Taking Stock of Your Wealth

A holistic approach to financial management is the best way to wealth creation and it is that approach that has made financial firm RBS Morgans Brighton so successful. Johnathan Jackson speaks with senior investment advisor Michael Mansfield, about football, wealth strategy, asset allocation and surviving the GFC.

It was a family holiday that piqued Michael Mansfield’s interest in finance and broking.

“My father took the whole family to the US for four weeks,” he says. “It was a significant moment for me, going to America and Disneyland, and I remember talking to dad about it and him saying the holiday was based on some investments he made in gold and the share market. So, that interest in finance was always there.”

During his AFL career, with Geelong and Carlton Mansfield studied a Bachelor of Commerce, with a view to moving into business afterwards. Opportunistically, the Fremantle Dockers football club was launching at the same time he was looking for outside work, with the team looking to identify players they could secure and Mansfield was one of them. As an incentive to lure him, the fledging club offered a position in a broking firm in Perth.

When Geelong supporters caught the wind, Andrew Bell of then-Bell Securities (now the Bell Group) and Mansfield and offered him a position. The year 1995 turned out to be a good year for Mansfield as he started his career in broking and was nominated as an All-Australian Defender.

“When I first started broking, I was with Geelong and it was intense, but at that stage, football hasn’t exploded into the professional organisation it is today, so I was able to get enough experience and traction that I had a foundation for when I finished playing,” he says.

After he moved to Carlton, Mansfield gave broking away and concentrated on his MBA and football. When he finished playing, he did some consulting work and ventured overseas as part of an MBA exchange program. The destination was Italy and he fell in love with the place.

“They have different curriculum,” he said. “One of our lecturers in Italy has his own business, Ferretti Luxury Yachts and he needed some finance work done for the company. He tasked the class with the work and it became extremely interesting to see how things were done; we were able to get some high-level experience on an important piece of work.”

By the time he came back to Melbourne, Mansfield has the practical experience and the theory to begin his career in earnest.

People matter

If there’s one thing you get a real sense of while playing football; you are not just playing for yourself and your team, you are playing for the supporters.

The same can be said of business; you don’t necessarily start a business for yourself, you start one because you believe you have a product or service that can make a difference to people’s lives.

In 2008, Mansfield started his broking career at ABN Armo, which later become RBS Morgans, and he began to build a career around service, the customer focus (and of course, teamwork) has been the basis of the company’s growth.

“Testament to the business we’ve been building is that we’ve been able to grow to during the global financial crisis (GFC),” he says. “Funds under management have doubled in that timeframe and we’ve been able to attract other advisors because our service offering stands out. We offer people a clear strategy, which I think has been lost in financial services, along with a holistic wealth management service. Our broking background is the basis and we actively manage the investment. We utilise the resources we have to manage the portfolio.”

There are two other directors in the Brighton office; between them, they have skill sets that range from options advisory to asset allocation and general financial services advice. They have also built a team that they know will work for their clients.

“We are focused on getting the right people from a cultural perspective,” Mansfield said. “That goes back to football; you can get the right people but if you don’t have the work ethic and don’t want to work as a team it will fall apart.,” he said.

The directors at RBS Morgans believe they have built a team that is focused on how best to make their clients’ money, which means looking at an overall wealth strategy.

“If you can’t look at a client’s holistic situation, then you can’t advise,” he says. “Wealth management is more about what the client wants to achieve long term rather than trying to make some quick dollars. That means a good advisor has to give the client the confidence and direction to do that. Buying and selling shares is a minor part of that. Asset allocation is a key thing to wealth creation.”

Financial Issues

In the current economic climate, the most important piece of advice Mansfield can give to people who want to shore up their wealth is to seek financial advice and seek different alternatives.

“It’s a bit like any profession, people specialise in different areas and you can learn a lot from each of them,” he says. “Also, in this market, it’s important not to get caught up in the macro issues that we are facing and focus on what we can control. Have a clear strategy to know what you want to do, then do it in a disciplined way and you’ll find real wealth comes from asset allocation.”

The GFC hurt a lot of people. Those who survived, or who are once again gaining traction, are those whose who are disciplined. It is important to understand your asset allocation, where the opportunities are and how you can create your wealth.

For instance, the domestic market has underperformed, yet divided yield is at high-interest rate trending market, as interest rates fall that gap will continue, so the risk reward of cash is greater than the market cap of the ASX.

Mansfield says that in the current two-speed economy, Australians are vulnerable and that interest rate cuts should have occurred sooner, but there is a horizon ahead.

“We are more vulnerable and the current pain didn’t need to be that bad. However, dividend yields are sustainable and Australian companies are offering good returns while the rest of the world is sorting itself out.

“Meanwhile, we have a sound banking system but are vulnerable to the leverage we have to China and to global GDP and commodities in particular. The foundations are nice and strong but the vulnerability is there in company earnings which dominate our market an index.

“The generate huge profits, but their underperformance has a huge impact on our economy. So, what we try to advise is to stick with key strategies and don’t vary too much. Better days will come, but now is the time to maximise wealth.”

There is a great deal to think about when taking a holistic approach to wealth management, yet under the right guidance, you can make informed choices. It is important then to find yourself a team, who will work in your best interests and kick goals for you financially. RBS Morgans, under the guidance of Mansfield and his fellow directors, is successful because they work as a team and they have a culture built upon client relationships and services.