Regional independence

Tim Rudd and Phil Clancy of Adams & Associates explain how they ended up as co-owners of Wagga Wagga’s only self-licensed financial advice practice.

If it wasn’t for the sign out the front, you’d be forgiven for missing the Adams & Associates office.

The planning practice is run out of a converted Federation house in a leafy suburban street in Wagga Wagga, NSW.

I sat down to chat with co-owners Tim Rudd and Phil Clancy a few days after Christmas. “We both studied business here in Wagga at Charles Sturt University,” says Tim, although he admits he graduated a few years before Phil did.

After finishing high school in 1989, Tim started working at the State Bank of NSW (later Colonial State Bank) the following month.

He started doing financial planning at the bank in 1998, but he says he wasn’t particularly happy with the way the banks were doing financial planning “even back then”.

In 1999 Tim made the decision to leave the bank and work with Denis Adams, who established Adams & Associates in 1988 after starting out as a National Mutual life agent.

At the time, Adams & Associates was aligned to AXA-owned dealer group Charter Financial Planning.

But one year after Tim came onto the scene, Denis decided to move the practice across to a self licensed model. Paul Armstrong, an Albury-based friend of Denis’s who became self licensed in 1993, provided the impetus for the move.

“Paul and Denis are good mates so they got to talking about the benefits of having your own licence and Denis decided to make the move then,” says Tim. Tim bought into the business in 2006, with Denis owning two-thirds and Tim owning one-third.

During this time Phil had been working as a paraplanner, followed by a stint at State Super Financial Services.

After that he moved to St George Bank, but he only lasted for 18 months.

“I didn’t really like the bank culture and the bank’s sales practices,” Phil says. Finally, in September 2005 Phil sat down to talk to Denis and joined Adams & Associates as a salaried financial planner.

Phil bought one-third of the business in 2008, and in 2011 Tim and Phil bought out Denis’s remaining third.

Denis continued on in a consulting role for few more years, says Tim.

“After that he decided it was time to retire. So we’ve been running the show for three years now – just the two of us,” he says.

Tim admits that friendships were tested during the succession process, with the age difference making things difficult.

“But we got through that – we’re at the other end at the moment.

It’s great that Phil and I are similar ages and have young families,” he says.

Both men have the same view when it comes to maintaining a work-life balance, Tim says. “I drop the kids off at school on the way to work,” he says. Tim has six-year-old twins and an 18-month-old, while Phil has three, five, eight and 11-year-olds.

“I’m here at 9am, but we know the hours are going to be put in at some stage during the day or night or whenever,” Tim says.

When it comes to the client base of the practice, Phil says the majority of Adams & Associates’ clients are 55 and over and live in the Riverina.

Most of the new business comes from referrals from existing clients, he adds.

“We’ve got a great referral relationship with an accountancy business down the road, and a good working relationship with a solicitor as well,” Phil says.

One of the big selling points of Adams & Associates is that it is the only financial planning firm in Wagga with its own licence, he says.

“That’s our advantage over our competition: we’re not obliged to put you in a Colonial, MLC or OnePath superannuation fund.

“We will look out for the best fund for your circumstances,” Phil says.

That said, Tim and Phil are big advocates of Vanguard’s range of diversified funds.

“When we do a lot of comparisons between the Vanguard structure and industry/retail funds, it’s very hard to beat Vanguard on performance, risk adjusted returns and fees,” says Phil.

In fact, they’re such big users of Vanguard that the Australian chief executive John James recently took the time to thank them personally. “It was really nice to get a call.

“We don’t really expect to get any phone calls like that, but when you do you appreciate it,” Phil says.

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