As an adviser your reputation is all you have, says Claire Mackay

Each Money Makeover we give you the opportunity to get your financial questions answered in our Ask the Expert segment.

Now, we love all of our experts, but we really enjoy when Claire Mackay, principal of Quantum Financial, joins us on the course. Claire is a top-notch financial planner and, more importantly, a lovely person… Lib and I always look forward to our chats with her.

So let’s hear about how she got started in financial advice.

How did you get started as a financial adviser?

I started in financial planning at a young age around the dining table as my father Bill established Quantum Financial back in 1994. He wouldn’t let either my brother Tim or me join the business until we had proven ourselves professionally elsewhere so we embarked on successful accounting, legal and investment banking careers. After working at PwC and Macquarie Bank and gaining qualifications in tax, accounting, law and Self Managed Super Funds, I formally joined Quantum Financial on a full times basis 8 years ago.

What about your experience?

My investment banking experience gained at Macquarie Bank and my brother’s experience at Deutsche Bank and UBS in London and New York means our clients receive best of breed advice.

We constantly tap into our professional network for research and investing ideas. In addition, our Chartered Accounting experience, my legal experience and my brother’s SMSF expertise is invaluable for clients who require complicated structuring advice.

What do you love about your job / proudest moments?

Many years ago when I was entering finance my father said to me ‘If you are going into finance then the only thing you have is your reputation and if you look after your clients then they will look after you’. I am keenly aware that every year our clients place an enormous amount of trust in us to look after their family’s financial security. I view the trust they place in us as a great responsibility and a great honour.

One of the coolest parts of my job is that my clients are all so amazing in their own right. Most have been incredibly successful in their professional lives and live full and happy personal lives. They typically travel extensively and are active in their communities. Many of them even sit me down and share with me great business advice and wonderful feedback on what we are doing for them.

In 2015 Money Management’s awarded me Financial Planner of the Year and in 2014 IFA Magazine awarded me both Investment Advisor of the Year and Excellence Award in Advice. What made me proud of these awards was that they were great recognition for our wonderful clients, the wonderful team I work with and for the mentors in the industry who continually help me develop.

In 2014 the Chair of ASIC Greg Medcraft asked me to join ASIC’s External Advisory Panel and with effect 1 July 2016 I become a Board Member of the Accounting Professional and Standards Board (APESB). Both are recognition for the leading role Quantum Financial has taken in driving professionalism and ethics in financial planning.

Can you your advice philosophy?

Like doctors, our first rule is to do no harm. By that we mean our clients should not take any more take investment risk than they need to meet their goals such as funding their dream retirement or managing their family’s wealth.

Next our investment philosophy is driven by asset allocation and asset location (where assets are held securely in the most tax effective vehicles).

We implement core and satellite portfolios, with a low cost diversified core and high conviction investment ideas as satellite investments. Our proprietary ‘Investing Insights’ research is at the heart of all of our investment advice.

Can you introduce us to Quantum Financial?

Established by my father Bill Mackay in 1994, Quantum Financial is one of Australia’s few truly independent private wealth advisory practices.  Since Day 1 we have never had any ownership or other ties to institutions and we have long avoided the old discredited commission model.

We advise a select group of successful professionals, business owners and jet setting retirees.  Our clients want independent, ethical advice not aligned with a large institution or product provider. We only accept a select number of private individuals and families for whom we know we can add significant value.

Can you explain your fee structure?

We have long avoided commissions, rebates, asset based fees and other hidden fees. Instead we adopt a fixed fee approach.

After meetings with prospective clients, we undertake a structured process in which we assess their personal circumstances, the complexity of their situation, our assessment of our professional time and any additional risk factors. We then provide them with an all-inclusive, transparent fixed fee for their first year of service as part of their tailored Service Agreement. They know to the dollar how much they will pay us before they commit to anything.

We know that Quantum Financial are not the cheapest financial planners in the market. However, for clients we choose to partner with we know that we will add significantly more value than the fees they will pay.

When should people see a financial adviser?

Typically our new clients are retirees or lead a busy and successful professional life and are time poor.  They value dealing with a professional and are willing to delegate management of their finances and partner with a trusted, expert advisor to protect and build their wealth.

Many new clients come to us when a significant event happens in their life. For some its selling their business or when they are starting to think of transitioning to their retirement. Others seek help in successfully managing a significant divorce settlement or inheritance. For some in retirement they want the peace of mind and trust that their wealth is being managed in their family’s best interests should something happen to them.


Claire is principal at Quantum Financial. Visit her personal website.

Financial health is just the same as personal wellbeing, says Brenton Tong

One of our favourite parts of the Money Makeover is Ask the Expert, where we put your questions to a team of financial gurus.

Our experts are leaders in their field, and provide a unique perspective and insights into everyday financial problems… and we’d like to help you get to know them, starting with Brenton Tong, partner and Head of Strategy at Financial Spectrum.

Brenton’s been in the advice business for 17 years, and has a unique take on what it means to be a financial adviser. We sat down with him to find out what makes him tick.

KMM: Welcome back Brenton! Let’s start at the start… how did you get to where you are?

I stumbled into financial advice way back in 1998 – completely by accident. I was at uni studying accounting and law. I applied for a job in investment management, but instead they referred me to a financial planning firm. I was twenty at the time, and thought I may as well have a crack at this. I haven’t stopped since”.

KMM: 17 years later, is it fair to say you stumbled into your dream job?

“I’m very mathematical and very analytical, but I also love people and the psychology behind what motivates us. I guess marrying the two together is the perfect job.”

KMM: What is your philosophy when it comes to financial advice?

“Advice is a very personal thing for me. Numbers are very straightforward. The key difference between numbers and advice is helping to identify what the numbers actually mean for the individual.

So first I try to work out what my clients value the most. Then it’s a matter of looking at where they are now and what they need to do to get from A to B. I simply point them in the right direction, and help them to do the right things at the right time for the right reasons. It’s the benefit of foresight.

Financial health is the same as personal wellbeing. There’s no quick fix to be healthy, but if you eat well, exercise well and don’t drink too much, on the balance of averages you’re less likely to have issues.

And similarly, you don’t need to be in the next IPO or get in early on the next renovating boom to become wealthy. Get a plan, be consistent.”

KMM: Can you tell us a bit more about Financial Spectrum?

“I’ve never worked for a bank or large organisation. As a partner in a small firm, when I’m talking to people it’s a case of ‘well you need a financial solution that looks like this’.

And if there is a need for it, we can do it – whatever financial challenges a person is having. We can provide advice on investments and insurance of course, or bring in other experts like a family lawyer, commercial solicitor, private banker or a buyer’s agent to solve a problem.

I recently had a meeting where we spent the entire session talking about everyday bank accounts. The customer had 11 different bank accounts and wanted to simplify how they did their banking.

Or another client’s dream was to build a farm where immigrants could live and work and build up their skills until they are ready to head into the community. He needed a couple of million to kick that off. Others want a Ferrari and water views. Everyone is different.”

KMM: Ok, the question on everyone’s mind when it comes to financial advice… what is your view on fees?

“There’s no denying fees have been a massive problem in our industry.

Our approach is pretty simple however, and quite rare. Our clients pay us a flat fee, and we tell them what they should be doing. It’s near impossible to find other advisers who do this.

Even so called independent advisers still do the same stuff as advisers aligned to a bank or other financial institution; they just do it independently. We don’t sell products; we will sell you a solution.”

KMM: So does that mean you don’t charge commissions?

“No we don’t charge commissions or percentage based fees in any instance, even on insurance which is typically highly commissioned. We charge an ongoing flat fee based on the depth of the relationship with our client.”

KMM: In your view, what is the benefit of seeing a financial adviser?

“Go to a financial adviser for the same reason you would do any form of improvement… education, health, anything at all. You want to make your life better. And unless you can take an impartial view of your life and your money, a good financial planner will find some sort of improvement. Just like any professional.”


Brenton Tong is Head of Strategy at Financial Spectrum. You can follow him on LinkedIn.

Making the right decisions sooner has huge benefits over your lifetime, says Ben Nash

Kochie’s 4 Week Money Makeover empowers people to make better financial decisions.

The course teaches simple but important financial skills like budgeting and making your money go further, all the way through to ditching debt, managing insurance, super and even your financial relationship.

During the Money Makeover, we give participants the opportunity to get their questions answered by a team of financial gurus.

Our experts are all leaders in their field, with unique insights into everyday financial problems. Today we’ll introduce you to Ben Nash, financial adviser and founder of Pivot Wealth.

Ben’s passionate about educating his clients about money, and guiding them to make the right decisions to set themselves up for the future. We recently caught up with him to hear about his approach to advice.

KMM: Thanks for coming in today Ben. When did you first realise you wanted to become a financial adviser?

“What got me started on the path was a book I was given by my Grandma about personal finance. I’d never really thought about it when I was at high school, but that started my interest.

So I decided to do formal study in the area, studied commerce and really enjoyed it. Ended up getting a graduate position at one of the bigger privately licensed advice businesses. I haven’t looked back since then. I always found money interesting but confusing, so reading that book was a real eye opener.” 

KMM: What do you love about the job?

“I really enjoy helping people work through their financial issues, and I also really enjoy the education element to financial advice. It’s interesting work because no two people are the same, so there are always challenges to keep you on your toes.

And especially now working with Pivot where I’m mainly working with younger people, I really enjoy helping them tick things off their bucket list, it’s a great feeling when someone is able to buy a house, for example.”

KMM: Tell us a bit about your company Pivot Wealth.

“Pivot Wealth focuses on helping younger professionals set up their financial strategy and build wealth for the future.

What I’ve found with young people in particular is they’re quite overwhelmed with their finances. Information is everywhere but they don’t have a reliable source, and don’t know who to trust.

So when I started Pivot I built the service offering around the challenges that I saw young people facing. And being a young professional myself I’m personally very aware of the issues.”

KMM: What is the philosophy behind the advice you provide?

“We’ve found there are five steps young professionals need to go through to confidently find that balance between their lifestyle and their money. They first need to clarify their situation. Then it’s a matter of educating them and helping them understand their finances. Step three is to plan and set their strategy. Four is automate their strategy to make it as easy as possible because everyone is time poor. And step five is to regularly review. Things change all the time, but people get this inertia when it comes to money, and it’s not always to their benefit.”

KMM: What about fees, how do you charge for your services?

“Pivot only charges and accepts fees directly from our clients. We don’t receive commissions or kickbacks from product providers, even on insurance.

This isn’t the only way to do things, I just think it’s the best way. When you give someone financial advice they need to have confidence in their strategy or they won’t be as committed to it.

Removing conflict, or even perceived conflict, is a big step in the right direction.

In particular, I find younger people are pretty switched on when it comes to fees, and so having that transparency is really important.”

KMM: Young people are not a traditional market for financial advisers, how do you think young people can benefit from seeking advice?

“People think you need the money to get the advice. It can often be the other way around; you need the advice to get the money.

I’ve seen a lot of people who have made mistakes early on in their financial journey. Our advice is designed to help them to avoid that and make smarter decisions.

Making the right decisions sooner has huge benefits over your lifetime… I think all young people should speak to an adviser before they make big decisions.

I’m passionate about financial advice as you can probably tell. I see the difference we make to the people we help… I’d say any younger person could chat to somebody just to see what’s possible.”


Ben Nash is the founder of Pivot Wealth. You can follow him on LinkedIn