AFA Rising Star 2014: Benjamin Budge

5 min read

Benjamin Budge

My Wealth Solutions
When this year’s AFA Rising Star Ben Budge finished his study in 2005 he bought a health club. Ben ran and operated the business for five years then his business partner, who worked at CUA moved into the financial planning industry and encouraged Ben to move with him.

The rest, they say, is history.

Ben’s interest in financial planning was inspired by the early death of his father, aged 44, when Ben was 15. “He didn’t have a financial planner and left us with not much more than a watch,” Ben says. A good friend’s father died similarly young and together the boys decided that their future goal was to help families be better prepared than theirs were.

“We’ve been on the other side. Our mothers worked two jobs. We knew - once we did our study that financial planning was in the back of our minds,” Ben says.

In a similar story to Guy Kawasaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Ben’s best friend’s father was an adviser/accountant in Townsville. Ben learned about finance by watching how they lived and asking his friend’s father for advice. This is also how he became aware of financial planning as a career.

  • What did you hope to achieve in financial planning?

    It’s probably a bit cliched but it has to be all about clients. If the clients are not achieving their goals, we lose our focus and we lose what’s important to us.

    I’ve always wanted to be a business owner as well.

    If I’m doing good things by our clients and the business is doing well, that’s all I want and my kids and wife are going to benefit from that.

  • Have you seen yourself make a difference to clients?

    Going back to experiences of my Mum and my best friend’s Dad, our first meeting is purely starting client education. We spend a lot of time building analogies and telling stories around client situations - and then we make sure clients understand debt and investment strategy.

    We helped one client pay $100K of bad debt and buy and investment property. He now has a $65K share portfolio and all that this client wanted to do was buy and investment property and he didn’t know how to manage it.

    In three years, we haven’t seen too much transformation but the markets have been down. We have a holistic view of clients’ situations and align this with strategy.

    We have three target markets of clients:

    1. Foundation to wealth
    2. Pathway wealth
    3. Wealth management

    A big value we wanted in starting the business was not to exclude people from advice. Some have come in, like my Mum’s situation, and we won’t charge them. I love these clients and we have a foundation plan that’s probably the proudest programme we’ve build. we have to get the budget in place for these people but if they spend less than they earn and we can protect their families we can show them what we can do later and they have the next wealth focus. We show them there’s a future if they fix a few things.

    From the foundation clients to becoming a pathway client doesn’t take much. One of our first clients was a couple in Sydney, she was a teacher earning around $65K a year, and he was a bus driver earning $60K. They didn’t save anything. Two years later, they’d saved enough for their first house, they’re now working to pay off this debt and they’re saving $400 per week. We’ve also made sure they have insurance. It’s pretty rewarding to see.

  • What did the recognition as the AFA Rising Star mean to you?

    I wasn’t expecting it but going through the intensive judging process - even to get in the top 10 and then answer more questions through the phone interview and then face a full day of judging it meant we really had to be doing the right thing and that the tools we’d created were of substance and that the current strategy towards the goals for our clients was the best for them.

    Just going to the conference, as the winner, lots of experienced advisers came to introduce themselves to me and if I can use that to leapfrog to more learning, I’ll do that.

    The others nominees are great and we had a great time together. Any of us could have won.

    We’ll definitely use the award to promote the business with clients. I’ve sent interviews to the clients and the award is in one of our presentation rooms. I think it’s a great thing.

  • What’s next for you?

    We’re hiring a new adviser at the beginning of next year. We’re going to open an office in Townsville. I’m also doing the AFA Roadshow in February.

  • Do you see financial planning as a good career for females?

    It’s a good career for females. We recently hired a woman and there are now two women in the business who both want to be advisers. One of them, Nikki, started two years ago in administration and is now a paraplanner.

    Around 60% of our clients are women, a lot of our enquiries online are also women.

  • Have you supported a woman in financial planning this year? Can you please elaborate?

    Our former admin person, Nicki has been financially supported through her courses on mortgage broking and her advanced diploma in financial planning. She’s unbelievable. I would be lost without her. I even paid for her to have a holiday in Bali.