A Step Apart
With an SPAA chair on board and a history of pre-empting market moves, Katarina Taurian found out how Skeggs Goldstien has been growing for over four decades
Skeggs Goldstien has been on the evolutionary path since its inception 49 years ago. During that time it has made a habit of beating the crowds, including becoming involved in the self-managed super fund (SMSF) space well before the boom, and operating under a fee for service model since the late 1990s.
The practice has its roots in financial planning and started with Neil Skeggs in 1964, who was an insurance adviser for AMP. Mr Skeggs started working with current director Adam Goldstien in 1992, before Goldstien bought the business and officially formed Skeggs Goldstien in 2000.
“Without the mentoring that I received from Neil Skeggs as a misguided 21 year-old, I would not be in this business today, nor would I have adopted a strong client-centric work ethic that was so embedded [in him]” says Mr Goldstien.
“Neil taught me to care, to stay focused, and to think strategically.”
Today, Mr Goldstien is one of four directors at Skeggs Goldstien, a privately owned financial services business that provides financial, wealth and accounting services for individuals and businesses.
The business operates under two structures: Skeggs Goldstien Associates and Skeggs Goldstien Accounting. Mr Goldstien and his colleagues, Jonathan Reynolds, Darryn Fellowes, and Khoung Tang, are all directors of both structures and equity holders.
“We all play an integral part in our businesses’ growth strategy direction and implementation,” says Mr Goldstien.
Skeggs Goldstien started dealing with SMSFs in 1998 – well before practitioners populated this space many years later. Mr Goldstien labelled the move “defensive”, one they took to continue maintaining effective client relationships.
“We also saw the opportunity to get involved with something that was new and had potential for significant growth, and we invested time in the education and training and made sure we were in a position to take advantage,” Mr Goldstien explains.
Approximately 60 per cent of the businesses’ revenue is SMSF-related, according to Mr Goldstien. The rest is equally split among general accounting and taxation, business advisory, corporate superannuation and general financial planning.
The practice deals with a broad range of areas in the SMSF space, including accounting requirements and audits. The only exceptions are some investments, such as direct equities and direct property, which are outside of Skeggs Goldstien’s licensing capabilities.
Broadly speaking, the practice outsources a lot of investments to professionals such as stock brokers, bond brokers and investment consultants. “My role is akin to a conductor of an orchestra,” Mr Goldstien says. “I need not know how to play the oboe, but I do need to know when it needs to be played.”
For Mr Goldstien, proving his worth as an SMSF specialist is not an issue – he has been actively involved with SMSF Professionals’ Association of Australia (SPAA) since it began in 2003. His role as chair of the NSW chapter has enhanced how he deals with his clients in the SMSF space, by offering a level of credibility and being privy to information and advice that is not necessarily publically available.
“Everybody is a specialist today because that's where the money is. But I'm [able] to stand apart from them and say that I actually am,” he says.
“I like the fact that I remain close to the industry, close to what's happening, I'm always learning, getting significant input and understanding from other professionals,” he adds.
When dealing with clients, the practice does not subscribe to a ‘one size fits all’ solution – each client’s knowledge and understanding varies significantly, Mr Goldstien says. He adds that the spectrum of clients ranges from those who “have no idea” to those who are more in tune with their options.
“I think what's unique about what we do compared to the other practices perhaps is that we let the clients choose a level of engagement,” he says. “We normally have an initial consultation where we try and uncover and discover as much as we can about the client... they can guide it in one direction or another.
“If you are only requiring a limited advice or a very limited role or engagement, we can do that... we'll always look at a client's situation from a financial planning perspective first, so that's a holistic perspective first.”
Moving forward, after going fee for service in 1998 the firm is “well placed” for Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms, according to Mr Goldstien.
“There are many clients that we deal with where there's no product advice at all, it could be purely strategic or structural,” he says.
In addition, Mr Goldstien sees ongoing growth opportunities for the practice, including potential acquisitions. In particular, Mr Goldstien foresees the role of accountants in SMSFs, and advice in general, increasing significantly.
“We obviously see that as a huge opportunity for us moving now down that route ... we're able to provide those services together, and I think that's where the unique benefits are coming to the fore,” he says.