Meet Alexandra: The adviser who went from Monopoly to managing millions

Sara Allen

Livewire Markets

Alexandra always wanted to manage money, even from a young age. It probably won’t surprise you to learn then that she repeatedly nabbed the role of “the banker” as a child when playing Monopoly with friends and family.

Now, she’s working with WILSONS as an investment adviser and has been working within the financial advice industry for the past 16 years.

She cut her financial advice teeth in the GFC, an experience that has been formative to her investment philosophy and approach. That said, don’t assume she only uses defensive low growth assets for her clients’ portfolios.

“I apply a strict assessment of risk relative to expected return when reviewing potential investment opportunities. In doing so, an investment will only be made if an investor will be compensated for the risk, or volatility, they are introducing to their portfolio.”

In this Meet the Adviser profile, Alexandra shares why alternative assets are her go-to for clients, as well as the ways she is managing portfolios amid these challenging markets and why you shouldn’t just diversify for diversification’s sake.

Financial adviser profile

  • Name: Alexandra Kalceff
  • Current firm: WILSONS
  • Years working as an adviser: 16 years
  • Investment goals: Build a portfolio of assets that can be left to grow over the long term, that will provide my family with financial security and flexibility to enjoy life’s experiences together, and ultimately leave a legacy for my children.
Alexandra with her sons. Photo supplied.
Alexandra with her sons. Photo supplied.

Why did you choose this profession and how did you get started as a financial adviser?

I have always wanted to work in finance, drawn from an early age to the appeal of managing money and the dynamic nature of investment markets.

Throughout my university studies, I maintained a part-time job at a boutique advisory firm that specialised in the resources sector. This was a wonderful experience, introducing me to markets, corporate transactions, research, sales, and the compliance environment (I was charged with drafting a policy for the new AML/CTF regulations). 

My first two years were against the backdrop of a heady bull market, and the next two saw the GFC market falls from peak to trough.

As I approached the end of my studies, I turned my mind to securing a graduate role. It was a stressful time interviewing in March 2009, with most investment banks cancelling or drastically reducing their intakes. I was offered a job in Private Wealth Management with Goldman Sachs JBWere, and the rest is history!

Do you have a particular speciality or what types of clients do you mostly work with?

My clients comprise high net worth individuals (often C-suite executives), Not For Profit organisations and foundations, and Family Offices. The objectives and requirements across each group differs and are often complex. 

I enjoy the complexity, and leverage my strategic expertise to formulate an enduring investment strategy that will achieve my clients’ objectives whilst considering their attitude toward risk, the importance of good governance, the many nuances of investing, and overall asset positioning.

Can you share a bit about your process for building portfolios and selecting investment products? 

My investment process starts with truly understanding my clients:

  • their ambitions - such as retirement plans, lifestyle and family considerations, philanthropic endeavours, and leaving a legacy.
  • what they need from their assets - such as income, growth, capital protection.
  • how they feel about risk - what will keep them up at night.

With this information, I can set an appropriate asset allocation strategy – both strategic: for the long term, and tactical: to consider near-term market risks and opportunities.

I then populate the portfolio with investments across all asset classes that will provide diversity of risk and return, and that stand to benefit from the macroeconomic themes we see playing out. This includes direct investments in listed debt and Australian and global equities, as well as indirect investments in managed funds investing across the full spectrum of public and private markets.

When it comes to specific investment selection, I form my views and recommendations primarily by leveraging the expertise within Wilsons. With industry veteran David Cassidy at our investment helm, he and his team synthesise information from across the market. Our team of research analysts deliver small-mid cap expertise, and our corporate division provides access to equity capital market transactions.

Can you share your “go to” funds with us? 

We are speaking a lot with clients about the important role that alternative assets can play in portfolios: investments that have a low correlation to traditional equities and bonds.

One of the alternative asset managers that we support is the Alium Market Neutral Fund, which is a long/short Australian equities manager who seek to generate outperformance consistently and in any market conditions. They have an impressive track record of outperforming the market, but with less volatility than the market.

How would you describe your personal investment philosophy?

The foundations of my personal investment philosophy was set at the very start of my career with one of the greatest financial dislocations of our time, the GFC, occurring only two short years into my career. As a result, I take a conservative, risk-based approach to investing.

This does not mean that I only invest in defensive or low growth assets for my clients, but I apply a strict assessment of risk relative to expected return when reviewing potential investment opportunities. In doing so, an investment will only be made if an investor will be compensated for the risk, or volatility, they are introducing to their portfolio.

I take a structured approach to investing, ensuring that the wealth my clients have spent their lives accumulating is reviewed, managed and advised upon with close attention and care.

I also subscribe to the fact that investing should not be so complex that it cannot be explained to and understood by investors.

Could you tell me about your worst investment? How did you deal with this falling position or fund?

When we make an investment on behalf of a client, broadly one of three things happens:

  • The investment thesis plays out and the exposure appreciates in value.
  • The investment thesis changes.
  • Exogenous events impact the environment within which an investment is made.

Where the thesis changes and is broken, we must exit the position swiftly. We have, for example, exited our entire client holdings in a managed fund upon the announcement of a portfolio manager departure.

Where external events change the economic backdrop, we must develop an educated view on whether the opportunity remains. For example, during the accelerated COVID sell-off we made the decision to remain invested, focusing on our long-term investment timeframe, and the fact that there would be strong government and central bank support, and ultimately there would be a return to normality post-pandemic.

Regardless of the advice, a primary lesson that we learn in these instances is that communication with clients is critical. Either to make the call to exit the position despite crystallising a loss, or to recommend remaining invested after interrogating the renewed dynamics. 

Can you share one of your favourite client success stories?

Many of my clients are high net worth individuals, yet it is fascinating the number of times they raise a degree of nervousness with respect to their asset base, and whether it will see them through retirement.

We often complete a piece of modelling work which incorporates information such as income, expenses and major life events. The outcome of this work will often demonstrate that not only do they have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, but that they may be able to retire earlier than expected, gift money to charities or family members to help set them up financially, travel more regularly and so on. 

The implications are literally life changing, and that is incredibly satisfying.

What three conversations are you most frequently having right now with clients? And what is your answer to these questions?

The main question from clients right now is with respect to whether we are about to enter a recession, with markets suffering further losses.

Our view is that volatility is set to remain in the near-term, and really until we have clarity that inflation has truly peaked. It is a difficult time to forecast outcomes right now as several factors driving higher inflation are outside of reasonable control, namely a war and supply chain issues stemming from a global pandemic. The contribution from strong consumer demand will ease with rising interest rates, as households modify their spending, however the confluence of all of these factors makes for an uncertain and likely volatile period.

Whilst we do not know how this time in history will play out, we have managed money through volatility before. In times such as these we:

  1. Hold greater cash balances – typically two years of expenses to avoid the need to draw down on a portfolio in times of market distress.
  2. Reiterate our long-term investment horizon and the difficulty in trying to time the market especially when the market does not always behave rationally.
  3. Selectively add quality positions to portfolios that may be screening as relatively cheap.
  4. Reiterate the importance of maintaining a well-diversified portfolio, such that the overall volatility of the portfolio is reduced.

What are the two most common mistakes you see in the portfolios that you inherit and how do you go about fixing them?

When onboarding new clients, I am often surprised by the number of holdings within the portfolios – both in terms of direct equities and managed funds, yet how highly concentrated and correlated their underlying exposures are. 

Diversification for diversification’s sake is not effective, especially when the portfolio holdings are not fully understood, and the investments perform in tandem when you expect them to buffer the portfolio in volatile times.

Can you share a personal passion or ambition you have for your future? 

I absolutely love travelling and experiencing other cultures, which, with the world opening back up and my two young children (1yo and nearly 4yo) getting older every day, I look forward to doing more of. I can’t wait to experience the world with them, and show them what an amazing place it is.

The passion I thankfully get to enjoy more often is related to cooking delicious, simple food, and sharing it with family and friends. My ideal Saturday comprises a morning of designing a menu, an afternoon of cooking, and an evening of enjoying the fruits of my labour with good company. 

Realise your ambition

Wilsons thinks differently and delves deeper to uncover a broad range of interesting investment opportunities for their clients. You can find out more about Wilsons Private Wealth offering at Wilsons Private Wealth.

Sara Allen
Content Editor
Livewire Markets

Sara is a Content Editor at Livewire Markets. She is a passionate writer and reader with more than a decade of experience specific to finance and investments. Sara's background has included working at ETF Securities, BT Financial Group and...

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