Grant Patterson’s career in finance began after he landed a job as a ‘chalky’ on the trading floor in the early 1980s. The job charged him with the task of updating share orders on long chalk boards and handling orders on the trading floor.

It was never his intention to work in finance. “It was more about just getting a job out of school rather than a chosen career,” Patterson explains.

However, it wasn’t long before working as a chalky opened his eyes to a career he may have never contemplated. The dynamics of financial markets intrigued him, and he gradually built his career in investment banking before moving to investment advisory.

Since then, he’s literally chalked up some 40 years in investment markets, and is a respected name in the industry.

Today, he’s the managing director of Providence Independent Investment Advisory, which he launched 20 years ago because he felt there weren’t enough truly independent firms around at the time.

“We built the foundations of the firm from the bottom up, along the lines of a multi-family office. We also have a deep commitment to the whole family and ensure multi-generational advice and education,” he says.

Providence has close to $1 billion of assets under advice across 80 clients, which range from individuals to families and the not-for-profit sector. The firm employs 12 staff across Sydney and Melbourne, with 60 per cent of staff owning equity in the business.

The firm has a clear team-based approach in servicing clients, rather than an advisor and assistant structure so commonly found in larger firms. It also only accepts a select number of new clients to ensure advice and relationship capabilities never dilute.

Providence doesn’t have a particular niche, preferring to focus on a clear alignment with clients. “We only service wholesale and not-for-profit clients and don’t have a retail advisory service. And we charge either a flat fee or a percentage of assets under advice with all commissions, placement fees or trails rebated back to the client,” Patterson says.

Client conversations often centre on how the family is progressing, if there are any life issues and how the portfolio has performed, with a focus on protection and preservation of capital. “We ensure from the outset that we understand the purpose of our clients’ wealth or corpus before investing. This can be challenging as many people don’t give this enough consideration. Once a clear purpose is understand, how and where to invest becomes clearer.”

“All investment accounts are held in the clients’ own name or entity in an individually managed portfolio, We also have the capability in an SME for some of our clients’ children, or for smaller accounts,” he says.

The business has forged on despite the pandemic. “The workplace has changed forever, with flexible arrangements likely to remain in place. However, a firm doesn’t grow by being remote. Mentoring, learning, idea generation all happen when together and sharing random conversations and thoughts,” he says.

Over the years, Patterson has witnessed vast changes in the broader financial sector, particularly in recent years on the back of the Royal Commission. But ultimately, he wasn’t surprised.

“We’ve always held the view that there is an inherent conflict between the manufacturer of the product and the provision of truly independent investment advice. The Royal Commission highlighted these conflicts, and the sale of the wealth management business of some financial institutions is testimony to that belief,” Patterson says.