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‘We stick absolutely to our knitting’: Simon Growden’s journey with Shadforth Financial Group

Over his 28 years as an adviser, Growden has learned a lot about investing: his mantra now is “stick to what you know”. His best investment, he says, was buying equity in what became Shadforth 25 years ago, while his worst came from moving outside rule number one.
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Growing up in Perth with the surname Growden, advice may have seemed locked-in as a career for Simon Growden, Head of Advice at Shadforth Financial Group in Western Australia. Many locals knew of the specialist financial advice and wealth management firm Gannon Growden Schonell, but it was a different surname from that trio that was the biggest influence on him.

After completing university, he didn’t know what he wanted to do. “I’d spoken to a couple of stockbroking firms but didn’t really have a plan,” he tells The Inside Adviser. “I did some work experience at Dad’s firm, but it was his partner Sam Gannon who offered me a job and effectively became my mentor.”

A week after starting work under Gannon, Growden “was the research team” for the firm. “This was pre-Internet, it was finding what I could on stocks and fund managers, researching them and writing summaries on them. My apprenticeship then moved into the para-planning role, and gradually I was introduced into some of the strategic advice. After about three years, I began advising clients.”

  • Gannon, a former Test cricketer, was an “exceptional person,” says Growden. “He had an unbelievable work ethic, sky-high standards, and the ability to make you feel like the most important person in the room. He was an outstanding adviser, and just superb at bringing younger advisers through. He was visionary and instrumental in bringing together the 14 different businesses around Australia that formed Shadforth in 2008.”

    Growden eventually took over his father’s client book after his retirement in 1999. “I had learned from my father Rex and Sam that you just had to be super-organised, and thorough, and walk into every client meeting ultra-prepared. That’s the first part of gaining the respect of the client, to make sure that I knew their position well.”

    It typically takes the team an hour and a half, in a free consultation, to conduct a deep-dive into a client’s specific circumstances, their thinking about risk, and objectives. “Only when we fully understand that will we know if we can add value, and establish a meaningful adviser/client relationship. It has to be a good fit,” Growden says.

    The portfolio construction starts from this clear understanding of the client’s risk appetite, and what is required from the portfolio. Shadforth primarily runs an ‘evidence-based’ investment philosophy, built around efficient, low-cost investments with a market-like exposure, and ‘layered’ with tilts.

    “We don’t speculate or second-guess markets. Risk needs to be rewarded, and discipline is paramount. For example, in Australian equities the core holding has 400 stocks, with half of the exposure in the top 10 holdings and a long tail of stocks to provide the broader diversification and tilts to undervalued, profitable and smaller companies. That’s what’s going to deliver you your outperformance relative to the index over time,” says Growden.

    For those clients who specifically want an active component, the adviser team will introduce them to satellite funds for the specific objectives, and in some cases, dial-up the exposure.

    “We generally don’t implement direct shares for clients, but we do have a lot of clients that hold direct shares, and for those we advise on them as part of their exposure to that sector. We need to consider concentration and overexposure, and if appropriate, we trim them and rebalance as needed,” he says.

    Most clients are invested in a managed discretionary account (MDA), in which, Growden says, rebalancing is constant. “There’s a sweep once a week, and if you’re outside the risk tolerance ranges in any of the asset classes your exposure will get rebalanced. Advisers and clients don’t have to worry about volatile periods because we can ensure that the asset allocation weightings are always spot-on.”

    Over his 28 years as an adviser, Growden has learned a lot about investing: his mantra now is “stick to what you know”. His best investment, he says, was buying equity in what became Shadforth 25 years ago, while his worst came from moving outside rule number one.

    “I am from Perth, so there is no shortage of speculative resource stock tips. But if you stray outside what you know well, it doesn’t work,” he says. “For example, I have had crypto explained to me several times, but I don’t get it, and I don’t advise clients on it.”

    This philosophy is uniform among the advice team. “We’re selective in the assets that we recommend for our clients, and we don’t advise on the more exotic investments. For a client who is seeking that, we may be able to suggest relationships we have with other specialists. This could include unlisted property, agriculture, or private equity, tapping into people better skilled in their unique area,” Growden says. “We stick absolutely to our knitting, which is focused on appropriate asset allocation and sound, robust investment solutions that reward clients for the risk they are comfortable with”.

    A holder of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation, Growden was recognised in The Australian’s Top 100 Financial Advisers in Australia, in association with Barron’s, in 2017, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

    Outside work, the 51 year-old Growden, swims in the ocean daily and lives with his wife Susie and three sons, aged 22, 16 and 13, plus Snickers the dog. With work, that keeps him pretty busy, but as he admits, “at the end of the week, I love a good bottle of wine with friends”.

    James Dunn

    James is an experienced senior journalist and host of The Inside Network's industry events.




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