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With this Liberty lady, luck doesn’t factor into success

25 July 2011 Liberty
Onalenna Dispi

Onalenna Dispi

Onalenna Dispi is a unique individual. Not only because she is one of only a handful of black female financial advisers in South Africa, but more so because of the passion with which she goes about helping her clients, understand and unlock the value of a holistic approach to financial planning.

Born in the small town of Ganyesa in the North West Province, Onalenna’s natural financial acumen, coupled with her desire to enter into a career that allowed her to improve the lives of others made her a natural fit as a financial adviser and, at Liberty she has found an organization that recognised her talents and has afforded her the freedom and support she needed to realize her aspirations.

Despite the obvious challenges involved in carving a niche for herself in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry, Onalenna’s obvious belief in the value of the service she offers and her sincere concern for the financial wellbeing of her clients shines through – and has seen her quickly garner an enviable male and female client base, all of whom look to her to help them realize their financial objectives and aspirations.

And it’s this type of genuine concern, backed by technical understanding and product knowledge that Onalenna believes lies at the heart of truly valuable financial advice and planning. “There is still such a lack of understanding of exactly what financial planning is and why it is relevant to everyone,” she says, “and before financial advisers can truly help their clients to grow, protect and preserve their personal wealth they first have a job to do in getting them to understand that financial advice is not the exclusive domain of the already wealthy – in fact the opposite is true.”

According to Onalenna, overcoming this lack of education and understanding is key to any successful financial planning relationship and requires patience, insight and, in many instances, persuasiveness. “I see my role as more than just a financial adviser,” she explains, “I am also an educator, empathiser and enlightener to my clients, many of who have a completely incorrect perception of what a financial plan does, and little or no concept of how important it is.”

This empathetic approach, which sees Onalenna putting herself in the shoes of her clients, understanding the potential consequences if they do not develop an appropriate financial plan, and personalising the entire experience for them, is what makes her unique brand of financial advice so valued and appreciated by her clients and so effective in transforming their financial futures. “Ultimately, financial advice is about far more than just suggesting products and services,” she says, “it’s about spending the time to get to know your clients, and earn their trust, so that together you can achieve their goals.”

Even the few clients she has encountered who initially balk at the idea of partnering with a young black woman to achieve their financial or investment objectives are soon won over by her sincere concern and ability to quickly grasp their needs and circumstances. “There are still instances, particularly in the corporate world, where it is difficult to get past the wall of gender prejudice that still exists,” she points out, “but even in the relatively short time that I have been involved in this industry, I have been encouraged by the changes in attitude I have witnessed and the growing acceptance that I have experienced.”

Not content to simply watch this change, Onalenna has also taken it upon herself to help drive the continued transformation of not just her industry, but also her country. She has enlisted the support of the Municipality and the National Application Centre to develop a career guidance workshop aimed at helping learners to make appropriate subject and career choices that will ensure that their abilities are not wasted through unemployment.

“I am saddened when I visit my hometown and see people who I was at school with who, despite being bright and talented, have not made good career choices and now face unsure futures,” she explains, “and this one-day, intensive career and study guidance workshop is my attempt to help those who are at school now not to make the same mistakes and create the opportunities they deserve in life.”

Onalenna hopes to take the programme, which launches in her hometown in September, to other schools in the region and, eventually, to rural schools across the country. If her passion and drive are anything to go by, this programme is destined to be another of her success stories.

Asked whether she hopes that it will inspire other young girls to follow in her footsteps and become financial advisers, Onallena laughs. “It would be great to know that I have inspired other women to join this industry,” she says, “but the most important thing to me is that they aren’t just trying to follow my lead, but that they are doing it for themselves – that way, they will have the biggest impact and be able to inspire other young people to take control of their own futures as well.”

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