Ted talks: From UNSW Business School and Sydney Swans to robo-advisor

By Neil Martin  Tuesday, 24 July 2018  @Business School

​UNSW Business School alumnus Ted Richards made a big change in his life when he moved into the financial services industry after playing professionally in the AFL for Sydney Swans.

But he believes a huge momentum shift is now also happening in the world of investment thanks to the rise of technology and the growing awareness of problems associated with age-old traditional practices.

Richards completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree at UNSW while running out every weekend for the Swans, but is now Director of Business Development at Six Park - a robo-advice service that is helping to shake up the current financial landscape.

The 35-year-old, who helped Sydney win the AFL Grand Final against Hawthorn in 2012, says evidence presented at the recent Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry shows that change is needed – and that the growing number of fintech companies in Australia are doing just that.

"Robo-advice is automated investment management. It is disrupting what a financial advisor typically does face-to-face – providing investment advice and management," Richards explains.

Shake-up

"It started in the US on the back of the financial crisis over there when people started to have an understanding they were overpaying for underperformance.

"Robo-advice has emerged from that shake-up in the industry and is continuing to grow and we think there is a real need for it in Australia – unconflicted, transparent advice – and the Royal Commission is kind of revealing that too.

"Instead of sitting down with a financial advisor face-to-face, we do a lot of that online. There is a risk assessment questionnaire and at the end of that we will make an investment recommendation for that person, and if they wish to proceed we provide a statement of advice and open up accounts and then execute the trades and manage their portfolio.

"There is the tech side which automated rebalancing of portfolios and algorithms to work out someone's risk profile. But there is a human overlay behind the technology and that is one of the reasons I was so interested in joining the business."

Richards says his time at UNSW was invaluable in helping him transition from a professional AFL player to his current financial role.

He had always been interested in stocks and shares and investments, but did not have a clear focus about what he wanted to do after football until completing his Bachelor of Commerce degree.

And he believes current UNSW Business School students are perfectly placed to take advantage of the growth of fintech across Australia.

"I very much enjoyed my time at UNSW. It was a hectic stage of life for me, balancing professional football career and still learning life skills such as time management," Richards says.

"It was originally just a degree that I thought could be useful to me after my football – although I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly what path I thought I might want to take. What the degree did provide was the clarity of the specific area within the overall commerce sector that I wanted to focus on, which was finance and investment.

"Disruption has come to many different industries and the finance and investment industry is no different. Young people at university right now have a huge opportunity to be at the forefront and involved in these businesses that are driving the changes, as opposed to people who are behind the curve in terms of their knowledge and awareness of what is happening."

Fintech

Richards paid close attention to details emerging from the recent Royal Commission, as numerous allegations were made about financial advisors falsifying documents, mis-selling financial products and charging fees for services that were not supplied.

And he thinks consumers are now becoming increasingly aware of new ways of investing – including robo-advice.

"The Royal Commission has been incredibly sad for some of the stories it has revealed, but I also think it's been necessary. For whatever reason the Australian banks and financial landscape did not change much after the global financial crisis, especially compared to overseas where there was a real shakeout. I think this Royal Commission is the shakeout that is needed in Australia," he says.

"Robo-advice is just one aspect of growing and emerging fintech landscape of Australia and that is disrupting a lot of parts of finance and investment that have traditionally not changed for decades.

"It's a very exciting space to be in. It can provide excitement of technology with important life decisions around investing.

"What I do enjoy is that we have a material ability to change people's lives for the better – engaging people to make sure their retirement is well looked after, that their savings are working for them, that fees are not eroding the power of compounding returns. I derive a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction from helping people."

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