Campbell Harris is a Sydney-based stockbroker. Prior to working in financial markets, he lived and worked as a ski coach in Switzerland and the US. After sustaining a major injury in a skiing accident, he returned to Australia to complete a bachelor’s degree in banking and finance. It was Campbell’s experience in Switzerland that led him to choose stock broking for a career: under the influence of three very successful stockbrokers for several days as their ski guide, he got a strong sense that he would love the industry. With a career spanning pre-GFC market highs to the present financial climate, Campbell’s depth of experience spans bull and bear markets. His number one goal is to provide a service that is second-to-none to all his clients. As a stock broker at RBS Morgans, Campbell regularly appears on Sky Business News and was formerly heard giving the daily market update on commercial radio.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Observant, generous, loyal.
What is your life motto? Live a happy and healthy life.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I started pursuing my career in 2002: I had a major ski accident, I was a ski coach in Switzerland before I was stockbroking and I ended up in hospital for five weeks, and then I came back to Australia and did six months in a wheel chair and another four months on crutches. Obviously I knew I needed to go to uni to have a ‘proper’ career, as opposed to skiing, but I suppose my accident brought it all together. Then I started uni and that started off the career. As far as being successful, for me, what determines ‘being successful’ is constantly changing. I consider myself successful when I continue to reach my monthly, quarterly and yearly goals. With broking, I think you need to keep jumping through hoops and meeting new people and of course you never know where it’s going to lead.
How much time and effort did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? To start, four years of uni and then I started working for ABN Amro Morgans (a stockbroking firm), which is now RBS Morgans. In terms of pursuing a dream, in financial markets you never really stop, there is always a market opening somewhere in the world; there is always new information and always a different angle. As a broker you’re always thinking about the different angles and how these will affect the companies that your client’s finances are invested in. There are always opportunities out there, you just have to find them and stay on top, Pursuing these opportunities is a constant; it’s not just about being switched on during business hours. If I get up in the middle of the night, I check the market to see what it’s doing. [Do you find that even though it is constant you enjoy it?] Yeah I do, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it – I wouldn’t get online at 3am in the morning to see what the markets in the US and Europe were doing. No matter how big and busy a weekend I have, I’m always looking forward to going to work on Monday morning.
What are the challenges in your line of work? There are so many challenges in financial markets: markets changing, government policies, currency fluctuation and it goes on and on. There are always two sides to any major headliner in the world and sometimes a company takes advantage of that situation and others suffer from it. There are always challenges but on the flip side there are also opportunities.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? I like to look at markets as this: markets go up in an escalator and down in a lift. Through the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) I witnessed huge amounts of wealth being lost, and the lesson I learnt was, don’t be afraid to sell because you can always buy it back. That’s a very important lesson I learnt during the GFC.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? I’ve been given lots of advice but there are two that I constantly think about. Firstly, don’t judge your performance based on your peers – so I never go to my Managing Director and say, “such and such is doing this, why am I getting that?” You’ve got to judge yourself based on your own aptitude. As soon as you start judging yourself against your peers, you’re only going to be as good as they are.
The second piece of advice ; Manners are free.
In your mind, is formal training essential? In my industry I definitely think so. Formal training is essential because you are dealing directly with people’s money and I don’t think it’s something you can just wing and get lucky with over the longer term.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? Yes, having a mentor is absolutely important; I have three. I have a business coach; I have a senior dealer who works in the stockbroking industry; and I have a mentor who doesn’t work in finance but is the CEO of a top 50 ASX-listed company. So between them it gives me a good perspective on achieving my work-business goals but also my personal goals.
What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? Get a degree, and pursue a career in the area you love. You are going to spend so much more time at work than with your family and friends, so make sure it’s worth it.
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? Markets go up and down, and nobody knows what is going to happen in the future. I listen to senior brokers that have been in markets for a long time, this usually picks me up.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? I think a combination of hard work and persistence will help you to make it. Luck and being in the right place at the right time will speed up this process.