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Don Stewart retires after a half century of financial advice

When financial adviser Don Stewart was 24 years old he dreamt of buying a farm, so he began selling life insurance to raise the money.

Wednesday, May 31st 2023, 6:53AM 4 Comments

by Andrea Malcolm

Forty nine years later Don is retiring, not as a farmer but as the founder of his own highly successful wealth management business the Stewart Group.

Like most insurance advisers, he planned to work as a tied agent, and went with National Mutual because he held insurance with them.

“If you want to write big chunks of insurance, you need to own big chunks of it. It’s a crucial thing in life. If you are advised by a real estate agent to buy a property and you find out they don’t own a property themself, do they understand the product? Or if you deal with a mechanic and their car is always breaking down, they shouldn’t be fixing your car.”

Although Don did realise his dream to buy a farm – 1,500 acres in Dannevirke with two other parties – he eventually lost touch with the farming world and sold the property to focus on the insurance and financial planning business.

He began getting frequent requests from insurance clients for help with personal investment planning. Realising that many people did not have the time, inclination, or expertise to manage their investments, he decided to expand his services by opening D L Stewart and Associates (later Stewart Financial Group) in 1987.

Over the next 36 years the business grew to a seven-strong adviser team specialising in risk insurance, wealth management and financial planning, as well as KiwiSaver – plus 13 support staff. With offices in Hastings and Wellington, Stewart Group now services more than 2,500 clients across New Zealand.

Don was instrumental in sparking an interest in financial services with his son Nick, allowing him to work at the firm during school holidays and ultimately offering a term contract in 2000. Nick loved it so much he decided to join full time, buying a cornerstone stake in the business three years later and eventually becoming group director.

Don has trained 10 to 12 other advisers with the firm over the years. His advice is to keep good notes and find good accountants and lawyers to work with in servicing clients.

“Talking to very good lawyers and top accountants is very useful. I have had some very good accounting and legal mentors with 20 to 30 years experience who have shared what they knew. And on various occasions they would refer clients to us for financial advice. They would often come with their clients to our offices to meet and brainstorm, wanting to know what we did and how, and to look at our portfolios to see what they wanted.

“I’m very proud of how Stewart Group has evolved, and with my son Nick continuing at the helm, I’m excited to see the continued growth of the company I started,” says Don.

“In those early days we had a very small advisory practice, dependent on one adviser and one PA. Now we have an integrated business, looking after a significant number of clients across our business.”

Nick describes his father as an industry trailblazer – one of New Zealand’s first independent advisers who boldly decoupled products from advice and went fee-only with investment advice in 2003.

“I think one of his legacies is that he has built a holistic, independent and thriving financial planning business. Despite the company’s growth, he has ensured it remains family and employee-owned. We are incredibly grateful for his unwavering dedication to the business and his invaluable stewardship. Dad has always prioritised the interest of others, so it will be wonderful to see him dedicate some time for himself, Mum and the family in his retirement,” says Nick.

Don says the highlight of his career has been the clients. “I’ve worked with some fascinating and worthwhile people.”

He plans to stick with the gym, enjoys getting into the garden and will start ticking off travel destinations with his wife Mary. “And I’ll put more energy into my family, especially my six grandchildren, while also working on improving my golf handicap to keep up with Mary.”

Tags: Advisers

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Comments from our readers

On 31 May 2023 at 8:21 pm John Milner said:
What an outstanding career and someone to admire. Well done Don and thank you for your big contribution to our industry.
On 1 June 2023 at 1:26 pm Do what is right said:
A massive career Don. Well done and enjoy the retirement that you and Mary rightly deserve!
On 2 June 2023 at 4:19 am Tony Vidler said:
A genuine "industry trailblazer" as Nick suggested...the vision, courage and perserverance to develope a fully fledged funds management and full advice business from a tied insurance agency practice is no mean feat.

Outstanding effort Don, and I hope your retirement is a long, healthy and fun-filled one. You deserve it.
On 2 June 2023 at 9:42 am said:
Well done Don, you should be very proud. Enjoy your retirement and making memories with Mary & the family.

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