There comes a point in many advisers’ careers when they start to train their sights on wealthy clients.
Perhaps they work in a large institution where substantial personal worth is commonplace among the client base or maybe they want the challenge of managing more complicated investments within their own advice practice.
But Gold Coast-based adviser Sarah Nulty isn’t interested in high net worth.
While some of her clients are extremely wealthy, those she enjoys working with the most are the “mum-and-dad clients”.
“I have thought about taking on more high-net-worth clients and charging the higher fees but, to be honest, there is no soul in that,” she says. “There is no passion in it. There is nothing more satisfying than helping everyday people and making them an extra $20,000 by retirement – and they’re so appreciative.
“Whereas making a million dollars for the high-net-worth clients, they often couldn’t care less.”
Nulty’s passion for helping everyday people, with everyday accounts and super balances, stems from her childhood growing up in the Gold Coast and her early character-building experiences in Melbourne.
“My brother and I grew up with a single mum, who was looking after my nan at one point, and she was working her backside off,” Nulty says. “She taught us to save our pocket money and the value of money, but we never had the detailed real-life conversations about money.”
When Nulty left high school, she secured a credit card and a personal loan and headed to Melbourne at the age of 20 to look for work in banking.
Despite her attraction to money – what she calls a “love-hate relationship” at the time – she found herself drowning in debt and struggling to stay afloat.
“Before I knew it, I had between $27,000 and $28,000 in debt, spread between personal loans and credit cards,” she says. “I got to the point where there were literally bills flowing out of my mailbox and I was getting panic attacks because there were so many bills I couldn’t afford.”
Nulty was alone in Melbourne and doing it tough.
“There was a time there when I was living on one 50-cent pack of pasta and one loaf of bread, and my dog and I would share that for a week,” she says. “Thank God for my dog.”
There was one light in her life, however, and it was the job she had in one of the big banks. The older women in the office were like her “other mothers” and they helped her consolidate her debt and pay it off.
“I realised how much I didn’t know about money and how there were people out there who could help you,” she says. “It really renewed my interest in money and that is where I started to look more into planning rather than banking.”
Since then, Nulty has moved back to the Gold Coast and now runs Voyager Wealth Management with her brother, who is also a financial adviser.
They have partnered with a Brisbane-based accountancy firm, which acts as a referral service.
“We don’t market directly to consumers, but work hand in hand with the accountants,” Nulty says. “We are in the meetings with the accountant and the client or we visit the client at home.
“We’re getting three to four referrals a week from one accountant alone. It’s the best thing we ever did because you already feel like the trust is there from the word go.
“Conversion rates have gone from 70 to 90 per cent so we’re not wasting our time.”
Voyager employs a fee-for-service structure, although Nulty offers the option of a commission on insurance products.
“For some people, they’re not willing to part with money upfront for insurance, so a commission suits them best,” Nulty says.
She is clearly driven to ensure her clients don’t make the same mistake she did in her 20s, while helping to educate them on the fundamentals of good money management.
“I saw a doctor a little while back who wanted to retire on $150,000 a year but had something like $50,000 in super,” she says. He had lots of cars and boats, but had never been taught about money management. There is a big knowledge gap with many people when it comes to financial literacy.”
Name of firm: Voyager Wealth Management
Name of licensee: TFLG
Time in the industry: 15 years, including five years as an adviser
Academic qualifications: advanced diploma of financial planning
Professional association memberships: Financial Planning Association associate
TOPICS: Planner Profile, Voyager Wealth Management