not saying that CAANZ is necessarily doing everything exactly right, but they have a strong, respected brand and, because of that, they have less regulatory interference. They also have a powerful lobbying voice.


What do you think the FMA has done well? What could it do better?

My perception is that the FMA has a much better understanding of financial advisers than when the Financial Advisers’ Act was first introduced. They are very good at keeping advisers up to date on what they are working on. It would be great if there were more opportunities for feedback from advisers to the FMA in informal settings rather than via mandatory returns.


What could be done to improve KiwiSaver?

There are a number of ways KiwiSaver could be improved. Firstly, the default option should not be a conservative fund. Despite campaigns encouraging people to choose their investment option, many have still not done this. Funds which automatically become more conservative as people age are not a good idea. It is a myth that a conservative investment strategy is best for retirees. Given that retirement lasts 20-30 years for most people, a reasonable exposure to growth assets makes sense. There should be an ‘unlocked’ component for KiwiSaver to encourage people to save more in the knowledge they can withdraw funds if necessary. It is much easier for people to save into something they are familiar with and which has relatively low fees. On retirement, there should be an option to take all or part as an annuity.


What have been the benefits of regulation?

Regulation has led to more consistency in the quality of advice offered by different advisers. In the past, there were some advisers who were operating very professionally and some who quite obviously weren’t. Regulation has allowed us to move closer to becoming a profession. We will know when we have succeeded in that regard when we move to self-regulation by a peak body.


Do you support Financial Advice NZ?

Yes, I am a supporter of Financial Advice NZ as this moves us closer to being a profession and gives us a more powerful voice with the regulators.


What’s the biggest threat to financial advisers?

The biggest threat comes from advisers themselves not being willing to change. The nature of advice is changing with technological advances. We need to be very clear about what value we add for clients, we need to demonstrate and communicate that value and not be shy about charging for it.


What do you wish the public knew about financial advisers?

I wish they knew the value of financial advice and that anybody, no matter what their circumstances, can benefit from financial advice.


Did you set out to build a profile in the media? If so, how and why?

Yes, I started writing columns for the media about 15 years ago, for two reasons - to build profile, but also to share my knowledge about financial matters with the general public. I started out very simply by submitting a column to a local free Wellington newspaper and later a Kapiti newspaper. From there, I was approached to write for other papers and there are now several journalists who contact me for comments on articles they are writing. In around 2008, I started a blog which appears on my website and also feeds through to Facebook and Twitter. I would say that over 90% of the new clients I get come from my media profile.


Do you find it onerous to commit to a column?

I love writing. However, it requires discipline. After writing for so long, it has now become much easier and it is a routine I have got into. Every Friday, I write my blog without fail and every second weekend I write a newspaper column. The only things that have ever stopped me are severe illness or the death of a close family member.


Are you a KiwiSaver member? If so, what’s your investment strategy?

I am a KiwiSaver member and have been since it was introduced. I am in a fund which invests solely in equities, because I understand investment risk and I have a long investment time frame.


Outside of work what do you do?

I do a lot of voluntary work in my local community. I am the Deputy Chair of the Nikau Foundation (Wellington’s Community Foundation), a past Chair of the Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce and an active Rotarian. I have a few other smaller voluntary roles as well. What little spare time I get at weekends is spent in the garden or at live performances (music and theatre).


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

I would say it is a very rewarding profession to be in; however, it is increasingly difficult to operate as a sole or small practitioner.


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

I am a fanatical genealogist. It’s the one hobby I can pursue late at night because it’s all done online. I have been a genealogist since I was 12, and now have a database of over 11,000 family members.


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

I guess my other choice would have been to stick at my management career which would no doubt have led me on to being a CEO, earning much more than I do now but enjoying life less.

Tags: equities Financial Advice New Zealand financial advisers Financial Advisers Act FMA Getting to Know investment KiwiSaver regulation

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AIA - Back My Build 6.19 - - -
AIA - Go Home Loans 8.74 7.14 6.75 6.39
ANZ 8.64 7.74 7.39 7.25
ANZ Blueprint to Build 7.39 - - -
ANZ Good Energy - - - 1.00
ANZ Special - 7.14 6.79 6.65
ASB Bank 8.64 7.14 6.75 6.39
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Avanti Finance 9.15 - - -
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BNZ - Classic - 7.14 6.79 6.65
BNZ - Green Home Loan top-ups - - - 1.00
BNZ - Mortgage One 8.69 - - -
BNZ - Rapid Repay 8.69 - - -
BNZ - Std, FlyBuys 8.69 7.74 7.39 7.25
BNZ - TotalMoney 8.69 - - -
CFML Loans 9.45 - - -
China Construction Bank - 7.09 6.75 6.49
China Construction Bank Special - - - -
Co-operative Bank - First Home Special - 6.79 - -
Co-operative Bank - Owner Occ 8.40 6.99 6.79 6.65
Lender Flt 1yr 2yr 3yr
Co-operative Bank - Standard 8.40 7.49 7.29 7.15
Credit Union Auckland 7.70 - - -
First Credit Union Special - 7.45 7.35 -
First Credit Union Standard 8.50 7.99 7.85 -
Heartland Bank - Online 7.99 6.89 6.55 6.35
Heartland Bank - Reverse Mortgage - - - -
Heretaunga Building Society 8.90 7.60 7.40 -
HSBC Premier 8.59 - - -
HSBC Premier LVR > 80% - - - -
HSBC Special - - - -
ICBC 7.85 7.05 6.69 6.59
Lender Flt 1yr 2yr 3yr
Kainga Ora 8.64 7.79 7.39 7.25
Kainga Ora - First Home Buyer Special - - - -
Kiwibank 8.50 7.99 7.79 7.55
Kiwibank - Offset 8.50 - - -
Kiwibank Special - 6.99 6.79 6.65
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Nelson Building Society 9.00 ▼7.65 ▼7.25 -
Pepper Money Advantage 10.49 - - -
Pepper Money Easy 8.69 - - -
Pepper Money Essential 8.29 - - -
Resimac - LVR < 80% 8.84 8.09 7.59 7.29
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Resimac - LVR < 90% 9.84 9.09 8.59 8.29
Resimac - Specialist Clear (Alt Doc) - - 8.99 -
Resimac - Specialist Clear (Full Doc) - - 9.49 -
SBS Bank 8.74 7.74 7.29 6.59
SBS Bank Special - 7.14 6.69 5.99
SBS Construction lending for FHB - - - -
SBS FirstHome Combo 6.19 6.14 - -
SBS FirstHome Combo - - - -
SBS Unwind reverse equity 9.95 - - -
Select Home Loans 9.24 - - -
TSB Bank 9.44 7.79 7.55 7.45
Lender Flt 1yr 2yr 3yr
TSB Special 8.64 6.99 6.75 6.65
Unity 8.64 6.99 6.79 -
Unity First Home Buyer special - 6.55 6.45 -
Wairarapa Building Society 8.60 6.95 6.85 -
Westpac 8.64 ▼7.84 7.35 ▼6.99
Westpac Choices Everyday 8.74 - - -
Westpac Offset 8.64 - - -
Westpac Special - ▼7.24 6.75 ▼6.39
Median 8.64 7.19 7.27 6.65

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