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From Development Programme to Young Banker of the Year runner-up

14 December 2005 Angelo Coppola

This week we profile Isaac Lakhi from the First Rand Group, in the second of our new series in which we interview remarkable people in our industry and country.

On 22 November 2005, Isaac Lakhi was named the runner-up Young Banker of the Year for 2005.

But to understand how remarkable his achievements are, we need to go back to 27 January 1998, when while returning from Durban on the N3 freeway in his 3-series BMW Individual, he was involved in a collision.

Lakhi was airlifted from the scene of the accident to Milpark Hospital where he spent three weeks in intensive care.

As a consequence of the accident, he ended up with a neurological condition.

For years thereafter he was reduced to a "zombie-like" status and despite the problems he experienced with his balance, vision and weight (due to the medication) he went on to graduate with a B-Degree in banking and is currently studying towards his LLB in addition to getting a international diploma in ballroom dancing, a certificate in golf rules & etiquette and successfully completing the 2004 Old Mutual Two Oceans (half) marathon.

In August 2004, he adopted a baby boy who is 16 months old.

Finally Lakhi "re-started" his career on 1 February 2005 on Momentum's Graduate Development Programme, and has recently joined FirstRand's Ask.Us Financial Advice Centre at Clearwater Mall.

He was named employee of the month for November and has twice received an award for generating the highest sales. Finally culminating in being nominated for and chosen as
runner-up in the 'Young Banker of the Year" competition.

Interested in finding out what drives this remarkable and successful young man I asked him the following questions.

Q: How did you adapt to life after your accident and what drives you everyday:

A: Belief and trust in Allah (God); belief in myself and my abilities; refusal to take no for an answer; drawing strength from statesmen like Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and then Nelson Mandela & Winston Churchill, and entrepreneurs such as Laurie Dippenaar (FirstRand), Ronnie Watson (WesBank), Adrian Gore (Discovery) and Sean Summers (Pick 'n Pay).

Q: How important is personal financial planning to you personally and why?

A: Extremely important. Had I planned properly for the adversity that struck me, I would have been in a different position today.

Q: What are the most important elements of financial planning?

A: Listening to clients, selling in terms of client needs (and not my interests), honesty, integrity and transparency.

Q: How early do you think someone should start planning for their future?

A: As early as possible, while in high school. The world is becoming more and more globalised and therefore more competitive. The future belongs to those who plan!

Q: What is your personal view on the commission vs Fee debate?

A: I aggressively support the fee structure. With new legislation such as FAISbeing promulgated, the industry will see a significant metamorphosis, especially over the next decade.

I am of the conviction that the industry will become more credible and reputable and eventually even prestigious. At that point, people will categorise financial advisors in the league of other respected professionals such as lawyers, chartered accountants, actuaries and doctors etc.

People will eventually want to pay for the services of a financial advisor

I also believe that commission does the industry a great injustice as it creates the purport that Financial Advisors are only interested in commission. With the fee dispensation, this will change, albeit this may a take a long time.

Q: What do you think clients expect from a financial advisor as far as expertise and service is concerned?

A: Honesty, reliability, integrity and professionalism. Also, to act in the clients interest, and NOT in the interests of the financial advisor.

Q: If there is one good piece of advice you can give to other financial advisors out there what would it be?

A: Opportunity emanates from adversity (Isaac Lakhi). Winston Churchill said:

"Great success is usually achieved at the expense of great failure."Never give up. Never succumb to defeat. Never say die!

Editors thoughts

* I came away from this interview with a deep sense of humility. It’s truly an inspiration to those of us who often think we are always up against it.
* Listening to, and putting clients interest first are perhaps two of the most important advisory lessons we can learn from him.
* As a father myself I am sure that he will admit that his greatest achievement and inspiration so far has been the adoption of his son.
* Credit must also go to his wife Jeanette Hobson who has stood by him through everything and to whom he dedicated his young bankers’ award.

Quick Polls

QUESTION

Which of the following business models do you favour to achieve a sustainable succession outcome in your financial advice practice?

ANSWER

[a] I will find an independent financial planner to buy my business
[b] I will sell a portion of my advice practice to a large corporate
[c] I will join a large firm and give up my independence
[d] I will invite another independent financial planner to join me
[e] I will partner with a large firm
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