Conversations about the stock market with her father as a youngster ignited a passion in trading shares that have remained with Kellie Davidson a lifetime.
Her high school economics teacher emerged as another inspiring adult that encouraged her fascination in finance. By the time she reached her teens, the Melbournian was already dabbling in the share market under her own steam.
She was hooked, setting a career as a stockbroker in her sights. But during her university years, she realised that investing was just skimming the surface of the finance world, so broadened her expertise into a financial planning qualification.
Davidson hasn’t looked back, joining Pitcher Partners Melbourne in 2001 after gaining financial planning experience with superannuation consultancy Towers Perrin. She’s driven by the ability to help clients navigate the complex world of wealth management. “You can really make a difference and I love it,” she says.
Davidson isn’t one to rest on her laurels. She became a partner in 2016, and sits on the investment committee and Pitcher Partners Charitable Committee, which guides the firm’s CSR activities and decision-making around pro-bono work. The role of partner enables her to navigate her team and clients through a new generation of investment priorities. This year, she was named in 35th spot in the Barron’s list of Top 100 Financial Advisers.
Pitcher Partners Investment Services in Melbourne currently has $5.9 billion assets under management across 350 clients, which is managed by 18 licensed advisers. The firm operates under its own license in Melbourne, although each state has its own investment advice practice, charging an asset based fee.
Typical clients are private and smaller institutional clients. “Our private clients and larger family groups have typically accumulated wealth by operating successful businesses that have often spanned generations.”
As the years rolled on, many client relationships she started in the early days remain clients today. “The relationships became very personal, so it was easy to stay and grow with the firm as the clients did. We have a great service model that was uniquely independent at the time and I was very aligned with what that meant,” she says.
The firm also services institutional clients such as non-for-profits, charities, industry bodies and government institutions. Davidson says: “We’re proud to be truly independent. We have no financial ties to any financial product or service providers, and our advice is free of any conflicts of interest. We can and do make recommendations to clients based only on what’s in their best interests. I see more firms moving towards our independence model,” she says.
Davidson explains that Pitcher Partners invests directly with the administrative assistance of a sub-custodian, avoiding platforms and managed accounts. “All portfolios are unique and tailored to the clients individual circumstances. We always ask questions and listen. We also offer a very high touch service with a general requirement to conduct four meetings a year, and a genuine focus on building strong client relationships,” she says.
“From an investment perspective, how you run a meeting is very dependent on the clients’ understanding of what you’re talking about and tailoring your communication to the circumstances. Our clients come from a range of knowledge background and it’s important to adapt your approach for each situation,” she says.
It’s not surprising Davidson is an industry leader today, with her breadth of experience broadened over the years. She’s responsible for financial planning, investment advisory, investment management and portfolio administration services to private clients, family groups, personal superannuation funds and not-for-profit organisations. She juggles multiple roles to service clients, from banker and financial planner, to estate planner and person adviser.
However at the end of the day, she considers the crux of her work to be trust-building. “I’m dealing with sensitive information regarding people’s finances on a daily basis, and I feel privileged to be entrusted with my clients’ affairs.”
Like so many advisers, the pandemic has encouraged adaptability in her world. “I feel it’s really shaking up a number of work processes that we thought were entrenched in the office environment and working flexibly overall,” she says.
The broader finance sector is in a period of flux post-Royal Commission, which shone a light on conflicts, revealing that a significant portion of the advice industry wasn’t focused on client best interests. “While I’m all for increasing the reputational standing of the industry, it’s a shame that it has also resulted in increased compliance and an increase in the cost of doing business, and the very people who need financial advice will not be able to afford it,” Davidson adds.