Ultima Financial Planners recently announced that one of their employees, Hester van der Merwe, was named 2020’s Financial Planner of the Year at the FPI’s annual awards ceremony which was held at Pigalle Restaurant in Sandton.
Hester joins founder and director, Gerrit Viljoen (2003) and Jan-Carel Botha (2012) as Ultima Financial Planners’ third winner of this coveted title.
“It is a remarkable achievement to be confirmed as an industry leader but with that also comes a responsibility to take the lead when it comes to professional service, innovative solutions, deep-rooted customer relationships and quality financial advice,” says Ultima Financial Planners’ director, Hendri de Klerk.
“We are very proud of Hester for achieving this remarkable accomplishment in the midst of a challenging year. People do not always understand the hard work, in addition to her normal Ultima responsibilities, that goes into something like this. However, we never doubted her ability and know that she has played and will continue to play a major role in the financial planning sector.”
This award is considered the highest accolade bestowed on financial planners in South Africa and represents the very pinnacle of the profession.
Candidates had to undergo a rigorous selection process and had to showcase their skills and expertise through numerous practical challenges.
According to the FPI, Hester set herself apart from the competition through the depth of her knowledge, the immense detail of her financial plans and her exceptional personal commitment to her clients.
“I am in total awe of the years of dedication and hard work it has taken for each winner to get where they are,” says Lelané Bezuidenhout, CEO of the FPI. “2020 has reminded me that there is no such thing as luck – only hard work, dedication and professionalism.”
¬¬Other 2020 award winners include BDO Wealth Advisers (Professional Practice of the Year), Didintle Mokonoto (Diversity and Inclusion Award), Caroline da Silva (Harry Brews Award), Francois du Toit (It Starts with Me Award) and Brandon Ellse (Top Candidate Award).
“Firstly, I want to give all the glory to my Heavenly Father, who makes everything possible. I feel incredibly humbled and thankful to be this year’s winner. I am excited and a little nervous at the same time, but cannot wait to sink my teeth into all that next year will bring,” says Hester about the honour of winning this prestigious prize. “Thank you to the FPI who has entrusted me with this role! I expect it to be a steep learning curve, but now that the ball is my court, I plan on giving it my best shot.”
Hester has more than seventeen years of experience in financial planning and joined the Ultima team in 2015, where she fulfils the role of director, financial planner and advisor. Prior to joining Ultima Financial Planners, she worked as a financial planner at FNB and has always enjoyed adding value to her clients’ lives.
She initially studied Law at the University of Pretoria. After entering the financial sector, she decided to further her education by obtaining a postgraduate diploma in Financial Planning from the University of the Free State, as well as a certificate in Advanced Trust Law from the University of Pretoria.
Her long-term goal is not only to advance her profession as an ambassador of the FPI, but also to educate and inspire women from all walks of life.
“I think that it is time for women to put on their financial boots and climb that mountain! If I can inspire someone to become a planner, or face their own finances and take control, or maybe just get involved in the household finances, I will feel that I have made good use of my year,” she shares.
Hester currently resides in Pretoria, with her husband and three children. Outside of finance, she enjoys mountain biking, camping, reading, baking, spending time with her family and doing DIY projects in and around the house. She believes that everyone has a unique financial story and wants to help people to understand it in order to take control of their own finances.
“I would like to introduce as many people as possible to their money story. This is in line with my belief that we work with the person first and then with the portfolio. We all have things in our lives that affect the way we look at money and, by helping clients to understand this, I can motivate them to take action and change their situation,” Hester concludes.