“We are different,” says Andrew.
“We’ve got a sign out the front on our window inviting people to click onto our website. It says, ‘Find out why we’re different’. We’re not a bank and we offer a personal service, we’re 100 per cent owned privately.”
Condell Financial prides itself on taking a personal approach to financial advice, marketing itself as a firm that is interested in its clients’ stories and personal financial goals.
“We take a different approach to people who are going to see a salaried bank planner, or people who are much more tied into distributors,” Andrew says.
“People come in here with their life savings and their stories and you develop really close relationships with them. Building that trust is probably the most enjoyable part.”
Condell Financial is located in the heart of Manly, one of Sydney’s most prominent beach suburbs. In the 12 months that the firm has been up and running, Andrew’s community ties have been a key facet of business growth.
In fact, a significant chunk of the practice’s leads have so far come from the Condell extended network within the area.
“We’ve got a 35-year presence of living in Manly around this area, so that extended history of being here we’re using for our business,” Andrew says.
“Condell is not a common name and there’s a big street sign out there saying ‘Condell Financial’. A lot of people know our name through me, or my kids, who all grew up in this area.”
The business is a sharp contrast with Andrew’s previous enterprise, Genesys member firm Financial Keys – a successful financial planning business in Sydney’s CBD.
“There’s also a lot of foot traffic in Manly, so it’s not like having a business in a high-rise in the city, which we had for many years,” Andrew says.
“Having a visual street frontage in a place where people can just walk in we thought would be a good way to get a springboard for the business, whereas otherwise it might’ve been a lot slower for us to grow.”
The Condell Financial team wasted no time in becoming even more deeply ingrained with the community. Andrew has already taken up a committee position with the Manly Chamber of Commerce, and the whole family recently did a charity walk under the Condell Financial banner.
“We’ve only been here a year,” Andrew says. “We’ve got a way to go, and we do plan to be involved and engaged in the community.”
SMSFs in focus
When it comes to advice philosophies, Condell Financial has a clear value proposition.
“We see ourselves as a general practitioner in the way that a local medical GP is,” Andrew says. “We are gatekeepers for the client. Like in the medical world where there are hundreds of manufacturers who believe theirs is the ultimate drug, it’s the doctor’s job to find the one that is right for the particular patient. It’s the same for us.
“We see ourselves as being able to offer a fairly wide range of holistic solutions for clients, and most clients that come in want all their stuff looked after.”
Andrew firmly believes that practitioners have an obligation to be across all aspects of professional advice – from relationship management to insurance to portfolio construction.
“We can’t disengage from any one part of it because otherwise I don’t believe we can truly do what’s right for our clients – we would be operating blind,” Andrew says.
In emphasising all this, Andrew says the practice has firm goals to develop its base of SMSF clients. Currently, approximately 35 per cent of his client base comprises SMSF trustees, and Andrew says he sees this as a “key growth area” for the business.
“There’s big demand and the clients want it,” he says. “There’s a lot of publicity in the marketplace and lot of people have an awareness of SMSFs, and they have a perception that it’s best for them.”
Despite this focus, Andrew stresses that SMSFs “absolutely” are not for everyone – and in fact he sometimes closes SMSFs for his clients.
“I judge everything on a case-by-case basis,” he says, “but if people have no particular investment preferences, if they’re just going to put managed funds in their SMSFs or they’re just going to put it in a fairly simple portfolio, I can’t see the point in having another layer of costs over their investments – that being the accounting and admin costs.
“They can access those types of investment without having an SMSF,” he adds. “I think an SMSF is more suited to people with significant sums of money who do particularly want control over their investments and who do have particular ideas about what they want.”
Investing for growth
Despite Andrew having already run a successful business in the city, Condell Financial was effectively started from scratch, and the initial outlay was substantial. Andrew says the team was focused on creating a welcoming office with a contemporary feel.
“It’s a stylish premises: it actually brings people in when they see the premises, and we put a lot of thought into that – that was a significant cost as well. It’s a different approach, but it seems to be delivering for us so far,” Andrew says.
Condell Financial has also invested significantly in marketing, including in its branding, website and social media.
“We have invested to get a fairly contemporary website, and it’s working for us. We’re getting Google hits; we get clients coming through the look and feel of our website,” Andrew says.
“We’ve also put time into our Facebook and social media. So, we’re trying to work all fronts and have all of those more contemporary IT-type mediums to work in conjunction with the street front premises that we have. And, as I said, it’s working for us.”
While the signs are still positive, Andrew is experiencing the struggles that are all too familiar to small business owners.
“The lead time to getting sufficient revenue for me to be able to draw a wage – which I’m not yet doing – will be a bit longer than I anticipated,” Andrew says.
“Even though I’m quite happy with the client flow and how the business is going, when we sit back and add up all the costs – what it cost in fit-out and wages and software and all these kind of things – I can see it’s going to be a considerable amount of time before I can get money out of the business and start getting a wage for my hard work.”
Planning for the future
Andrew’s son, Sean Condell, is currently Condell Financial’s para-planner and practice manager. Sean learned the ropes at Financial Keys in the years after high school before heading out on a global adventure.
After his return to Manly, Sean worked in hospitality while studying at university, all the while developing a healthy passion for small business. When Andrew broke the news to the family that he was throwing his hat back into the ring, he quickly found a willing partner.
“A large part of the attraction for me was the opportunity to grow a business from the ground up,” Sean says, “but as I’ve shifted my studies more towards financial planning I’ve also discovered that I am passionate about that as well. It’s a practical, worthwhile knowledge to have, outside of it being my job.”
While the business’ family and community aspects have been crucial to its early success, the father-and-son team say they have plans to bring in more professionals in the near future.
“Our plan is to get this business to a size of probably two or three planners, a couple of para-planners, a couple of admin staff, and three or four accounting staff with one or two accounting principals – and we would continue to operate from these premises,” Andrew says.
“One thing I’ve really enjoyed in the past is bringing in young recruits, taking them through the admin role, taking them through the para-planner role and developing them and teaching them ethical ways of running a business.
“I’m looking forward to doing that, enjoying doing that with Sean, and I think that’s something which will be an enjoyable part of our growth trajectory,” he says.