WITH the Singapore economy slipping into a technical recession as a result of the global financial crisis, some people have seen their assets dwindle in value and have suffered setbacks in their investment goals and retirement plans.
In such times, a professional financial adviser can help you get a better overview of your finances and draw up a new strategy to ride out the economic downturn.
The main advantage of having such an adviser is that he can see an individual's entire financial picture and give advice accordingly, says Mr Arthur Lim, chief executive officer (CEO) of Alpha Financial Advisers.
Most people rely on agents and bank executives who sell them different products. This may not be the best strategy, as they may not have a full picture of their finances, risk appetite and objectives.
In today's uncertain economic climate, Mr Lim encourages everyone to review the various financial products and investments they hold and see if their portfolio fulfils their desired objectives.
For instance, after consultations with an experienced financial adviser, you may need to redefine your objectives. The objective may have been to seek 10 per cent returns, but the expected returns could be down by as much as 30 per cent to 70 per cent now.
Mr Lim says that there is no common strategy in financial planning, as each individual's circumstances and objectives are different. And this is where financial advisers can give professional advice. But it is important to choose the right financial adviser.
At Alpha Financial Advisers, Mr Lim has 12 full-time staff and 76 independent financial consultants.
He says: "One of the credos we have at Alpha is 'Do good by your client and your client will do good by you'. It's not enough to hold the necessary qualifications and to understand how numbers work. That's the baseline.
"What separates an excellent adviser from a good adviser is passion and putting the client first and foremost, and knowing how to translate those numbers into giving clients better financial options to enhance their lifestyles. We carry a big responsibility because if not done well and responsibly, it can impact lifestyles very negatively."
He always tells his new financial consultants that their objective has to be more than just making money. Apart from ethics, they have to act with professional and moral responsibility because clients entrust their retirement and the future of their children to them.
From this perspective, financial planning takes on a much higher and noble dimension than just numbers, he says.
"At Alpha, our product is the financial strategy and solution that we prescribe to our clients. Products are but a means to an end, a manner in which the strategy and solution is manifested. Putting products before strategy and solution merely makes us product hawkers,'' says Mr Lim.
Mr Lim, 40, has been the CEO of Alpha Financial Advisers since July 2005. He joined the company in 2003 as its chief operating officer.
After obtaining an honours degree in finance and international relations in 1992 from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1994, Mr Lim returned to Singapore to join the advertising and marketing communications industry.
He worked for several years in some of the top firms in the business before deciding to move to the financial world. In 2000, Mr Lim joined AIG Marketing as assistant vice-president, affinity/direct marketing, gaining experience in the insurance business.
The following year, his career got another boost when Standard Chartered Bank appointed him as senior manager, wealth management (investment services).
The two years he worked in AIG and Standard Chartered gave him invaluable experience in insurance and unit trusts distribution.
Now, after more than four years with Alpha Financial Advisers, he is enjoying his job despite the challenging times.