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Featured Profile: Dina Kotsopoulos
Move to your own beat
Dina Kotsopoulos was destined for a career in music, but fate had other plans. Now the head of platforms at BT, she reflects on her sliding doors moment. Ally Selby writes.

From a young age, Dina Kotsopoulos dedicated herself to music, with a career in the arts mapped out in the stars. She topped off countless hours of practice with a university degree set to catapult her to the behind-the-scenes world of music.

It's not often that a part-time job at a contact centre can tempt someone away from the world of late nights and bright lights, but somehow for Kotsopoulos it did.

From a cultural perspective, you have to feel as though you've got an opportunity to add something to the customer's experience.
Soon after, Kotsopoulos was thrust into a world which some might describe as music's polar opposite; financial services.

Now the head of platforms at BT, Kotsopoulos has risen from that first contact centre role to a national leadership position in relative lightning speed.

"At 21 years of age I had to decide whether to go back on the path I had always wanted or to follow this new, evolving passion," Kotsopoulos says.

"Much to my parents dismay at the time I decided to stay on at BT and completely changed the career path I had in my mind my whole life."

A decision, which she says, has been the best of her life. However, her new path was not without challenges.

"There was a period where I was definitely a bit of an outlier," Kotsopoulos says.

"Everyone that I was working with in the contact centre at the time had studied finance and understood the industry and economics and I didn't have that kind of a background.

"For me, it was as much a challenge as it was a bit of fear, because I felt like I was a fish out of water."

Despite this fear and sense of doubt, Kotsopoulos fell in love with the world of financial services.

"I felt as though I was really helping people and I realised financial health is one of the most important things in life," she says.

"I knew I could really have an influence on people's lives; like I was adding value every single day."

It's kept Kotsopoulos at BT throughout her career thus far, spending 13 years with the financial services firm.

"I freak out when I hear that because I can't believe I have been here for that long," she says.

"I recall that when one of my trainers in the contact centre introduced herself, she said: 'Hi, I'm Leanne and I have been here six years', and I thought, six years! Why would you stay in the one place for six years?

"And now 13 years later, here I am; I'm loving it and I'm evolving. All the leaders I have had and the trust they had in me, and the opportunities they have given me, have kept me here with the business."

This type of undying loyalty is usually rare, especially during one's early career - but Kotsopoulos says it's all about finding a business that believes in you, just as much as you believe in it.

"From a cultural perspective, you have to feel as though you've got an opportunity to add something to the customer's experience," she says.

"And within the company, you have to feel as though you're supported, you have to feel trusted - that's certainly been a big thing for me.

"I wake up in the morning and I know that if I go to work, I'm supported. I know that if I need flexibility, I'll get it. I know that if I want to have a challenging conversation, that I can have it without any negative consequences."

Now, having studied a MBA, and with supportive mentors by her side, that sense of doubt has evaporated. She argues it's not just culture that breeds success; it's also a bit of hard work.

"I never shield away from a challenge," Kotsopoulos says.

"I think particularly in an industry that has faced so many challenges over the past five to 10 years, whether it be the FOFA reforms or the Royal Commission, or regulatory changes - you have to be resilient, you have to work hard both for your customers and for the business."

These traits; resilience, passion, hard work, dictate all that Kotsopoulos does.

"Whether it's creating a new product or service, or responding to regulatory change, or just trying to nail a recipe on the weekend over a glass of wine, I am all in," she says.

"I have definitely benefited from my passion, resilience and hard work."

It's something that financial services professionals have always strived to do, she says, however the Royal Commission highlighted what happens when they get it wrong.

"I think the Royal Commission was a really pivotal moment for the financial services industry; it unearthed a lot of things that we need to improve on," Kotsopoulos says.

It's made all financial services organisations think differently about how they operate, she adds.

"We've absolutely taken all those learnings to heart and we have been improving ourselves, and evolving our products and services, to really put the customer at the centre of everything that we do," Kotsopoulos says.

As markets crash and economic uncertainty lingers, Australia's advisers have stepped up to the challenge, she says.

"I think of my Mum and Dad through this COVID-19 crisis - they have a small business, they are struggling, and they are turning to a financial adviser to help them through this," Kotsopoulos says.

"Advisers have really upped the ante in terms of engagement; they want to communicate more, they want to engage more, and they're asking us to help them do that."

It could have gone one of two ways, she says.

"Advisers could have used the COVID-19 crisis as a reason to not be able to service their clients effectively," Kotsopoulos says.

"But instead, they are trying to ensure that they keep that connection with their clients because they know that their value is absolutely amplified in circumstances like this."

The crisis, despite its related health and economic challenges, has highlighted the true value of financial advice, Kotsopoulos says.

"People that have had a financial adviser for a long time and have found a really good one, absolutely know the value of advice, particularly in times like this," she says.

"I think those that haven't had a financial adviser are probably nervous about their livelihoods, they're nervous about their homes, they're nervous about their families.

"And I hope they turn to a financial adviser because they can add so much value."

As for Kotsopoulos, while the world of music may seem a distant memory to her current reality, it remains a major, valuable part of her life.

"I've got my guitar and piano set up in my apartment and on the weekends I have a bit of a jam and go to concerts," she says.

And if she were living life with a backing track, Kotsopoulos says the soundtrack to The Sound of Music would be her pick.

"It always brings happiness and hope," she says.

"And I think we all need a bit of that right now."

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