Keeping current with financial knowledge

After 17 years working as an insurance broker for Gallagher, Jeremy Bernstein always had his finger on the pulse when it came to keeping up-to-date with his skills and knowledge in the insurance sector and wider financial services industry.

So, when he embarked on studying the New Zealand Certificate in Financial Services (Level 5) online with Open Polytechnic to meet the new legal requirements for giving financial advice, he was excited to discover the knowledge he gained benefitted his clients, himself and the wider community.

Committed to upskilling, Jeremy has completed both the General Insurance, and the Life, Disability and Health strands of the New Zealand Certificate in Financial Services (Level 5) with Open Polytechnic.

 Finger on the pulse

 Before the new financial advice regime came into force on 15 March 2021, Jeremy had been eagerly following the legal compliance scene for years.

 “I’ve been the boring guy at work reading articles and blogs around the legal scene and saying hey there are some changes coming up on the horizon and we have to be ready.”

 “In 2007 I completed a post graduate diploma in personal financial planning through the University of Waikato and at the time I thought I was future proofing. However, with the new law it soon became apparent I would need to undertake further study to meet the new criteria.”

 Jeremy says, for some who have been in the industry for years, this new requirement has been challenging, however with the support of his employer and colleagues he found studying has positively impacted him both personally and professionally. 

 Cohort of colleagues

 Having a supportive employer who understands the importance of investing in staff development has been key for Jeremy.

 “Gallagher are very supportive of my studies. They endorsed the Open Polytechnic programme, are financing my study and I have a cohort of colleagues, including senior people, who are studying alongside me."

 “If you are part of a cohort, you all know what you are going through. We are all at different stages and ages but we provide encouragement to each other along the way.”

 Jeremy says his study journey has been one of excitement and joy.

 “The joy that I found was seeing my colleagues not only engaging in the course content, but at various times being actually excited about the changes they can implement in their own financial thinking."

 “I would overhear people at work saying “I’m selecting a more suitable KiwiSaver fund, we are re-setting our mortgage, I’m having better conversations with the bank etc."

 Jeremy says studying has enabled him and his colleagues the opportunity to be better versed in certain aspects of financial services, such as investing and saving, which are not part of their role at Gallagher.

 “We have every opportunity to be better financial citizens and better brokers for our clients because we have a broader understanding of the context in which insurance exists."

 “For me personally, one big moment of clarity was getting my head around the idea that spending cash is an impulse that is informed by our personality profile and once we figure that out, we have a better chance of managing cash flow – a vital aspect of any household.

 So now when I talk to my nieces and nephews I explain how the financial decisions they make now are important for their future security and wellbeing.”

 Community engagement

Jeremy says that he thinks about financial services and insurance as a vocation not simply a job and is eager to share his knowledge with the wider community.

 “One of my formal roles at Gallagher is to provide life, disability and health insurance advice. And one of my other roles, that I designed myself with my employer’s full support, is business development.  My community engagement is really an expression that I sincerely believe in what we do and I enjoy communicating."

 Access to advice is so important. So, I attend community based educational forums to demonstrate our commitment to being available to a wider and more diverse sector of our workforce and community.  

 “Education is about engagement, contribution and trading insights.”

 Study anytime, anywhere

 Jeremy says while he didn’t find it easy balancing online study with full-time work, he found advantages to being able to study anywhere and anytime at his own pace.

 “I don’t learn quickly and have to reflect on things and go over things a few times before I really get a handle on it. So, I would go into work really early and do little bits every day. It’s important not to be intimidated by it and understand you can climb that mountain, and just take a couple of steps at a time."

 “Sometimes at night, I would be on the couch and open my iPad and flip into a bit of reading. I’ve read really good content on my iPhone and the learning has suddenly clicked when I’m relaxing and the knowledge can soak in gently."

 “I also found the learning platform iQualify incredible. You can access it really quickly, easily go into the last course page you were on and even type in notes. It’s a billion times easier than giant text books which I find difficult and intimidating.”

 Jeremy says his employer was “incredibly generous when it came to taking time to study.

Nothing was a problem. Any request for time off site – they would say absolutely.”

 Having the support of Open Polytechnic tutors also helped Jeremy along the way.

 “I received amazing support from my tutor.”

 Future ambitions

Now that he has graduated, Jeremy plans to continue learning and sharing his knowledge.

 “I’m never going to stop studying. I’ve got a real passion for communicating and sharing. So, I want to be the guy at work who encourages. I want to remain in a fulfilled career as long as I possibly can and that’s about whether I remain capable, engaged and willing to contribute."

 Jeremy says what he enjoys most about the insurance industry is helping people.

 “What I enjoy about the insurance industry is it’s fundamentally about people. There is nothing more important in the world as humans’ safety and security. Money is incredibly important. A lot of New Zealanders lack economic security and I consider that a really difficult puzzle – but one that can be solved one step at a time."

 “For me, if I’m continuing to learn – I am more useful to Gallagher, our clients, myself and my community."

 Study advice for others

 “What I would say to others looking to study is don’t be intimidated.  By figuring out your learning style the paralysis that comes from stress will melt away. Whatever subject you’re into, become ambitious about it and get pleasure from learning."

 “The joy of what Open Polytechnic offers is you can dip in and out, as and when suits and take one step at a time."

 “I’m so grateful for this opportunity - I wouldn’t have done this certificate if I hadn’t had to. It’s just been a really wonderful experience. It’s had a real practical impact on the quality of advice we are all sharing with our clients. And in my own work I am more insightful and considered."

 “I think the key to healthier and happier communities is striving to find something that you can fly in – something that is your thing. We can all be highly useful, engaged and contributors, whatever we do.”

I’m so grateful for this opportunity. It’s had a real practical impact on the quality of advice we are all sharing with our clients. And in my own work I am more insightful and considered.