As far as first days go, Stephen Gulbrandson’s entrée into the world of financial services was a real doozy.
Gulbrandson started as a paraplanner at Crowe Horwath on the day that the stock market lost more than 1000 points in a session, a catastrophic fall that marked the start of the GFC.
“It was bad that first day, the following week was even worse, and it went like that for about a year,” Gulbrandson says. “The emotional toll it took on the advisers was incredible. I remember one senior adviser, he was about 65, had to be rushed to hospital after collapsing with heart palpitations.
“I was working with two senior advisers and I recall the shock that these blue chip companies could lose money like that.”
Still, as the old adage goes, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and the GFC climate turned out to be an excellent training ground for Gulbrandson.
“It was one hell of a learning curve,” he notes. “I didn’t feel as much stress as the advisers because I wasn’t as heavily invested yet, but when the market falls you definitely learn more than when it’s going up.”
It also gave Gulbrandson a deep respect for the role of advisers in clients’ lives.
“In hindsight, I think I was in awe of the whole process,” he says. “I couldn’t believe, and I still can’t to some degree, the amount of trust that people place in advisers with their 30 years of savings. It’s very humbling when you see the direct outcome on people’s savings of the decisions you make.”
Once the dust settled, the post-GFC world was not without out its benefits to savvy advisers either.
“It was very exciting because a lot of good stocks were undervalued,” Gulbrandson says.
“It was like being a kid in a candy shop because everything was so cheap and if you couldn’t make money in that environment then you really shouldn’t be in the industry.”
The last two years, Gulbrandson notes, have been a little tougher because the market is so much more volatile.
“The market is sitting at around 5700 points and a few years ago it was close to 6000 points,” Gulbrandson notes. “There are certainly days when I feel the stress and I am quite emotionally spent. I go home and I don’t say much and I am sure I’m not great company.
“But honestly, I find it amazing that 10 years after I started as an adviser I am still very happy with my role.”
The highs and the lows are a necessary part of the job, especially for someone like Gulbrandson who takes what he does so seriously.
He is emphatic that the most important thing a planner can do is put their clients’ needs first.
“You have to take your own ego out of it,” he says.
“There is no point in getting someone a 15 per cent annualised return if they don’t like risk and would be happy with a smaller return.
“You have to listen to what the client is saying, and just because I like something doesn’t mean the client does or that it’s necessarily right for them.”
The highs, of course, are what make the hard work worthwhile, and often have much more to do with relationships than figures on a spreadsheet.
“Honestly, I don’t want to sound like a cliché or anything, but the biggest high for me is when a client calls me up and tells me they have had a child and they just wanted to let me know,” he says. “Or when you’re able to tell someone that they don’t have to worry about money anymore.”
Name of firm: Morgans Financial (Based in Milton, Brisbane).
Name of licensee: Morgans Financial Limited
Years in the industry: Undergraduate accountant for one year; bank representative for one year; plan writing, paraplanning for Crowe Horwath from 2008-2010; financial adviser with Myrtle Ridge (AXA/AMP practice) 2010- 2014; adviser with Morgans Financial 2014-2017.
Academic qualifications: Bachelor of Business, Graduate Certificate of Applied Finance, Advanced Diploma of Financial Services. Professional association memberships: Associate of the SMSF association.