LEADERS SURVEY: Soul Patts CEO Todd Barlow on why stress is good and what he’d like to see in the Fed Budget

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Todd Barlow is the CEO of Soul Patts.
Todd Barlow is the CEO of Soul Patts. Credit: Supplied

Most people want to avoid stress at any cost, but Washington H. Soul Pattinson’s chief executive Todd Barlow says in the investment world you need it.

“In our game, investing, if you aren’t having the occasional difficulty or stress then you probably aren’t taking enough risk,” he told The Nightly for its exclusive Leaders Survey.

“At times you need to take risk to diversify your portfolio so you can then weather the future storms.”

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The Soul Patts boss credits “simple” advice from his dad as the ethos that guides his leadership of Australia’s largest publicly-listed investment house.

“What my dad always reinforced when I was young was the simple principle to treat people the way you wish to be treated yourself,” Mr Barlow said.

“So, I like to lead by example and show people I care, I’ve realised people are willing to go above and beyond for a leader they respect.”

The former Ashurst lawyer says his chairman at Soul Patts has been another key mentor in his career journey.

“I’ve been working at Soul Patts for 20 years, so I’ve been lucky enough to have the greatest mentor from an investment perspective in Rob Millner,” he said.

“I guess it’s pretty hard to distil all of that advice he’s given me over the years into one simple thing.

“But if I was going to summarise it, I’d put it simply as ‘don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, be calm and patient, and if you make thoughtful decisions for the right reasons they’ll prove themselves over time.’”

Beyond Soul Patts on the economic front, Mr Barlow believes Australia will need to manage a delicate balancing act between economic productivity and the ongoing housing supply crisis.

“Our demographic profile is not nearly as bad as other developed countries thanks to our immigration intake, however the lack of infrastructure - particularly the undersupply of housing - is a big issue that needs to be faced,” he said.

For the upcoming Federal Budget in May Mr Barlow believes the Albanese government should hone its focus on spending sustainably.

“I’d like to see the government continue to reinforce the message that it’s not sustainable to live beyond our means,” he said.

“We’re currently enjoying record low unemployment with record high personal taxation and record company profits.”

He said this windfall should be used to pay down debts and build the infrastructure needed for the future as population growth surges.

In the space of two years Australia has gone from the slowest population growth in more than 100 years to one of the fastest, reaching the headcount milestone of 27 million people earlier this year.

“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is unstainable growth in government spending and increased interest costs on our national debt, which means when some of things that are in favour for us turn, we’ll be in a world of hurt.”

Each day Mr Barlow needs to digest a flurry of information about Australia’s, and the world’s, economic indicators and financial markets.

But he does not let that get him overwhelmed into making hasty decisions.

“If I learn one thing from one person in a day that’s a pretty good day,” he said.

“In our game we don’t need to make hundreds of decisions, a couple of good decisions a month is all it takes.”

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