A relationship for success

Adapt Wealth Management’s Reuben Zelwer speaks to ifa about how he met future business partner Lawrence Shamrakov – all by chance
STORY/ Scott Hodder

Reuben Zelwer has forged a career in financial advice by seeking out and building relationships with clients and industry professionals – and he was doing so even in the very early stages of his career.

“Trust Company of Australia – which was my first financial advice job – there my role was to start relationships with accountants to build referrals,” Mr Zelwer says.
Twelve years on from that first advice job, he continues to build relationships and grow his network of clients and referral partners.
“The relationship part is certainly the most rewarding part of the business,” he says, “but it is not just the relationship with clients, it is also relationships with staff and other professionals and collaborating to get the best outcome for clients.”

A chance meeting

In 2011, when Mr Zelwer had decided to branch out and establish Adapt Wealth, one working relationship he did not anticipate began when he was introduced to a then university student, Lawrence Shamrakov.
“That actually started by chance,” Mr Zelwer recalls of his first meeting with Mr Shamrakov.
“When I first started [Adapt Wealth Management] I was looking for someone to help me with implementing software and systems in the business and he was introduced to me by a business development manager,” Mr Zelwer says.
Soon after he started, however, he realised his new staff member’s capabilities weren’t confined to being able to implement operating systems.
“When he first started, his role was to help me with systems and the like, but I pretty soon realised his capabilities extended beyond that,” Mr Zelwer says. “Now he advises clients alongside me, which is great.”
For his part, Mr Shamrakov did not expect that starting out with Mr Zelwer would be the beginning of a career in financial advice either. Nor did he think it would ignite the working partnership that they share today.
“I was just in university and looking for something and the opportunity arose,” Mr Shamrakov says. “I was doing a commerce and economics degree with a major in econometrics, so I definitely had other options.”
Despite these options, however, having experienced what the financial advice profession had to offer, he knew he had found a career worth staying with.
“I started with the paraplanning role [and] he took me into a few meetings to assist – and that is sort of where I knew I didn’t need to look further,” Mr Shamrakov says.
“I really saw the value of building relationships with existing clients, discovering new clients and sort of understanding their situation and being able to educate them as well.”
After two years of working together, Mr Zelwer realised Mr Shamrakov didn’t just have a strong future in financial advice; he would also be the future of his business.

Planning for an exit
At this point, he decided to create a succession plan, with Mr Shamrakov not only becoming a future partner in the business but also its future direction.
“When you are offering equity within the business, you want to make sure that the person cares as much about the business as you do and acts as an owner before he becomes one – and I certainly felt that with Lawrence,” Mr Zelwer says.
“He is an integral part of the business, he is crucial for long-term growth – it makes sense to make him an equity partner.”
Mr Shamrakov saw Mr Zelwer’s succession plan as a sign of the faith he had in him and that he could really add further value to his skills as an adviser.
“I think, to me, it was a way to help retain me here – which is understandable –and in another sense it will give me a lot more value I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else,” he says.
“When Reuben started the business, the initial direction wasn’t to take a partner on immediately, but what I was able to show was that I was able to make a pretty big difference early on in terms of how we run the business. And it is sort of a big leap of faith as well.”
While the future of Mr Zelwer’s business lies with Mr Shamrakov, he is far from finished with continuing to help his clients.
“In terms of growth, we are very much into working with our clients and the referral partners we have, which I have established over a long period of time,” he says.
“Our byline is to help clients simplify their financial lives – that is what we believe in. There is a lot of complexity and information out there and it can make decision-making very difficult. So really, we try and cut out the noise and provide some clarity.
“We really want to grow ... incrementally,” Mr Zelwer says. “That way, we can keep our high level of service and make sure we work with the type of clients that we want – you know, that fit us – and that we can add value for.”

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