A shift in acceptance of video conferencing has been a welcome relief for adviser John Rowbottam.

He’s been working from his home office since the pandemic began in March. Indications are that clients much prefer not having to travel into the city to deal with their financial affairs, he says.

However, the shift to working from home coincided with a major reduction in the financial markets, rattling some clients, in turn increasing his workload.

“A lot of clients were stressed and concerned about the state of their portfolios and the state of the markets and economies more broadly,” he says. “We spent a lot of time on the phone and talking to people over video conference, providing reassurance and making sure portfolios were structured correctly.”

And while the home orders have enabled the 33-year-old West Coast supporter to spend more time with his three young children, the lack of separation between work and home life has taken some getting used to. And there’s never time to practice his golf swing. Not that he’s complaining.

“I support [that] our firm has taken quite a conservative view, but I understand why businesses would err on the side of caution in having us work from home.”

Rowbottam works for Shadforth, which has offices in most major cities and around 350 employees, as well as over $12 billion in funds under management.

Shadforth falls under IOOF Financial Holdings Limited as its listed parent company, and has its own executive, management and board structure. Rowbottam is the youngest member of the Shadforth adviser forum, which steers the company into the waters ahead and road tests significant changes in the business being contemplated by management.

The firm was recently awarded international fiduciary certification by the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence. These awards elevate the corporate standing of firms grappling with a drop in trust ratings post-Royal Commission, he says.

New clients are taken through a rigorous process to learn as much as he can about their financial position. “Clients will always have new queries pop up, there’s always changing circumstances or concerns about the market or they’re just seeking generally that clarity. This job is about always being available for the small things that pop up.”

Rowbottam works mostly with young professionals such as lawyers and medical professionals, plus pre-retirees. “I really believe having a diverse client base is important. That being said, my passion lies with younger professionals,” he says.

Financial planning was never the end game. He knew he was destined for a business-related discipline, but had focused on finance and economics during tertiary education. He expected he’d end up in investment or corporate finance, but a chance to work in the financial services firm opened his eyes to the importance of client relationships, and his fate was sealed.

“I didn’t really know what specific role I wanted to move into. My father was a financial planner and like most teenagers, I didn’t necessarily want to follow in his footsteps.”

With a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance and Economics) from the University of Western Australia under his belt, he’s since completed the Certified Financial Planner designation.

Rowbottam is also a member of the Financial Planning Association of Australia, and has also completed the FPA’s Life Risk Specialist designation.

He completed his code of ethics study with the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority last year. The requirement is an important step forward for financial planning to move away from being considered an industry, and more towards a profession.

“The level of compliance has increased the number of pages in an advice document and the that goes into justifying a recommendation, however it’s important we’re governed by a code of ethics,” he says.

“Our role as advisers and as a broader industry is to try and do anything we can to restore that level of trust. As a profession, we’re getting better with that, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Rowbottam has been providing personal finance advice since 2008 and has specialist knowledge in superannuation, life insurance, cash flow management, wealth accumulation, strategic and tax planning, portfolio construction and retirement planning.

While technical skills are important, you need to be able to listen, too.

“All of the senior advisers have told me that you’ve got two ears and one mouth and you should try and use them in proportion,” he says. “You need to understand peoples’ situations, what their key issues and concerns are, and just help them simplify their lives.”

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