The property markets in Sydney and Melbourne are cooling at an alarming rate. It’s hard to find champions for this asset class when it appears as volatile as equities.

But Stuart Wemyss is one such person.

In Wemyss’ view, there is more to a great portfolio than the right mix of stocks and planners have been ignoring the value of property as a direct investment for far too long.

“I do wonder if there is a bit of xenophobia that is stopping the industry from expanding its horizons and learning more about property,” he says. “It’s a kind of ‘stick to what you know’ approach, and property is not always the top of what is considered.

“I think it has been a hangover from where the industry came from. A junior adviser joins a financial planning firm and, even though they may start out thinking holistically, they are learning from people who have been indoctrinated to think about equities.

“That could be because of AFSL restrictions, or their own preferences or the way they historically got paid.”

Wemyss has long marvelled at how frequently property is overlooked as a viable investment option.

Before he started his ProSolution Private Clients wealth advisory firm in Melbourne, he worked in corporate finance and superannuation for Deloitte and KPMG, respectively, and rubbed shoulders with many advisers.

“Even back then, I had a strong belief that what Australians needed was what I call ‘retail asset consultants’, ” Wemyss says. “[That means] rather than saying, ‘We have this much money to invest so which shares should we invest in?’ have someone actually analyse the best place to invest that money, whether it be shares or elsewhere.”

It’s no surprise that since Wemyss has started his own business – which also houses mortgage brokers, accountants and insurance providers among a team of eight – he has attracted clients interested in property investment.

He facilitates direct investment of his clients’ money in residential property by referring them to a reputable buyers’ agent on the eastern seaboard or by making use of unlisted commercial property trusts, where he can access properties valued at between $20 million and $80 million. Yet Wemyss claims he is no more likely to recommend property over shares than other advisers.

“I don’t really have a personal preference between property and shares, to be honest,” he says. “It’s a bit like playing golf, in that you have a range of clubs that you can use at different times.

“I am actually a bit scared of being considered just a property person but, naturally, we do attract people who have an interest in property because they know we are open to it.

“But not all our clients invest in property and not all our clients invest in shares.”

Wemyss is well aware of the polarising effect of property commentary, having experienced it first-hand. He recently wrote a blog post arguing that the housing market has found its bottom and very few responders agreed with him.

“Any media or commentary around property is polarising, and the camps tend to be very passionate, too,” he says. “But I think at the heart of it, we tell ourselves stories that make us feel better about the decisions we make.

“If someone has made a decision 20 or 30 years ago not to invest in property, then they use the softening conditions to tell themselves they made the right decision. So whenever you’re reading property commentary, try to identify whether the person is telling themselves a story.”

 

Name of firm: ProSolution Private Clients
Name of licensee: Self-licensed
Years in the industry (previous jobs?): 22 years, previously worked at KPMG and Deloitte before starting ProSolution in 2002.
Academic qualifications: Bachelor of Commerce, Professional Year for Chartered Accountants, Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance and Investment, Diploma of Financial services (Mortgage Broking and Financial Planning).
Accreditations: Chartered Accountant, hold an AFSL, Tax Registration and Australian Credit Licence.

Professional association memberships: Member of the Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand, Member of Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia, Member of Property Investment Industry Association and a Qualified Property Investment Advise

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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