A behind the scenes look at financial services

Capital raising of an altruistic kind


In February, financial services lawyer Andra Lazarescu travelled to Suva, Fiji with her partner but within four days of their arrival, Cyclone Winston battered the island nation.

The damage bill left by the Category 5 cyclone is estimated to be more than $2 billion and after seeing the effects of the damage first-hand at the Vunikavikloa Arya primary school, which she nicknamed Vunika, Lazarescu decided to act.

“I have since initiated 'capital raising' of a different kind for the school, which was very badly affected by the cyclone, and I have received a lot of support from my financial services community,” Lazarescu said.
“Sometimes our financial services sector is perceived as being all about taking and little giving.

“But there is no way we could have done the partial rebuild for Vunika without the assistance of my colleagues who all work in this area.

“Their willingness to help straight away gave me the confidence to approach Rotary Australia, and together we have been able to make a great start to literally raise the roof for this school.”

Lazarescu and Rotary Australia continue to raise funds for the next round of rebuilding and repairs, with four stages timetabled, estimated to cost around $10,000 each.

The Facebook page Friends of Vunika PS has been set up to provide information about how to donate and also documents the ongoing progress.

Advertising honcho reveals his intent


At a recent Colonial First State adviser briefing in Sydney, TV exec and The Gruen Transfer personality Russel Howcroft imparted some nuggets of wisdom to the audience of advisers, which he recently collated in his book When It’s Right To Be Wrong.

Howcroft first revealed how he’s had huge success over the years from one little trick.

“In my office where I have meetings, I have three words written on the whiteboard that look like they were put there randomly: Assume good intent,” he said.

“If there was a meeting happening and someone would walk in, they’d see those words on the board but think that they were from another meeting.”

However, they were put there on purpose in an effort to guide the tone of the meeting.

“I promise you that they are very, very powerful words,” he said.

“The assumption of good intent in a business transaction absolutely changes the tone of the conversation and, in my view, changes the outcome because for me it is all about the intention: what is the intention of the meeting?

“Clearly the intention is for us both to do well and that will happen via the assumption of good intent. Try it. I promise you, it works.”

Howcroft had the audience laughing after playing a video of The Wicked Sick Project by the creative team at his former advertising agency George Patterson Y&R.

Two guys who bought a used BMX bike on eBay relisted it with a hilarious series of anecdotes about the bike’s (fictional) previous owner, which saw it sell for five times the purchase price and generate an online buzz in the process.

“This film once and for all proves the commercial power of creativity,” he said.

Another piece of advice the advertising guru shared was the idea of stealing from the best, particularly when tackling marketing and differentiating yourself from competitors.

“I learned this when I was on the board of the Melbourne Football Club,” he said.

“The marketing director of the AFL said, ‘Marketing AFL clubs is easy. All you do is find out who’s doing it best and nick it, because the only things that are different about your club from another club are the colours that they wear and the song that they sing when they win. Everything else is exactly the same.’

“That is fundamentally the truth in most walks of business life – what we all do is pretty much the same.”

They said it...


“Why don’t I use the mouse pad? Because I love the mouse pad. The mouse pad is in your kits and it’s a high quality mouse pad with a nice cushioned back.”

iShares Australia head Jon Howie runs journalists through the five exchange-traded funds under its newly launched Core offering, as illustrated on promo mouse pads.

Do not pass go, do not collect $200


Office workers passing by Sydney’s Martin Place a few Fridays ago may have noticed a familiar financial services executive locked up behind bars and thought Labor’s proposed royal commission into the industry already had its first victim.

In fact, it was just Yellow Brick Road chief executive and Celebrity Apprentice star Mark Bouris doing his annual stint in jail.

Bouris does regular charitable work for the Police Citizens Youth Welfare Association (PCYC), a long-established community organisation many will be familiar with for the work it does with disadvantaged youths.

Each April, the PCYC holds its annual Time 4 Kids challenge, inviting local business and community leaders and celebrities to raise awareness and funds for the charity by doing time in mock jail cells, as well as holding a range of more traditional sporting events, dinners and community gatherings.

April 15 marked Bouris’s fifth year in jail, where he was supervised by a police officer in a mock cell in the middle of the busy city thoroughfare until he managed to raise $10,000 in ‘bail’ to free himself.
“I’ve worked with the PCYC for many years because I believe in the work they do,” he said.

“Their staff, volunteers, coaches and mentors work hard every day to make a difference in people’s lives. Young people who have grown up in a difficult background or have made mistakes early on deserve an opportunity to make changes and succeed in life.

“I hope by raising money through getting locked up, it will save some young people from really experiencing that fate.”

AstuteWheel goes on safari


It’s not every day that a product launch results in visiting exotic locations and witnessing majestic beasts but that is exactly what happened when fintech group AstuteWheel exported its flagship client engagement platform to South Africa last month.

The group’s roadshow was not your run-of-the-mill business trip for the AstuteWheel team who were lucky enough to visit a not-for-profit animal sanctuary, which trains cheetahs that have previously been kept as domestic pets. The animals are trained to hunt food before being released into the wild.

AstuteWheel director Michael Topper explained that the majestic big cats could be kept as pets for the first two years of their lives, which was a common practice in South Africa and the Arab Emirates among wealthy families. However once the cheetahs hit the age of two, their basic animal instincts became too risky and they were often killed and their skin made into products such as handbags.

The South African sanctuary is trying to mitigate the carnage associated with the practice and the AstuteWheel team enjoyed every minute of their visit, during which they also saw a number of other African animals including elephants and lynxes.

AstuteWheel is also seemingly the only financial services group to hold its annual general meeting in Kruger National Park – at least to our knowledge at financialobserver.

They said it:


“Who’s heard me speak before? For those of you who haven’t, my apologies. I’ve got a Canadian speech impediment so even though I’ve been visiting Australia for the past 23 years, I haven’t learnt to speak properly yet.”

BT Financial Group acting national manager Jeffrey Scott apologised in advance for the difficulty some delegates might have had understanding his presentation at the SMSF Association 2016 National Conference in Adelaide.

Shaw execs channel iron men


Next month Shaw and Partners head of wealth management Earl Evans and Mal Cameron, head of the Victorian business, will be swapping the challenges of the boardroom for those of the open ocean when they attempt to paddle Hawaii’s 52-kilometre Channel of Bones.

The two executives will be raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and each will be partnered in their double surf skis by Luke Horder and Matt Jenkins, two North Bondi lifesavers, who are both former iron men.

The idea came about after Evans met Horder through Shaw’s sponsorship of North Bondi Surf Club and sought his help getting in shape. While Cameron has attempted a few physical challenges before, having crossed the Himalayas on a motorbike, Evans says the most physical activity he’s done before for charity is pulling out his wallet.

“Throughout my career I have watched colleagues raise money for charity by cycling up some of the hardest mountains you can find or by running five marathons in three weeks,” he says.

“I have always supported them but I have never actually done it myself. This is proving to be one of the hardest things I have ever done and I have been training the house down.”

The pair have a $100,000 funding target, which they are confident they can reach, and are also being supported by St George Bank.

Total recall


Attendees at this year’s SMSF Association National Conference had the opportunity to hear from Leo Burnett chair and star of 'The Gruen Transfer' Todd Sampson regarding the topic of brain power.

In his presentation, the advertising guru took the audience through an analysis of how the brain works and explained that they didn’t necessarily have to succumb to a more poorly functioning brain simply due to old age.

During his time on stage, Sampson took delegates through a series of exercises designed to demonstrate how the brain works and how to get a better understanding of some of their thought processes.

One test he challenged the audience with was to consciously recognise two numbers included in a rapidly flashing set of letters. Most participants were only able to spot one number in the sequence due to “brain blink”.

However, this scribe was quite chuffed when he was able to successfully recognise every number included.

But his hubris soon turned to despair when Sampson left attendees with a few memory exercises they could use at home.

Determined to use his brain more efficiently, he committed to undertake these exercises at home, but there was one problem.

You guessed it, he couldn’t remember what the exercises were.

They said it:


“I’m always pleased to come back to Adelaide to get the 10-cent refunds on my bottles.”

Master of ceremonies for the 2016 SMSF Association National Conference Andrew Klein shares one of the factors that motivates him to travel to the South Australian capital.

Mind over super matter


With the recent launch of Batman versus Superman we thought we’d reflect on some superpowers that have been identified in financial services.

At the recent SMSF Conference it was noticed AMP’s Peter Burgess had a bit of a limp.

The reason was the technical guru had ruptured his Achilles tendon a few months earlier during an indoor soccer match.

Unfortunately the injury had been misdiagnosed, leading Burgess to continue to walk around with a snapped tendon for about a month.

We were all pleased to know that come conference time the injury had been properly treated, although though a noticeable hobble was still evident.

Burgess put down his resilience and endurance of what must have been an excruciatingly painful injury to his own superhero powers.

However perhaps he is now exercising discretion as the better part of valour as he admitted the unfortunate mishap made him realise he was now too old to be playing indoor soccer.