Catherine Smith: Bringing change in people’s lives with Wholistic Financial Solutions

The 10 Most Inspiring Business Women Making a Difference, 2021

Some people may find it cliché, but one of the noblest deeds to do in this world is to help others. In today’s erratic world, everyone wants to be financially independent. People have many ideas in their minds, but they don’t have the financial planning to support them. They start with a lot of passion, but due to a lack of proper advice, they are not able to achieve their dreams. With the spirit to help others financially and let them fuel their dreams with appropriate financial planning, Catherine Smith founded her brainchild, Wholistic Financial Solutions.

Behind the curtain scenes

At the age of 21, she was aiming to help others with her financial experience. However, at that stage, she was a little short on that. Before fulfilling her vision to help others financially, Catherine worked as a Tax Fraud Investigator with the Australian Taxation Office. She adds, “Whilst I loved my job and I felt I was serving an important role in the system I did not really feel like I was helping people. I wanted to be in a role where I could assist people with their financial lives rather than just punish those who had done the wrong thing.” So, she left the Australian Taxation Office and focused herself on working towards fulfilling her vision.

She continued to broaden her education from a Degree in Accounting and a Master’s Degree in Taxation and completed an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning & Insurance, a Diploma of Finance (Mortgage Broking), a Diploma of Real Estate and studied to be an Accredited Property Investment Adviser. She also qualified as a Justice of Peace in the ACT.

While expanding her knowledge base, she also gained the necessary experience and honed her financial skills. She states, “My 20 years of study was primarily as a result of my frustration with the whole Financial Advisory Sector. There was no professional field looking after the whole of a client’s financial needs. Frustrated with the whole industry, I went on a sidetrack and qualified to be a Life Coach, NLP practitioner, Hypnotherapist, Results coach, and Advanced Presenter and Trainer. Once I realized that I had qualified in every financial profession and was now a Life Coach, I remembered my vision of providing “wholistic financial solutions” to help clients grow and protect wealth.

She began advising clients by assessing their goals, needs, wants, and the financial feasibility of the goals both now and in the future. Then based on these goals and the client’s own interests, she devised individual wealth creation strategies to assist them in creating, building, and protecting wealth. She then, branded these solutions and set up the business and called it ‘Wholistic Financial Solutions.’

Crossing every hurdle along the way

Catherine has come a long way to achieve everything she has today. She had to go through a lot of troughs where he was challenged mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially.

She started the business in 2002 when all her kids were under the age of 7. In 2006, she became a victim of domestic violence and a very stressful marriage breakdown. She had to close the business and move interstate to protect herself and her kids.

In 2006, she collected herself and started her business again. Having the passion for assisting her clients in property investments and arranging mortgages, she invested in the new venture by investing in a franchise called Investor Finance. But fate had a different plan for her. After a month, when she invested $350,000 in franchise fees and office setup, the franchisor announced their liquidation due to the GFC (Global Financial Crises).

Having lost loads of investment in this venture, she relied on her last resort. She continued the business by investing $240,000 into a related business that owned a real estate rent roll. However, she still landed in a bear trap.

The director of that company fraudulently stole all the funds. She appointed a liquidator to try and recover the stolen funds, but the liquidator recovered the stolen funds and used them all in their own fees, which ultimately ended up seeing her lose everything she had worked so hard to build up, and she went bankrupt.

She expresses, “The stress was too much to bear, and my new husband tried to commit suicide. Then our marriage fell apart, and the children were again affected. I did not think I could go on any longer. I felt like a complete failure. I even attempted suicide myself, but luckily, I failed at that too.” She was devastated on all fronts.

However, at that time, her mindset training came as the last ray of hope in her life. She collected herself and worked hard to reach new heights professionally and personally. She adds that no matter what the situation was, her kids never left her side and supported her at every turn of her life.

She states, “They have been through hard times. They have seen me go through 4 marriage breakdowns. They have seen me work myself to the bone. They have seen me go through terrible times where I was bankrupted, and I could not afford to buy them new shoes or pay for school excursions. They have then seen me pick myself back up, time and time again, and re-build a very successful business and family home. They have always been supportive, and they help out as much as kids can.”

She expresses, “A breakthrough realization came to me when I realized that all my mistakes, and I have made my fair share, actually made me who I am and made me stronger and in an even better position to assist clients through all their troubles in life, both personally and financially.”

Redefining financial industry with Wholistic Financial Solutions

Catherine states that the current financial advice system in Australia is fundamentally flawed. It prohibits the average Australian from obtaining quality, professional financial advice that is tailored to their individual circumstances. She states that accountants and tax advisors, financial planners, finance (mortgage) advisors, and property advisors are currently all separate professions, governed by separate laws, monitored by separate governing bodies, and operate as silos.

Often, a client will get differing opinions on the same topic from these different professional advisors, which is often because each advisor is tainted by where they are receiving their revenue from. The customers don’t get a structured strategy that covers all the aspects as the professional advisors are concerned about their own interests rather than creating value for their customers. To break the shackles of this approach and overcome the flaws, Catherine built the Wholistic Financial Solutions model.

Wholistic Financial Solutions is a unique multidisciplinary financial services firm. It was founded on the fundamental principle that all Australians should have access to quality, affordable financial advice that addresses all of their financial needs and goals.

Currently, there are no other financial firms in Australia licensed, insured, registered, and qualified to provide advice in all the financial fields that Wholistic Financial Solutions offers.

Their client base consists of average Australians who want to create and protect wealth for themselves and their families. The team works with the aim to provide financial freedom to all their clients. They believe in partnering with clients to advise, educate and guide them to make the right financial choices.

Catherine states, “Our motto is ‘It’s all about YOU.’ The client is the fundamental focus of our firm, and our aim is to always put the client’s needs and goals first. All advice given is only given if it is truly in the best interests of the client, people before profit. We base our advice on assessing the client’s goals, needs, and wants and the financial feasibility of the goals both now and in the future. Based on these goals and the client’s own preferences, we devise individual wealth creation strategies to assist clients in creating, building, and protecting wealth.”

Wearing the hats of CEO and Managing Director

In the past, Catherine had to do everything as the company was in the building stage and things were not going in her way. She built it with her blood and soul, taking all the challenges with a strong heart and mind.

Currently, as the company has grown, she has excellent directors running each division. Everyone is an expert in their respective domains and takes the onus to offer the best services to the clients.

She provides ample space for them to grow individually so that they can contribute towards the betterment of the company. She adds, “I have been able to elevate myself to the position I have always dreamed of. I no longer get involved in the daily grind of the detailed work.  We have designed systems and procedures so that staff can easily handle most tasks without the need for my interference or supervision.”

As the CEO and Managing Director, she oversees the high-priority tasks and tries to give a constant dose of motivation to her teams. She states, “My main role is now overseeing the firm from a high level, focusing on future planning and innovation. My most favorite part is seeing clients face to face and developing their overarching financial direction in all aspects of their financial life. I am then able to delegate the detailed work of implementing this plan to the team who are all specialized in their own fields.”

She has worked very hard to reach this level of success, and this is represented by the rewards achieved by herself and her company.

She states, “Over the last few years, we have been recognized as finalists in over 50 Awards. The most notable awards were recognized as a finalist in the 2017 & 2018 Telstra Business Awards in the ACT.  Then in 2019, I won the Telstra Businesswomen’s Award for the ACT.  I was also recognized as a finalist in 7 categories of the IFA Excellence Awards, six categories in the Women in Finance Awards, and we won three categories in the 2018 SMSF and Accounting Awards. The Awards are a great recognition of the uniqueness of our model and our leadership in the financial industry.”

Achieving balance in professional and personal life

Being a single mom of four kids and supporting her family on her own, balancing everything in the past during the company’s staging phase was a little complicated to say the least.

Even today, Catherine lives a hectic life personally. She is a firm believer in taking some time off from work to refresh her mind and body. She made the Australian Dragon Boating Team in 2012 and was part of a crew that Broke the Guinness Book of Records for longest distance in a Dragon Boat in 24 hours.

She adds, “I am very physically active and have a goal of making the Australian dragon Boating team again in 2022.  I train at least seven times a week.” 

Even with his business and physical training demands, she makes time for her family and kids. Her four children are older now, so they do not take up as much of her time as they used to, but she still loves to indulge with them.

She states, “The children are older now, but we still have family meals every night and, no matter how busy their training schedules are, they all ensure they are home in time to eat together, and we usually sit around chatting long after the meal is finished.”  We holiday together in summer, boating and wakeboarding and in winter on the ski slopes.

Future prospects for Wholistic Financial Solutions

With the aim to help others with the financial experience, Catherine crossed all the odds and steered her business to new heights with strong determination and passion.

Now for the future, she states, “My plan is to see Wholistic Financial Solutions open in every state of Australia. Our model is so unique, and I believe, the future of the financial services industry is bright, as we have had entrepreneurial businesspeople approach us and ask if they can open branches in other states. This has already allowed us to open offices in Melbourne and Brisbane.” Her main dream is to continue this all over Australia and she wants that their service model should be made available to all Australians.

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