Our Managing Director Andrew Masson sat down with the Newcastle Herald to talk about how the Infinity journey started. Read on for Andrew’s answers to the Herald’s Q&A. You can find the original article here.
Where were you raised and what or who influenced your career decision?
I grew up in Charlestown and my career trajectory started from the age of 10, believe it or not! When I was 10, I was very fortunate to have an afternoon paper run and my last stop was selling the Daily Mirror and Newcastle Sun at Charlestown Bowling Club. Bowlers would regularly buy a paper after work to read whilst having a few beers.
One of my customers, Reg, one day quipped “I see you sitting there reading the sport & comics – why don’t you do something useful with your time – and read the stock market pages?”. He said “…let’s follow a few companies. Do you like you like lollies?” “Reg, I’m 10 – of course I do!” “Well let’s follow Allens.” “Do you know anyone who works at BHP?” This is 1980 – half of Newcastle worked at BHP – so we started to watch BHP.
At the time I was making $10 a week, putting half through a pinball machine and banking $5/week. I was also frustrated at only earning 9.5% interest in my Newcastle Permanent account. Soon after, I’d just turned 11 – I withdrew my entire balance to buy $900 of BHP shares at $4.64. The shares went up – so I was hooked.
Straight after the HSC, I started as a chemical engineering trainee at BHP. This was in the mid 1980’s and at the time, BHP had just started an employee share plan. All employees were offered the opportunity to buy 1000 BHP shares with an interest free loan. I noticed a number of men on back shifts were reluctant to participate (literacy and numeracy problems were common). Such was my passion for participation for everyone to participate in the Plan – I started helping shift workers, one-by-one; explaining the deal and helping fill out the forms. I became a walking billboard for the BHP Employee Share Plan.
Having helped dozens of employees into participation and seeing the rewards – I realised that through financial advice, I could have a real impact on people’s lives. Using the experience that I had with shares, I was able to help many local families create wealth through shares. That gave me enormous fulfilment and despite working in and studying chemical engineering at the time, the desire to be part of the investing and finance world, never left me.
What did you study at the University of Newcastle and why?
I studied chemical engineering because I believed it would provide me the greatest number of career choices. The University of Newcastle’s Chemical Engineering faculty was one of the best in Australia.
What led you to work for US-headquartered water treatment firm Nalco?
At the time BHP was a declining workforce. Like many young managerial aspirants, I realised there would be no opportunities for leapfrogging the corporate ladder – and that my best move for career advancement would be to leave. I saw a brighter future at Nalco.
What led you to take up a role as director of Morgans Financial Limited in Newcastle?
I returned to Newcastle from Sydney, in what many consider to be a courageous move, turning my back on chemical engineering at the time. My desire to be part of the investing world and to help people make money never left me. In 2002 that I started with Morgan’s and my passion for investing and the finance world was re-ignited.
You worked there for 14 years. What were your roles?
I was originally a private client advisor. From 2004- to the end of 2015 when I left, I was a director of the firm.
In 2016 you founded Infinity – why?
There’s a lot being written in the press now about the outcome of the royal commission, I could see what was happening in the industry. Clients were becoming account numbers and decisions were being made at management level to get more money out of clients. That never resonated with me, it went against my values. I knew I could do it better for clients, I just needed the confidence to do it.
What is Infinity’s point of difference in what is a very saturated market?
We’re best known for the way in which we manage money for our clients. We are very active in our decision making, in a time when many advisors preach ‘set and forget’. We combine fundamental and technical analysis in a way few others can. This comes from our stockbroking background and expertise in direct shares, where we embrace ownership of the decision on what to invest in.
The banking Royal Commission has exposed abhorrent behaviour by financial advisors. Have the hearings surprised you?
No. In its simplest form – the Royal Commission has exposed the extent of profit focus at the expense of client focus. This has happened because decision makers in large institutions, have over time, seen clients as numbers and revenue lines, overlooking the obligation to serve. All is not lost however – the majority of financial advisors are client focused and will ultimately turn the current climate of doubt around. But for now, we’re seeing is a tidal wave of anti-establishment sentiment building which is driving advisers and consumers away from the institutions which have provided conflicted advice.
You have been critical of the so-called “fee for no service” – when advisors set up portfolios then leave them dormant until their once-a-year-review. How common is this?
More common than what most would recognise. A question I often ask new clients is “When was the last time you had contact from your advisor?” Often the answer is, “I didn’t know I even had one”. Some clients have been paying fees without receiving financial advice for many years!
What do you hope will be the outcome of the commission?
Greater transparency in regard to fees and investment performance. This will lead to better outcomes for clients and make the industry more accountable.
Infinity has just joined forces with two other Financial Planning practices, Allegiance and Hamilton Insurance & Investment Services (HIIS). Why and how will it change operations?
At Infinity, we’re well known for the way in which we invest money. We’re able to bring that investment expertise to combine with two businesses who have complementary strengths, in terms of strategy and insurance. So together, we’re very excited to bring our clients an even broader and deeper service offering.
Infinity Financial Advisors
If you would like to know more about the Infinity story or would like to speak to someone about financial advice. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Thank you for reading.