Wealth coach and financial advisor Helia Singh knows more than most what it feels like to be in the minority.
When she arrived in Australia from Iran as a young adult in 1996, she spoke no English and knew no one outside of her own family.
Fast-forward 24 years and she now runs successful Perth-based business Assurance Finance and Business Solutions providing financial advice, wealth coaching and financial literacy training, has her own education channel on YouTube and offers her spare time to provide financial education to female prisoners.
In addition to language barriers, she faced cultural and educational barriers in setting up her own business but credits her success to having a rebellious streak, following her passion and staying true to herself.
“I was always the black sheep of the family,” Helia said.
“I remember my mum used to say – I have raised seven kids in one way – but with you I don’t know why you are so different.”
Helia realised very early on that this difference was the very thing that she could utilise to help others, especially around showing other females in migrant communities that they too could overcome barriers to be successful in business and financially independent.
“Believe it or not I am extremely introverted. I always thought with my quiet nature how can I be a good leader – how could I leave a legacy,” she said.
“I realised that I had a secret weapon that I can use my introverted personality to do something good – it’s all about a perception and how we turn our bad stories into good stories in life.
“I use my rebellious nature in a good direction by working hard and proving to others like me especially women who are immigrants anywhere in the world that it is possible to be successful in business and be financially independent.”
Driven by a clear desire to give back to the community that welcomed her with open arms 24 years ago, Helia is passionate about helping people, especially women take control of their finances and their lives.
“I truly believe that financial empowerment is the step to give people financial freedom, especially for women,” she said.
“If I can give a bit of hope that people can take control of their life – hopefully they will not fall into the trap of finding a rich partner and being a victim in many cases.”
Helia volunteered her time to get her first break in the industry working as an assistant to a mortgage broker at Seven Hills in NSW who later helped get her a role as a business financial planner at Westpac. A few years later she got married and moved with her husband to Melbourne where she made the decision to start her own business.
She initially specialised in mortgages and wealth creation but quickly realised that the overall level of financial literacy in Australia was quite low and many clients kept repeating bad financial habits. Her own initial experience in the industry, where she had to break down complex financial jargon into easily understandable terms helped her realise that she could add more value to her clients by becoming a wealth coach or a “financial healer” as one of her friends recently labelled her.
“To me wealth coaching is not just about product or a strategy – it’s about empowering people to show them they have the power, they have enough knowledge to make the right decision for themselves, no financial advisor can make a decision for them,” she said.
“To be part of someone’s financial journey, their wealth journey is amazing. My ability to break down the difficult concepts or topic and make it very easy to understand for people and then see that lightbulb moment in their face – that’s the best part of my job.”
Helia is a big believer that you “find products for your customers, not customers for your products”. Over time that philosophy has seen her branch into online financial literacy education, launch an education channel on YouTube and write three e-books.
Her work with female prisoners in Western Australia’s jail system has also reinforced just how life-changing financial independence can be for women.
“One prisoner, who was quite educated and had a PHD, was actually in prison because she had killed her mother-in-law because she took control of her son’s inheritance and left her with nothing when he died,” she said.
“I helped make her realise that she made the mistake herself by not being involved in the finances – that she gave someone else permission to take control of the finances – but really she had to be there – she had to make a conscious decision to be involved.”
As a rule-breaker and a role-model to women from diverse multicultural backgrounds, Helia is a great example of the opportunities that diversity brings to the mortgage and finance industry.
She argues that Australia’s diverse and multicultural society is one of the reasons our finance sector emerged relatively unscathed from the 2008 global financial crisis.
She believes embracing diversity and supporting diverse people like herself, is the key to the ongoing success and sustainability of the industry.
“People are from all walks of life – obviously we need people from many different backgrounds to work in this industry,” she said.
“At the end of the day this is the reality – people want to deal with people they are comfortable with.
“Diversification makes it much easier for people to deal with people they like and there is no competition because we all have the same mission – to help people.”
Her biggest advice to other aspiring female business owners is to believe in themselves and turn weaknesses into strengths.
“At the end of the day find out what you are best at and then put your focus there. Don’t copy others – think about how you add value to people’s lives – find your way and you will be okay,” she concluded.