James Chatfield: Steaming ahead

Chatfield Consulting’s JAMES CHATFIELD may have fallen into mortgage broking by chance, but
with annual settlement figures of close to $70m after just three years in the industry, he’s off to a flying start – and has big diversification plans.

Q. What were you doing before you moved into mortgage broking?
A: Professional student, studying finance and law at the University of Western Australia.

Q. What made you choose mortgage broking?
A: I fell into the role. I basically entered the broking space the week before the GFC and wondered what the hell I was doing! My family owns an engineering and architecture company next door to my first broking employer, one thing led to another and here we are today.

Q. Do you have any best/worst experiences from your pre-broking jobs?
A: Working in the family’s plastic factory completing the same mundane role over and over for nine hours a day. It really makes me appreciate what I have now created. Now I work 70 hours a week, so someone please explain that.

Q. What are your career goals?
A: To help clients understand the basics and methodology of investing. Our roles have evolved so much from ‘just a broker’, that I spend most of my time educating clients on how to build wealth. It does take a lot more time and energy, however you will build a client for life. I have built my business model on this and love where it is taking me.

Q. Where did you initially see your finance and law studies taking you?
A: My decision to study law and finance was born out of Steaming my early childhood experience
working in – and then later managing – the family business. The daily grind and laborious pressure of the business deterred me away from wanting to follow in father’s and brother’s footsteps, hence looking to other industry areas to expand into. I wasn’t particularly focused on entering the mortgage brokering industry as I was running my own business in bookkeeping whilst managing the family business. By accident I was given an opportunity to utilise more of my skills in this area through an association with another family business. I wanted to create opportunities for the everyday person to maximise their financial situation by educating them on how to look at other options of wealthcreation – not just a simple home loan. From this I have built a company that encompasses all of my skillsets in law, finance and financial planning and assists people to create wealth through specialised investment structures.

Q. What are the main challenges that you face in implementing a diversified business model?

A: In the early stages of the business my biggest challenge was compliance. As compliance is constantly changing (especially with the new NCCP) it is virtually impossible to make heads or tails of it. For example, contact with my previous aggregator, industry body and ASIC resulted in three different answers. However, first and foremost my greatest challenge is finance structures. When I meet a client I understand what they want to achieve, then design a structure to meet theirgoals. The biggest challenge I face with this unique product that I have designed is training and coaching another person to duplicate what I offer. It requires a particular understanding which I feel is based around my financial planning knowledge to create these structure. Sometimes it is difficult to find a person that has the motivation and care that is needed when looking after the clients.

Q. How is the work divided in your diversified business? Do you advise on financial planning and mortgages, or do you have a planner that works with you?

A: I cover most of the services required and outsource the remaining to reputable specialists. I am a qualified financial planner, however this is not my core business, so I use experienced people that are reliable and who I can trust. I have a planner that works with me who assesses risk insurance and, if required by clients, planning models as well. We work in conjunction with each other to ensure the client is well looked after. Down the track I hope to have all services in one location – mainly for the client's benefit.

Q. What tips would you offer to other brokers who are looking into diversifying into wealth management?
A: If you are not fully qualified, employ a dedicated person to fill this role. You can’t be everything and do it well. Select the area that you have strength in then hire a team of experts to take care of the services you are unable to.

Q. Where do you see the industry heading?
A: From the first day that I entered the industry it was drummed into all of the protégés to be different and to diversify your product offering, as the broking industry is so highly saturated. I believe that the role of a broker will be pushed further towards that of financial planning – either because of compliance or diversification.

Q. What have you learned so far about how to be a successful broker?
A: Take the time and energy to make sure that your clients understand what they are getting into.