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Featured Profile: Kate Anderson
A new perspective
A recent accident forced Centrepoint Alliance group executive of advice services and solutions Kate Anderson to slow down for what felt like the first time, giving her the space to realise what is really important. Elizabeth McArthur writes.

It was a Friday and I remember feeling really tired and thinking I can't wait to go home," Centrepoint Alliance's Kate Anderson says.

"The next thing I knew the car hit me."

You need to communicate well with people and build trust so they want to work with you. And give people time.
It was November 2020 and Anderson was about 50 metres from home, crossing the road, thinking about how she would wind down for the day and how good it would feel to sit on the couch - maybe with a glass of wine.

As she crossed the road she was picked up by a vehicle, thrown against the windscreen and then flung about five metres from the car. Anderson hit her head and landed on her left ankle, suffering a severe break.

"The accident really made me question everything. Luckily I'm alive, it's only my ankle that's still recovering because I broke it in about five places," she says.

The accident would have been shocking for anyone, suffering a delayed concussion on top of her ankle injury, Anderson was in quite a state.

She describes the delayed concussion as similar to being dumped by a wave at the beach, saying she felt like her head was underwater.

Anderson ended up taking eight weeks off work; the longest amount of time she'd had off since having her two children.

The time off was a big deal for Anderson. From a young age she has prided herself on financial independence, developing a strong work ethic despite insisting that she never viewed herself as someone particularly ambitious.

With two school-aged children, Anderson is a full-time working mum and an advocate for flexible work practices for men and women.

But Anderson herself has never taken employers up on those flexible options.

"I've never asked an employer to work from home one day or work less, I've always worked five days in the office. But that's my own choice," she says.

"I thought I needed to be in the office and be seen. That's got nothing to do with flexible work arrangements, it was my choice. And it might actually be to my detriment that I've worked like that."

With financial independence consistently a priority for her, Anderson found herself always putting her work first and giving everything to the job and her team.

"I currently have eight direct reports with people underneath them, you find yourself giving a lot of your emotional energy to people at work as well," she says.

Despite the trauma of the accident, the time off and the space to think was a good, even necessary, thing, according to Anderson.

She admits that at times being a working mother, working in the financial services industry through a period of immense change and giving her all to work every day often meant she struggled to maintain a work-life balance.

"The accident made me question everything in my life, which I think is a good thing. I think I was at the stage where I needed to think about the path I was going down," Anderson says.

"Do I really enjoy what I do? Am I still passionate about it? I am. I really do still believe in the value of financial advice."

The experience also clarified the areas of her work that really matter to her.

"I'm particularly passionate about education and the role I play in providing services and solutions to advisers who then go and help mums and dads out there who have worked hard their whole lives to save for their retirement. That's why I come to work," Anderson says.

"More than ever, I want to help and give back to the mum and dads out there working hard to build a future for their families, getting access to affordable advice to make sure they are on track with their own path."

Anderson also made a promise to herself: that she would remain in the industry only so long as she is passionate about it.

Her dedication to her work is something of a surprise, given that Anderson essentially fell into a career in financial services.

"I had no intention of ever getting into finance or financial services when I finished school. I went to university, and I always had a passionate desire to do psychology," Anderson says.

"If you asked me 24 years ago whether I'd be where I am now, working in financial services, I would have laughed."

She started a psychology degree at Macquarie University but struggled mainly - funnily enough - with analysing numbers and statistics. When she chose to study psychology, Anderson had focussed on sitting down with people and helping them through their problems, but she quickly found out that wasn't what it is all about.

So, disillusioned, she transferred to an arts degree. Once she graduated, Anderson took off to London, working service roles and travelling the world in her time off.

When she finally returned to Sydney, she had gathered many valuable experiences and life lessons but she was in debt and in need of a job.

"I found an ad in the newspaper and applied for a job, it turned out it was to be part of the graduate program at Bankers Trust. I knew nothing about financial services, I didn't know what Bankers Trust was," Anderson says.

Successful with her application, Anderson was trained for three months alongside 30 other graduates before she was allowed to interact with clients.

"During that time, I got exposure to this fabulous idea of superannuation. Everyone is putting money into super and I realised this is a really wonderful thing to be interested in and know about because I'll always have a job if I know something about super. That's where I started getting into more technical roles," she explains.

From there, Anderson's career took off. She had roles at Zurich, AM Corporation and Mariner Financial before becoming head of technical at IOOF.

For those who might admire her career, Anderson's advice is simple: believe in yourself, be passionate and be honest, above all else.

"Empower the people around you. Develop good communication skills - verbal and written. You need to communicate well with people and build trust so they want to work with you. And give people time," she says.

"Everyone is in such a rush; I don't know where they're rushing to. There is that lack of face time and of having a real conversation with someone. You need to be able to give that time to team members."

It's something she missed while working from home during the pandemic.

But, she welcomes the increase in flexibility that has come along with that - especially for working mothers, like herself.

However, Anderson still sees herself showing up to the office most days. She values doing certain things the old-fashioned way.

"I might be a little old school, but I think people still want to meet you, they still want to look you in the eyes and shake your hand," Anderson says.