Paul Atherton: My journey from Wall Street to Lending

Paul Atherton is a an ex-Wall Street advisor, Finance Commentator and Financial Consultant. With experience spanning the USA, the UK, India and the Phillipines, Paul now runs his own financial consulting firm from Adelaide. To contact Paul, you can always tweet at him with the hashtag #askpaulanything.

In our interview with him below, he talks about expanding his firm by integrating lending solutions and some of the challenges and highlights that have come with his new journey.


Can you give us some background information about your firm - How did you start off? What made you want to start your own firm? What has your journey been like as a small business owner?

I returned home to Adelaide after spending my entire career on the trading decks of Wall Street (New York) and London as a Risk Manager and Senior Managing Director.

I was successful in generating billions of dollars for some of the world’s largest institutions and helped internationally famous global investment firms not only stay afloat, but thrive through multiple financial crises, including the Global Financial Crisis.

Upon returning to Adelaide, I noticed there was a disconnect between what was happening at the global finance level and what would eventually and often rapidly impact the wealth of retail clients in Adelaide.

My aim is to bridge this gap and provide a world-class financial service business operating out of the heart of Adelaide.


What made you decide to incorporate a specialist lender into your business? What types of lending do you offer?

I was determined to provide solutions for my clients’ full range of needs. Often this requires helping with cash flow and one of the best ways to do this is to perform a thorough review of a client’s debt structure.

I have, on a number of occasions, assisted clients by freeing up cash-flow for reallocation to an investment strategy.

Helping a client at multiple financial touch points enables me to move the relationship away from a transactional one to that of a partnership; away from short-term advice to longer-term wealth management.


How are you planning to overcome some of the constraints from your advice business (particularly time) to concentrate on lending? What process did you go through to find a new broker?

Lending is a much more complex business than an outsider might believe. It’s the type of complexity that would make a derivatives trader blush! The answer came down to a choice: either I learn 17 years of lending within a couple of months or hire someone with that existing experience.

I was becoming my own bottle neck. I was very good at getting clients, but I could not process them fast enough, which was a problem for reputation: people want not just a high-quality service, but a timely service. The time I was spending on processing lending was also time I wasn’t spending on other critical parts of the business.

My worry was that I was so desperate to get a good lender, and because I don’t personally have that deep lending experience, I might just hire the first person that came through the door.

Glen Maestri from Centrepoint Lending Solutions provided great support and helped with every step of the recruitment process. We now have a fabulous, experienced lender who has the right mix of skills and experience, attitude and enthusiasm: everything I am looking for in my rapidly growing business.

But it doesn’t end there. We negotiated an agreement with Jo that was suitable for her and my firm. We needed contracts signed, movement of Jo onto my licence and a well thought out agreement that matched Jo’s needs and my firm’s requirements.

All that was required from me was an understanding and agreement of the terms that were being put forward.


What are the overall benefits that you’ve seen by incorporating lending solutions (both finance and non-finance related)? Have you been able to use your lending practice as a way to generate new business for your advice practice, and vice-versa?

Learning the ins and outs of lending was a fantastic growth experience for me, but I needed to get to the next level and the only way I could do that was by employing an experienced lender. I found the experience of lending both rewarding and humbling. A good lender is worth their weight in gold.

Lending of course brings in an extra line of revenue. But of course, my lending clients have seen the opportunity to work on their superannuation and risk coverage. As I do this all within the same practice, ‘we can handle it all’ is a fabulous solution for clients which they greatly appreciate.

I have also offered lending opportunities for wealth clients after a review of their current financial situation revealed poor debt structures and interest rates that were too high.

In one instance, I was able to save a client circa $1,000 per month on his cash flow. As he had a young family, this was enormously positive.


Are you interested in integrating Lending Solutions into your firm's offerings? If so, make sure to contact Kevin Frost, Head of Lending, Centrepoint Lending Solutions, today.