Tuesday 14 November 2017 by Guest Contributor At FIIG

Musings from a soon to be retiree

Paul Gray, senior relationship manager from our Mornington satellite office in Melbourne retires later this month. Paul brought great wisdom with him when he joined FIIG nine years ago, we will miss him. He has penned a few thoughts about his 48 year career and the changes he’s seen. Finally leaving us some ‘general advice’ 

Federation Square, 1968, an initiative of the Melbourne City Council and Melbourne's first public square

During my 48 years of working life in the great city of Melbourne, I’ve only strayed off Collins Street twice in my various places of employment. I came to know in significant detail, eight major buildings in that street starting at No. 1 and proceeding through to No. 530. 


My two meanderings were to AMP Square in Bourke Street and later to 1 Exhibition Street – not too far from where it all began for me at the Reserve Bank of Australia on the corner of Collins and Exhibition Street. 

These are amongst the things you think about when the big “R” word (Retirement) becomes a reality for you. “Boring” you might say? – no, for me quite the opposite, as the city has grown to over four million people now from only around one million in 1968. In that time, all sorts of memorable events have taken place – the West Gate Bridge collapse, the Russell St bombings, massacres in Queen and Hoddle Streets, new bridges, stadiums and significant buildings, protests, massive dust and thunder storms, strikes, an underground rail loop, malls and freeways – a time of extraordinary growth.

In amongst all this, the nation experienced incredible economic times including booms and busts of great proportions, a national recession ‘we had to have’ followed by the highest interest rates in our history, the GFC and then the lowest interest rates we have seen – these franking the most incredible property market boom in our modern times! So, it’s been an interesting ride to say the least and I do hope that future generations will really get to enjoy the benefits, although I do have my doubts.

My last nine years at FIIG have in many ways been the most rewarding for me personally. Not in any financial sense particularly, but more because of the enormous satisfaction I have gleaned from being actively involved with so many wonderful clients.

We all go through so many challenging times in our working lives, including difficult-to-handle situations, tough and unpopular decisions, lack of satisfaction and unattainable challenges. These take all of one’s resolve to overcome and master leaving indelible marks that linger if allowed to do so.

On the other and much brighter side, are the times when one achieves great enjoyment from good decisions, positive results and desirable outcomes emanating from hard work and commitment. This has been my experience at FIIG.

The company has grown dramatically in my time here – from around a total of 20 back in early 2009 to more than 140 people now and this is potentially just the beginning. Ever since we managed to overcome the outdated conventional restrictions of the Australian bond market by offering our “DirectBond” service to private investors in smaller parcels, the company has become a significant force in the fixed income sector, playing an instrumental role in helping Australian investors diversify and de-risk their superannuation and/or investment portfolios.

There is no doubt that Australian superannuation fund portfolios carry significantly overweight risk assets with their obsession for equities to produce capital growth. Only recently, in an article in the AFR, Christopher Joye talked about a public sector super fund (run by, say, the Future Fund) producing a more diverse and less risky asset allocation for Australians looking to “shore-up” their retirement. His article included the following:

It has been my overwhelming experience that we love risk – but only as long as it produces appropriate rewards. The GFC hurt, but lessons were learnt and it is gratifying to see our clients recognising that excessive risk in retirement is not necessary. 

Capital stability and regular, reliable income complete the equation for a happy future life, and a greater exposure to high quality bonds will provide the balance needed in portfolios for those outcomes to be achieved. Our low interest rate environment is unpalatable for many and the quest for yield can cloud judgement and rational decision making, but it’s all about balance and common sense and these are the “cushions” which I like clients to fall back on. There is nothing wrong with taking some risk; we usually do in some sense or another every day. It’s just that this needs to be measured and sensible, and in context with an overall portfolio strategy.

In other words, be smart, be savvy and above all, be sensible! FIIG is doing some really great and important work in the investment community and I am proud to have been a part of that – it is really crucial that Australian investors generally, and retirees specifically, get to enjoy the results of that work by being introduced to the benefits of owning bonds.

So, in saying goodbye to all my friends and colleagues at FIIG and to my wonderful clients with whom I have shared some great times, I would like to wish you all great happiness, good health and good fortune. In the meantime, I am really looking forward to the next chapter in my life and as I recall in a note I sent to clients this morning, someone I know said, “the secret to an enjoyable retirement is a good woman and some good wine” – I am lucky enough to have both, so bring it on as they say!