It’s time for advisers to shape their own destiny

Alex Burke,  Senior Writer,  No More Practice Education

Sam Hallinan learned the true value of financial services from a young age. Now, as the chief executive of Nikko Asset Management Australia, he’s committed to providing investment solutions to a diverse client base including institutions and advisers. In this chat, he discusses his career, the Nikko AM advantage and lessons from the recent Royal Commission.

How did you get your start in financial services?

I joined financial services as part of an undergraduate program MLC were running back in the ’90s, where they sponsored business degree students to work part-time while they did their degree. I started in the call centre, and it felt great working in a large organisation then owned by Lend Lease, an awesome organisation with an incredible heritage.

Was it challenging coming up in that environment?

I don’t think so – I mean, the culture of an organisation like that, deeply entrenched with helping individuals … You were taught at a very early age the history of an insurance business like MLC and the role it played in society and the importance of insurance. Plus, at the time, I got to see the evolution of the insurance mutual company into a broader diversified wealth business that incorporated advice and superannuation.

It must have been exciting being a part of financial services right as superannuation was coming in.

Absolutely. I was right at the beginning of superannuation as we know it, and companies like MLC were at the forefront of investing or creating investment-style products having offered whole-of-life policies for decades.

In my time at MLC, I had a lot of exposure to different parts of financial services – different parts of the value chain. I then worked in a financial planning practice, which gave me a chance to be at the point where investors – mums and dads, consumers – interact with financial services providers.

When did you move into asset management?

When I came back into MLC, I had to make a decision – where in the value chain did I want to be? I decided the part I wanted to excel in was asset management. It was an area where I saw a strong opportunity for someone to come in and lead who had a real commerciality to them; a real connectedness to the market, to work directly within the manufacturing of asset management, although obviously sometimes you’re a bit removed from the end investor.

Speaking of advisers, the industry has been going through a difficult period recently. What would you say to them as a message of support?

My main message is to own your destiny. And by that, I mean make a call on what you think the future of advice is and make a call on what type of clients you want to work with, and then build a business to become that. I think for too much of the past two decades, advisers have fallen into what large institutions have wanted them to do. It’s time for them to take more control of their own individual businesses and shape their future.

Turning to your role and Nikko AM itself, what would you say is Nikko AM’s unique advantage?

I think the point of uniqueness is that we’re quite clearly an Australian asset manager, which is an important premise to start from. We understand Australians and are committed to servicing them strongly from that base. But in and of itself, being Australian isn’t enough. So, the fact that we’re now owned by a global firm is critical, in that it provides a diversity of solutions.

But even that isn’t enough by itself – what really makes a difference is our connection to Asia. We’re the only mainstream global player here in Australia that is headquartered in Asia, and that gives us a position of uniqueness, giving clients that connection to that region.

Do you think more investors are “waking up” to the Asian opportunity?

Absolutely. 20 years ago, most Australians wouldn’t have considered themselves part of the Asian region – the strength of the region and the importance of Asia to Australia economically, borne out of the size of the immigration here, has shaped modern Australia.I In an investment context, that’s incredibly important.

Thanks for your time, Sam.

 


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