The last clear memory Helen Shao
had on that clear Beijing summer morning 18 years ago, was of a wall of people stampeding towards her
turned and ran with the panicked crowd, awakening some time later, bruised and bloodied.
It was June 4, 1989, and Shao
had just survived the Tiananmen Square massacre.
"I don't remember what happened or what caused my injuries.
I awoke with two cuts to my head and damage to my gums and teeth," Shao recalls.
Shao is reflective as she thinks back to those events when, as a lecturer in applied mathematics at the University of Tianjin Economic and Finance, she led a group of students to the pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing.
But the eventual crackdown by the government that fateful day resulted in two of her
students killed and one of her
colleagues missing - presumed jailed or killed.
Yet, somehow, with the help of sympathetic locals, Shao
was able to escape Beijing that day and cycle the 120 kilometres back to her
home in Tianjin - China's third largest city.
Six months later, and under constant suspicion and threat of arrest, Shao
was forced to leave her
husband and only child, a one-year-old son, and flee to Australia as a political refugee.
It was the hardest thing she
has ever had to do.
Today, it's been 18 years since Shao
first arrived in this country, unable to speak a word of English, with no friends or contacts to support her
, and with only US$40 in her
story is one of survival and achievement.
"Those first few months were very difficult for me," Shao
eventually won a prestigious scholarship to the Australian National University just six months after arriving in Australia, where she
PhD in Applied Finance.
Following the completion of her
PhD four years later, Shao
moved to Sydney in 1994, with her
first professional job as a treasury analyst with Citibank
But what eventually motivated her
to leave the comfortable corporate surroundings of Citibank
, then Westpac and HSBC
, to embark upon a career in financial planning?
"It's simple," Shao
"After all I had been through, I just wanted to help others."
It's a decision Shao
Today, as a planner for Fiducian FinancialServices, she
looks after 300 clients, with funds under advice of around $40 million.
is mindful, however, that having made a successful life for herself in this country, she
never forgets her
immigrant past and the struggles that came with that.
It's for this reason that she
finds it easy to empathise with the financial needs of others.
And it's something she
is clearly passionate about.
So I thought if I can come from overseas with no money, no family and no English and I can do it, then other people can too," Shao
"The only thing holding them back is teaching them how to go about doing this."
Educating clients and consumers is something close to Shao's heart and where she
And while, like many other planners, her
client base is predominantly pre-retirees and retirees, Shao
is increasingly shifting her
client mix towards the younger generation - a generation she
calls, "the lost generation".
"Those people aged between 35 and 45 are what I call 'the lost generation'," she
"They don't really fall into the baby boomer or Generation X categories.
The industry is not reaching out to these people.
Many of them are struggling with their finances and financial management.
I find myself increasingly drawn to this lost generation because I can relate to them."
Connecting with this generation is important for Shao
, who emphasises the importance of conveying the value of advice through FPA initiatives like Financial Planning Week.
"Financial Planning Week is wonderful in creating greater consumer awareness of the value of financial planning.
It puts the focus back on all the good work we do for clients and addresses often asked questions like 'how do I find a good planner'.
Initiatives like this help to change consumer attitudes towards professional advice, and that has to be good for everybody."
Looking ahead, Shao
is mindful of the many challenges that the profession still faces.
nominates the planner remuneration debate over fees versus commissions as being one of the biggest issues facing the industry.
also points to Government legislation, such as Simpler Super, and keeping up with these changes as a constant challenge for all planners.
"If financial planners, as professionals, have difficulty with understanding all these changes, what chance do consumers have," Shao
But not content with just helping clients through her
extends this help externally as a published author.
Your First Home Made Easy, which was released last year, is her
first book in a series of three that shares her
own experience and practical know-how to becoming financially free.
first book, which has already sold 3,400 copies, deals with buying your first home.
second book - Wake Up To Money - is about helping people to invest and is due for release later this year, with her
third instalment - Money and Sex - covering estate planning.
And if authoring three books is not enough, Shao
also operates another business - the Financial Fitness Class - which provides workshops and other educative programs to consumers to help them build healthy financial lifestyles.
But it doesn't stop there.
In true entrepreneurial Chinese fashion, Shao
has teamed up with Think Global Consulting - an organisation that works with Australian services companies looking to build a presence in Asia - to teach basic Mandarin.
Shao claims that after a short eight-hour course, she
will have you speaking confidently to the locals.
Not bad for a political refugee who first landed on these shores with just US$40 in her
Tags: advice | China | education | fees | Fiducian Financial Services | Financial planner | FPA | Helen Shao