Catherine Robson knows what it feels like to shy away from pursuing a passion because of a lack of confidence.

The principal of the successful Affinity Private has well and truly found her niche, but she took a slight detour along the way.

“When I was at school I loved economics, but I was afraid of the numbers,” she said.

“I thought I wasn’t that great at maths, but it turned out I was pretty good and I didn’t know it yet.”

Convinced English was her strong suit, Robson completed a law degree at the Australian National University in Canberra, where she would sail through the units revolving around finance.

“It was the finance aspects I enjoyed the most,” she said.

“That was a sign that I needed to look outside of law.”

Not that she would undo the rigour and academic instruction a law degree (with both a masters and an honours qualification) gave her.

“I don’t regret the law degree as it led me to where I am now,” she said.

“I think it was Steve Jobs who said that you can’t join the dots of your life in advance.”

Management techniques

After university, Robson took a graduate position with Macquarie Private Wealth, where she stayed for close to four years and learned management techniques she employs in her business today.

“They had something called a loose and tight style of management,” she said.

“The tight aspects referred to those things that were not negotiable: certain types of behavior and values.

“Whereas the loose aspects referred to behavior that you take a much more relaxed approach to, such as letting someone take the initiative and do something a bit different as long as it didn’t jeopardies the spreadsheets.”

Robson eventually moved to NAB, where she spent 11 years in their private wealth division, before she noticed her enthusiasm for work waning.

“I had just come back from maternity leave after my second child and I realised that if I was going to spend 40 hours away from my children I wanted it to be for something I was completely engaged with,” she said.

She hired a business coach at the height of the GFC to conduct an assessment of Robson and her NAB team, which proved life-changing.

“The coach surveyed our clients to find out what they valued and their answers were always about trust, that they felt exposed and vulnerable and wanted to be able to trust,” she said.

“The coach also pointed out the potential conflict in a commission-based fee system and so we started to move the division to a flat-dollar fee system.

“It made a huge difference and I felt that it gave my advice much more authority as clients had no reason to question my motivation for suggesting a certain course of action.”

‘In love’ with fee based-system

Robson “fell in love” with that fee-based system and the desire to have greater control of her career, which is why she left to start her own business or be the “author of her own destiny” as she puts it.

“I had a desire to be continually growing and improving and I think, as wonderful as my time at NAB was, you can only take that so far with an institution,” Robson said.

“And I didn’t want to be one of those people in the kitchen, standing around complaining about work.

“I think most of us would like to be our own boss.”

Affinity was established in September 2011, and Robson’s clients are largely heterosexual couples, although she ensures both partners have an equal say in their affairs and she champions financial literacy among women.

“I don’t target women’s business exclusively, but I make sure that women are included equally in the dynamic,” she said.

Robson firmly believes that more women need to enter the planning industry, which will, in turn, result in more women seeking advice.

“Women are the ones most vulnerable in terms of superannuation,” she said.

“They are the ones who will put other people first, and society is only as strong as the weakest link.

“I think it will help if women see other women they can relate to as the ones giving the financial advice.


Planner Profile

Catherine Robson

Name of firm: Affinity Private

Name of licensee: Apogee

Years in the industry: 20 years, including several years with Macquarie Private Wealth and 11 years with NAB Private Wealth.

Academic qualifications: Bachelor of Laws (Honours), Bachelor or Art (majoring in Asian studies), Masters of Laws (majoring in tax), Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance, CFP, Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Course

Accreditations: CFP, GAICD

Professional association memberships: FPA, AFA, AICD

Other memberships :Most Trusted Adviser network

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