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Plugging the advice gap with new-to-market innovation: Leesa Swain

After witnessing the horror of the GFC, a young Leesa Swain decided to help mitigate the 'ripple effect' of bad financial management and start a journey in financial planning that has led her to a new, digitally led solution provider.

Most financial advisers can tell you of the moment that triggered their taking the fork in the road that led to a career in advice. For Leesa Swain, it was the GFC.

The particular perspective through which Swain saw the GFC play out was that a mortgage broker. Seeing the profound impact of the GFC, and particularly the impact on the Australian lending market, ignited a deep curiosity within her, prompting her to ask, ‘How could an event so far away have such a significant ripple effect?’

At the time, Swain was in her early 20s, and just starting out in her career in finance. “I was working at a mortgage broking firm whose niche had more of a ‘vanilla’ clientele, but there certainly were plenty of stories within the industry of clients with securitised lending or sub-prime mortgages, which were very much affected, with redraw suddenly freezing and life savings that had been channelled into their home loans – that is, redraw facilities – diminishing in the blink of an eye,” she says. “It was scary times, even for those not directly impacted.”

  • So, with this quest to understand how and why small ‘mum and dad’ clients so far away in Australia were hit so hard, and her thirst for knowledge, Swain embarked on a journey into financial planning.

    Once in, Swain spent “the better part of a decade” specialising in cashflow management and wealth accumulation strategies, extending on the framework that she had learnt while gaining a Bachelor of Business at Melbourne’s RMIT University. “That gave me an interesting advantage to my peers, having formal study which was supported with complementary practical experience. This combination still allows me to seamlessly integrate formal education with real-world client needs,” she says.

    Swain spent a total of 13 years at two south-east Queensland practices, MAS Wealth Management and then Centaur Financial Services, the latter a move she made to relocate work closer to where she lived with her husband and young daughter.

    The next three-and-a-half years saw her expanding her expertise in areas that catered to a more mature client – retirement planning, drawing income in retirement, wealth preservation, estate distribution and even social security, to name a few. “During this time, it was also a great pleasure to actively help in growing the business, which started as a small team of just three, to more than ten, allowing us all the greatest privilege to help even more people,” she says.

    While never losing her love of helping younger ‘wealth accumulator’ clients to achieve their goals, over the years, client conversations increasingly revealed a growing desire for greater transparency and control over superannuation, and Swain again felt it was a natural progression to pursue further education, becoming an accredited self-managed superannuation fund specialist through the SMSF Association in 2023. “Today, I am very humbled to offer specialist advice in the area of SMSFs, an area that I feel will continue to gain traction as dynamics between generations shift,” she says.

    This year, Swain joined forces with My Wealth Garden (MWG), a holistic financial services firm founded by financial adviser, accountant and business entrepreneur Robert Koschel. My Wealth Garden uses digital technology to deliver best-interest financial advice Australia-wide.

    “It’s a new-to-market concept that we’re very proud of,” says Swain. “Wherever you live in this great country, from the outback to coast, our goal is to deliver advice efficiently and effectively. We use the latest technology to deliver best-interest advice when it suits our clients, in their own time.”

    The motivation, she says, was the “advice gap” that separates many Australians from advice – with postcode being too large a determinant in this. “The studies have shown there is great need for financial advice, but advice is lagging in a couple of areas – namely that it’s expensive due to regulatory compliance, but also there is a link between quality of advice relative to location. Remember when you would need to go into the big city to see your adviser? We wanted to offer a high-quality solution for those not necessarily needing or wanting to travel. While our hub remains on the Gold Coast, our service is Australia-wide,” says Swain.

    It’s a busy time building-out this service, but Swain is an energetic person, a new convert to the “5AM Club” of early risers, and devoted to outdoor activity, yoga and meditation, fashion and food. On weekends she can usually be found volunteering at Currumbin Vikings Surf Life Saving Club, and revelling in quality family time with her husband and daughter.

    James Dunn

    James is an experienced senior journalist and host of The Inside Network's industry events.

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