Openpals: Where real meets robo

In this series we’re talking to our clients to get their personal take on what they’re up to, where the industry’s going and things they’ve found along the way. This time we talk to Pat Garrett, co-founder and co-CEO of Six Park, who now knows that rollerblading on a basketball court is a bad idea... he’s also a man who’s passionate about pushing through tech barriers while simultaneously bringing personal connection to the scaled advice space.

Tell us a little bit about Six Park and some of the recent developments you've introduced.

Six Park is an online investment management service – regrettably labelled "robo-advice". We help investors construct well-diversified portfolios of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and then assist with things like automated rebalancing and expert investment management oversight.

Our service involves providing "scaled" personal advice, which means we provide clients guidance on portfolios that we think suit their investment and risk profile.

We use technology to make this service highly efficient and scalable (much of the service can be automated and delivered digitally in a highly compliant manner), enabling us to charge fees that we believe are very attractive for the service provided.

So, we address accessibility and affordability when it comes to people who want or need help with their investments.

The two main recent developments we have introduced are:

  • The launch of a “sustainability” option for clients across all our portfolios
  • We recently lowered our entry point from $5k to $2k to be able to help more people earlier in their savings and investment journey

We will also be launching an app soon.

What do you think will happen in the industry over the next few years? What big trends or changes do you foresee?

The biggest trend in the past few years has been technology lowering the barriers and costs of trading. It's pretty much free to trade overseas and getting close to that in Australia. With that comes increased retail participation in shares and investing, which is a good thing.

"But investing is hard, so I think the future will see more use of tools and offerings to help people trade and invest, with an added measure of guidance and risk management."

It's essential for investors, both young and less young, to understand that investing doesn't mean just shares. It is about multi-asset class portfolio management as a form of risk management, which is why the ETF market has grown the way it has.

This will be great for DIY investors and financial advisers, accountants, and others who serve the mass market. Overseas entities like Walmart are launching digitally-led, mass-market financial wellness and investing services. There is an enormous need for such services as we are on the precipice of a multi-trillion dollar intergenerational wealth transfer. The next generation of investors will benefit from new and intelligent tools to help build and grow their wealth.

This is where AI and other data-driven features will probably mature to become commercially viable and accessible.

What keeps you up at night? What do you worry about in the industry?

Inertia, both on the consumer and industry front. It's not easy to change people's perception of investing, savings, and wealth management. And the industry, particularly in Australia, has not innovated at a rapid pace, generally speaking. I think this is changing, though, and seems to be accelerating, which is good, but there is much work to do.

Why did you choose Openmarkets? What do you like about its people and its tools (not the same thing)?

I chose Openmarkets to partner with Six Park when building the business back in 2014/2015. It was clear that Openmarkets' strategy was to combine low cost with high quality in executing trades for clients, which is what we needed. Openmarkets was also in “startup" mode when we connected. I think that was important, as we both appreciated:

  1. the challenges that exist in that phase of entrepreneurial development
  2. the importance of delivering a superb experience to clients when just starting, and
  3. the willingness to accept occasional mistakes but learn and improve from them.

I also love working with the people of Openmarkets. Again, there is entrepreneurial energy in the DNA of the business that resonates with me; having poured a lot of time, energy and emotions into building Six Park, it's nice to see the same engagement and passion with a critical partner.

What are you most proud of at Six Park?

Our culture. As a business built from scratch and as someone good at some things and very inexperienced at other things, I needed to attract a superb team to maximise the chance of our success. 

"Culture is in many ways as necessary – if not more so – than strategy."

I have seen some great startups fail because poor culture undermined execution. We would not be where we are today without the platform of our culture and values supporting the effort over seven years to date.

Tell us an unexpected fact about yourself.

When I lived in NYC, I did a lot of rollerblading, mainly playing hockey. An ex-NBA player who blew out his knee had started a “basketball on rollerblades” league at various parks in NYC (crazy city). I joined and was eventually on a “Yo! MTV Raps" feature with Downtown Julie Brown and we then did a halftime exhibition at the NBA All-Star game in Minnesota. The skates go way too fast on a basketball court surface, so we ended up flying into the halftime crowd. Not a personal highlight!

What few words of advice would you give your 25-year-old self if you were starting in the industry now?

1. Always maintain a sense of life balance (don’t let family or “me” time suffer). Career success is hard if you’re drained from working too many hours.

2. Whatever you do, make sure you're passionate about it. It can take a while and a lot of trial and error, but ultimately, one needs to land in a spot where there is fundamentally a sense of passion for what you do. You need that to get through the rough patches.

3. Don’t rollerblade on a pro basketball court for the first time at an NBA All-Star game.


Hold on a sec! You should consider whether any advice on our website is right for you or your clients. We don’t accept any responsibility for the accuracy any information, opinions, or predictions we’ve provided, and we obviously haven’t taken you or your clients’ personal financial situation into account. Just a heads-up.

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