Gareth Colgan’s career in financial planning began when he met his wife, Amy. Or perhaps the wheels were truly set in motion even earlier than that when he left his native Belfast, armed with a degree in science and an Irishman’s thirst for adventure.
He arrived in Sydney in 1998 and chatted up his future wife at the Lord Dudley Pub in Paddington.
Her father, Guy Carrington, ran a successful planning business, Sidney Lloyd, and not long after he and Amy got together, Colgan joined the ranks.
He started off in office administration, progressed to paraplanning and was gradually given greater responsibilities.
Colgan had worked in IT in Belfast and had felt disconnected from his role. It was a job in the purest sense of the word: it paid the bills and put food on the table.
But with financial planning, something was different.
“The first few years, in particular, were very interesting and I was absorbing all of this new information about the field,” he says.
It took Colgan a good “seven or eight years” to feel like he was at the top of his game.
By this stage, he had a raft of professional qualifications under his belt and years of client contact to draw from.
“I have always wanted to be the best at whatever I do and I think it took that long for me to really feel experienced,” he says.
Six month diploma does not a planner make
Colgan is slightly miffed by advisers who spend six months doing a financial planning diploma and are thrown straight onto large accounts.
“In those early days you need to sit in a lot of meetings with more experienced advisers,” he says.
“It made a big difference to me and my career.”
Even so, as his father-in-law began to transition out of the business, Colgan felt the weight of essentially being a sole trader.
Business was strong, and he was the only financial planner in the team.
“I started to want the life that my clients had,” he says.
“But when you are essentially a sole practitioner you can’t take a holiday and I was missing that work-life balance.
“Especially when it’s a family business, and you can find yourself going home and talking about work the whole time.”
So two years ago, Colgan joined forces with two other planners to create the fee-based Eqeus — the EQ in the name standing for emotional quotient.
“We firmly believe that the most valuable thing you can do as a planner is put yourself in other people’s shoes and relate to them,” he says.
“The technical skill set that advisers possess — the investment and super knowledge — [that] is just the ticket to the game, and everyone should know that stuff.
“But emotional intelligence is something else and we want to work with people who understand their values and what they want to achieve.”
A gap in the market
When researching the client base for Eqeus, Colgan noticed a gap in the market.
“We say that we are ‘flirting with forties’ because we think that is a demographic that is overlooked,” he says.
“There are advisers working with young professionals and retirees but not really enough of a focus on mid-career professionals, maybe people who have a couple of kids and are looking at things like private education.
“They want to get their financial house in order.”
Colgan sees Eqeus evolving over the coming years to include more advisers and he would like to take on a mentor role at some point because of the crucial part mentoring has played in his career.
“I learned so much from my father-in-law,” he reflects.
“He taught me to put the client first. And a lot of people say they do that but it’s just verbiage. He really showed me how to do it.”