Hugh Robertson was in his second year of university, bounding down the same path as his father, when dad told him something that stopped him in his tracks.
Robertson was studying a bachelor of international finance at Griffith University on the Gold Coast and had plans to move into law and become a barrister like his father.
“I hadn’t really thought about what I wanted to do, but I saw that Dad had always provided a good living for us, so I thought I would do what he did,” Robertson says. “Then, one day, he asked me why I was doing it. I told him because I had seen him work hard as a barrister and he confessed he hadn’t really enjoyed it all that much.”
The revelation gave Robertson suitable pause for thought.
“The subject that I was doing really well in was corporate finance and it was the one that two-thirds of students fail,” he says. “So the competitive side of me decided that was where I would head.”
By that stage, Robertson read The Australian Financial Review every day and was working his way through the tomes of Warren Buffett, among other business leaders.
Robertson was accepted into one of the highly sought after bank graduate roles and was placed within the financial planning division.
“I thought eventually I would do a sideways move into funds management,” he says.
Instead, he found his niche within planning, although the industry was seen as less of a career in those days.
“The focus was more on whether you wrote up enough business that week, rather than whether you were doing the right thing for the customer,” he notes.
“I didn’t enjoy that, but someone said to me that you need to stay somewhere for three years before you can quit otherwise it looks bad on your resume.
“So I quit after three years and one month.”
He went on to work as an adviser with Whittaker Macnaught for many years until it was bought out by Commonwealth Bank.
“I had been in bank land and didn’t want to go back, so I left, ” he says.
“But my years at Whittaker Macnaught were great. They gave me permission to be the person who cares about clients first.”
In 2009, Robertson joined Centaur Financial Services and, in 2013, he bought out the owners and retains 100 per cent of the business.
Since then he has revamped the processes with clients, introduced new technologies and spent money on attracting and retaining good staff.
He has also had to fire a couple of clients.
“We only work with clients who respect the process so if clients are unreasonable or demanding sometimes you have to overlook the revenue and do the right thing,” he says.
“There may be a couple of people who think that if they bark they will get attention, but that is not how we do business.
“And I think it’s important for your staff to see you supporting them in this way; it builds loyalty.”
Robertson is a fan, too, of new education requirements for professional planners.
“If my mother was sitting across from someone and talking about her financial affairs, I would want that person to be empathetic, and while educational standards won’t guarantee that, it will, I think, force out the salesmen in the industry who are very good at pretending,” he says.
“Because study is hard and they won’t want to do it.”
He is also optimistic about the future.
“We do deserve the reputation we have got: we have had some bad advisers.
“But I do think we will get better and better.”
Name of firm: Centaur Financial Services (CFS)
Name of licensee: Australian Advice network
Years in the industry: 14 years in the industry
Academic qualifications: CFP, SMSF specialist, MBA, master’s degree in financial planning, bachelor’s degree in international finance, ADFP(FS)
Professional association memberships: Self-managed Superannuation Funds Assocation, CFP, AFA
Other memberships: Most Trusted Adviser Network
TOPICS: Centaur Financial Services, Hugh Robertson, Whittaker Macnaught