This month, we’re celebrating the successes of savvy expatriates and Singaporeans, as well as the setbacks they overcame, to make life better in Singapore in our Expatpreneur Awards 2017.
He jumped “without fear” to Singapore from Australia in 1995, and started his company to offer tax, mortgage and other financial services with an Australian focus.
SMATS remained a “fly-in, fly-out” operation until Steve moved to SG full-time in 2004. Today, it has nine international offices.
Keep reading to know more about Steve and his passion for serving his expat and local customers!
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Expatpreneur Awards 2017: This Expat Couple Moved To Singapore As An “Adventure Together”
The first business Steve started was a shoe-repair company in Albany, Western Australia, called The Fix it Fast Service Bar.
It never turned a profit, he confesses, and was a “nightmare from day one” because he was running it from a distance while keeping his accounting day job.
“Everything looked easy on paper, so this business was my first experience with real-life issues and people management,” he says. “It taught me that what you read is irrelevant and experience is everything. Just keep learning!”
Fast forward to today: An umbrella business for his Specialist Mortgage branch and Australasian Taxation Services, amongst other support services, SMATS is built upon his team’s key expertise in Australian tax and finance, property, technology, FX, migration and development.
The business’s core audience comprises expats, people who intend to immigrate to Australia and foreign investors who are looking to purchase Australian property. Steve has found that these audience members tend to be misinformed or underserviced, which is why, he says, the SMATS team works to improve their knowledge and help them adjust to, and be fully aware of, Australia’s financial culture.
One of Steve’s main goals at SMATS is to get his clients into the home they want to live in at the lowest cost possible.
How does he achieve this? His answer is simple: “Ask questions and then listen to the answers.” Often, he says, good opportunities are not fully harnessed because consultants aren’t asking enough – or any – questions. This is how Steve sets his clients on the right path towards making quality decisions that will help secure their future.
How does Steve measure SMATS Group’s success? “Seeing people make quality decisions that are improved by our support is our greatest achievement,” he says.
And it’s certainly paid off – while this may be the digital age, old-school word of mouth is still SMATS’s main method of growth. “Do a good and honest job, and people will appreciate it and tell others,” shrugs Steve. Excellent client service is one of the reasons SMATS has progressed even in a tough economic climate.
Despite being in the tax and finance industry for at least 33 years and being in Singapore for nearly two decades (although, he confesses, he still can’t get used to the humidity), Steve has no plans to slow down.
In fact, he wants to add property management into SMATS’s existing services, because property managers are what the SMATS team often hears complaints about.
That said, it’s all about striking a balance – “Humour and laughter are very important to keep your energy levels up and not get too serious,” says Steve.
Steve Douglas is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Australasian Taxation Services (ATS). ATS provides specialist taxation services for anyone looking to invest in Australian property, including Australian expatriates living overseas. Areas of specialisation include the Australian taxation aspects of property investment, as well as expatriate and migration planning. Find out more here.
By Sara Lyle Bow, The Finder (Issue 280), March 2017
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