Randall Stout decided to become a financial planner after four years of corporate accountancy.

He was good at accountancy, it paid well, but he was motivated by more than the mighty dollar and needed a challenge.

“After a while, it gets boring,” Stout says. “I didn’t want my life to become about monthly reports and annual financial statements. I probably took a 40 per cent pay cut when I left and if I had stayed, I might have become a CFO by now, but I was getting sick of it.”

So Stout made the switch to planning, which started out as anything but smooth sailing.

“I was working for a bank and I had two weeks’ training before being thrown into the deep end,” he says. “It was a bloodbath introduction to the profession. There was no peer mentoring back in those days and it was sink or swim. Thankfully, I swam, but it took a good 12 months to really find my feet.”

It was a tough experience, but he learned the first of many valuable lessons.

“At the bank, you received a higher commission if you sold bank products and that fundamentally didn’t sit well with me,” Stout says.

After 12 months, he moved on to an accountancy firm, where he learned yet another valuable lesson, this time in relation to equity and pay rates.

“I was working with five partners in the accounting firm and I was brought in to turn the financial planning division around, which I did,” he recalls. “But I was also a young planner and quite idealistic and I probably wasn’t charging as much as I should have been.

“Fees are a real self-esteem issue for planners, and you get better at knowing your worth as you get older.”

After four years at the firm, Stout tried to attain a majority stake in the company but negotiations feel through.

“I was a minority shareholder and I couldn’t buy into a majority shareholder position,” Stout says. “I was working with five accounting partners and accountants aren’t always easy.”

Stout learned another important lesson when he was brought in as a succession plan for one of the retiring partners at a firm. He had a 50 per cent stake this time, but was denied the best clients.

“If you buy such a large stake in a business, then you really should get a fair share of the clients,” Stout reflects. “But on the plus side: I did meet my wife at this job. She was a member of a corporate super fund, so in a sense she was a very small client.

“But I checked the office rule book and couldn’t find anything about dating.”

Stout says these experiences, spread across his 17-year career, have not only shaped him, but also contributed to the success he enjoys these days.

In 2014, he was awarded the FPA CFP Professional of the Year, and in October he launched his own planning business, Stout WM.

“You learn from every experience you have,” he says. “And now that I run my own business, I finally feel like the master of my own destiny. I don’t have to ask anyone permission to do something. If I want to improve a process, I just do it.”

He says the trick to running a successful business is attracting not just plenty of clients but also the right kind of clients.

“I think a huge mistake planners make is they’re not clear about what clients they can add real value to and then charge accordingly,” he says. “And I’ve got that clarity now.”

Randall Stout 

Name of firm: Stout WM

Name of licensee: Fitzpatricks Private Wealth

Time in the industry (previous jobs?): 17 years as a financial planner; previously a director at HPH Solutions and Finders Financial Services; five years as a corporate accountant

Academic qualifications: bachelor of commerce

Accreditations: Certified Financial Planner, fellow of the FPA

Professional association memberships: CPA, FPA

Johanna Roberts is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist with more than 15 years' experience in news, features, lifestyle, property, finance, books and arts journalism, across both digital and print platforms. She has worked at both Fairfax and News Corp publications in Australia, as well as in digital roles in London with The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.
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