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Great Advice Changes Lives: Nick Mitchell, Mason Stevens

The Great Advice Changes Lives series of interviews will focus on the value of great advice, it's importance in the community and what we can do to enable more great advice to occur.

Below is the transcript for our interview with Nick Mitchell, the Managing Director of Mason Stevens Global Investment Service and you can watch the interview here:

Joel Robbie  


Nick, thanks for joining us on this interview series that Nod is running, really celebrating the value of great advice. And I think, you know, whenever we tie, Nod back to our mission, when we think about what our mission is really, it's about enabling more great advice to occur. So, hence the series, hence what we want to talk about here. So thank you for joining us.

For those who don't know you, it might be really good to sort of briefly introduce yourself and to let people know who you are, where you come from, and what you're what you're up to today. So yeah, Nick, if you wouldn't mind just giving us a bit of an intro into you.

Nick Mitchell  


Thanks, Joel. Appreciate you having me. Yeah, my name is Nick Mitchell. Managing Director at Mason Stevens in the Global Investment Service. We're privately owned business with over 70 staff headquartered in Sydney, and we run about $7 billion funds under management. So 2020 should be a year of celebration being 10 years old, but it's sort of it's probably not a huge priority at the moment [with everything else that is going on in the world]. Look, I've been really fortunate to get to this point in my career.

Straight out of study from school, I went to work one of the big four banks where I cut my teeth and then like a lot of Aussies put a backpack on and said, "right, I'm going over to the UK". I was really fortunate where I fell in with two guys who are starting their own hedge fund business. Little did I know that these two guys who were operating out of a little apartment in Kensington High Street in London were just coming out of Bearings Bank and were the top performing small cap European managers for three years prior to that. So, I was employee number three. By the time I left there five and a half years later, it was a very thriving business with around 50 staff.

When I got back to Australia, the first job that I went into was working for a large listed licensee, and over the course of the next five years there it was just a really wonderful time for the Australian financial services industry. And really, I think, you know, working for at the corporate end of the licencees you get a thorough empathetic understanding of the challenges that advisers were going through at the time.

After that, I went on the distribution side of things for a global asset management company selling everything from currency to private equity to fund of hedge funds.

From there to an Australian listed asset management company that was going through a significant period of growth and expanding globally and on from there to what was a private platform business which, over the course of three years listed, we doubled our sales team and doubled their FUM. So really exciting times. I've been at Mason Stevens now since the end of 2019. And I, you know, for all the challenges our industry has, I'm really excited about what we've got going forward.

Joel Robbie


Awesome, and your role at Mason Stevens? You mentioned Managing Director. So what's that? What's your day look like in the moment? What do you do now, where are you spending your time? Where's your team spending their time?

Nick Mitchell

Yes, so I'm charged with the responsibility of growing our platform capability. We're 10 years old with seven billion dollars funds under management. But I would say compared to a lot of the other platforms are sort of flying under the radar from a profile point of view. So I'm coming in building on the experience that I have to put together a distribution team that is really going to go out there and firstly look after our existing clients as 60% of our client base is based in Victoria. So that'll be great for me, and then bringing together a team who are, you know, have a real client service focus, first and foremost. Look, it's wonderful to have great technology but if you're not out there assisting advisers as their on-boarding and getting used to it, then it is actually pretty worthless.

Joel Robbie    


Yep. Awesome. And so how are you feeling about the future of financial services at the moment? What's exciting you? What are you seeing on the horizon? Yeah, what's, what is the future hold for us all?

Nick Mitchell    

Well, I think to before we look ahead, we've really got to look at the last couple of years and the challenges and what advisers have been through. Look I'm really glass half full and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, every day. But, you know, to stand in the corner of an adviser, they've been put through the wringer. They've had their professionalism challenged, their integrity questioned, and even with the educational requirements, their intellect has been questioned. They've been through a whole lot. Forget about tumultuous markets and whatnot.

I think there's an opportunity now for our industry to really come together across all sides. And I also, you know, to be honest, I look at the platform side of things. And I think that the distance between an advice business and a platform business is slowly disappearing. So what technology is being able to provide advisers to benefit their clients, that's grown massively over the last couple of years, and therefore, a platform has become much more of a business partner than just a service provider. And you see it, you see advisers will understand if they've got a great relationship with their platform, their business is going to be a hell of a lot better.

Joel Robbie

Yep. There's a bit of a theme emerging and what we're talking about where you know, you talk about the need to really support advice businesses and the people who work in them. And what what's what's Mason Stevens doing at the moment to to support advisers and their businesses at this particular time.

Nick Mitchell  

Yeah, well, we look, we say this a responsibility to make sure advisers have had the opportunity to give clients the best possible financial outcomes. Specifically, we've been doing a lot of research on the UK expat market. So there are over a million UK expats living in Australia. There are also a lot of a lot of people and I'm one of them who spent time overseas. But and you know, the sad is a UK pension, pile of money sitting there that a lot of people over here just can't get access to easily bring that money across. With some of our multi currency functionality and technology, we're able to basically bring those pensions across. And that's been great. But the real benefit there is advisers might only have 1% or 2% of their client base that actually have a need for that. But it's just filling that need that from our point of view, we feel that we're really adding adding value there.

On the other side of things, automation is, you know, it's nothing new. But I think there's been a willingness to embrace technology. And I'll give you a really good example you think about necessity being the mother of invention with the pandemic. Years and years, you've had people say, I would never let our employees work from home. Yeah, they'll, you know, they'll sit on the couch eating nachos, watching Ellen, they're not going to do any work. Of course, once that change is being forced upon them that some people, you know, technology's been able to make sure people are highly productive. People are getting great results. And now because of that forced change, a lot of businesses are starting to question the way they have done things in the past, maybe it is time for that change.

So I really see the advice industry being probably a lot more open to allowing technology to help inform the way they operate their business. Whether that be through the automation of things like managed accounts. I think one thing that we're really proud of is our MDA service. And what does that do and when markets are doing what they've been doing recently, it allows advisers to rebalance their entire client portfolio at the touch of a button in a very compliant way. And you think about that from where a lot of businesses were five years ago before that automation really either existed or was actually practically any good. That's making meaningful difference, meaningful differences to advisers, it gives them the opportunity to spend a lot less time doing work in the back office, a lot more time having meaningful, meaningful conversations with clients.

Joel Robbie

Yeah I think you and I are very aligned on that goal. Yeah, the more, you know, we're talking about and we're celebrating great advice as part of as part of this conversation. Great advice, you know, isn't necessarily born in the back office. Great advice is born sitting across the table from someone making them feel comfortable about their about the situation, empathising with them and making them feel okay. You know, the the back office stuff comes later and really supports that. So yeah, totally aligned on what you just said and, and maybe to segue into, you know a bit of a conversation around some of the advice that you've you've received over the over the time and that you might have given over the time I think, you know, too often the advice is given to one person, you know, doesn't reach the use of others, and I think we can probably all learn from from that a little bit. So what is some of the best advice that you've ever received? And it can be, you know, on the financial side, or, you know, it might be completely not related to financial services at all, but yeah, what's what's some of the great advice that you've received over the journey?

Nick Mitchell  

I think the best piece of advice which I heard often in my formative years As a teenager job before I was about to leave the house would be my mother's voice, which I can still hear right now saying, make good decisions. And I think that transcends personal and professional when it comes to the financial world, and, you know, make good decisions and really understand risk versus return. And I think that's, you know, Paramount, collectively, I think for advice businesses is I you know, when it comes to advice, it's really easy to dish it out. And you should say many traffic, let me tell you, but I think what's really important is, as all this technology comes in, and there are so many different ideas that that are available now to practice as an adviser, I've got a busy day as it is I'm trying to look after my clients. yet. I keep hearing about all these wild new technologies, which one should I look at it? It can be really, really overwhelming. And I think the starting point, and I'll steal a line from the New Zealand America's Cup type 20 13 but whenever there was a suggestion, the question they collectively asked themselves was, will this make the boat go faster? And every time we look at what we're doing as a business, every time an advice, an adviser or an advice, practice starts looking at where do we start? So just ask yourself, will this make the boat go faster? And if it does, I think what that means is you can take that first step. And the beauty of technology to as you know, Joel is it's not about reinventing the wheel, it's people and providers have got some great technologies. If you can plug it in to your existing CRM to your existing platform, then you're alive. And I think that technology really does enable businesses to provide better outcomes for their clients. It's just about picking Which one?

Joel Robbie  

Yeah, one hundred percent. And what about on the other side? So you mentioned you mentioned your Mum and the advice that she gave you, but are there any other sort of moments in your in your life where you've been given some great advice that has, you know, caused a trajectory change or a course correction that that you'd like to share with everyone?

Nick Mitchell

So, I think as far as great advice I've received, I think that there is an outside perception that the financial services industry is is all about money. And to a degree, you know, you could argue that that's the case. But on the inside of this industry, it it's very much a people business. Yeah. And my strong view has always been just, if you treat people well, people are going to do the same back to you. I've been fortunate to have some great mentors professionally that I've really looked up to and, you know, they've been able to understand the things I'm not good at, and they've been able to encourage me to play to my strengths. But, you know, I've always had the view of just being present and be grateful. We do live in a lucky country. We're in a great industry. It's been through a lot. It's been through 15 rounds with Mike Tyson. I think we as an industry have got to come together and really try and just force our way forward for clients give them and advisers we've got to be able to equip advisers with everything they need to be able to do to make their their clients lives. Bill.

Joel Robbie

Yep. Awesome. Very good. Nick, thank you so much for making the time to talk to us today. I think you and I agree on the fact that great advice can change a life. I think the more great advice that we can get out there in the community, to the right people at the right time exactly when they need it, then we're all going to be better off. And I know that your business Mason Stevens is spending a lot of time making sure that that's going to be able to happen within the advice practices that you work with. I know that Nod  our business is doing exactly the same. So really nice to have a meeting of the minds with you today and to have this conversation and yeah, we we hope that there'll be many more to come. Thank you so much for making the time.

Joel Robbie