Steve Williams has been doing the accounts of thousands of Mount Isa citizens for the last 10 years but he has finally bitten the bullet and is about to get serious about financial planning.

It is, so legend has it, geographically the biggest city in the world but the north-western Queensland district of Mount Isa can no longer hold that title. According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia “;…both the cities of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia and Chongqing, China are considerably larger”; than Mount Isa. While that may be a blow to its self-image, with 42 904 km2 of land administered by the Mount Isa council the ‘city’ remains a vast and productive piece of real estate. The huge quantities of lead, copper and zinc underneath its soil have led to the Mount Isa mine being labelled as “;the most productive single mine in world history”;, again courtesy of Wikipedia. And now, smack bang in the middle of a commodities boom Mount Isa is thriving. Accountant and financial planner, Steve Williams, has been in Mount Isa for a decade and says the town, which despite its size houses only 22,000 people, has a definite vibe about it these days. “;Well there should be more clients for us now,”; Williams says. While he has been licensed to give advice since 1996 with Professional Investment Services (PIS), Williams has until recently focused more on providing tax and accounting services to the business’ 3,500 clients. Over the last few months, however, he has begun to put in place a plan to ramp up his financial planning offering – driven not by the boom times but by a desire to provide his clients “;with a full range of services”;. “;I have always been too busy with the accountancy side of business to put any serious effort into building up the financial planning arm,”; Williams says. “;I felt the business was getting ‘bogged down’ with the accounting side and have recently done myself up a business plan concentrating on the financial planning business with the view to making it a serious going concern.”; At the end of June, Williams expects his new COIN planning system to be up and running and his recently-hired PA to be up to speed and on her way to becoming a paraplanner “;I have freed myself up to a large extent from the accountancy side of the business by employing more staff,”; he says. “;The plan is to basically have all the ground work in place by the end of June so that with tax season coming up we can handle the number of referrals the accountancy staff have been budgeted to provide.”; Currently, Williams is providing financial planning to only 80 of his clients but he hopes to convert at least 25 per cent of the client base to the idea they could benefit from broader advice. It is an ambitious plan, perhaps, but he is confident the goal is achievable Williams may not be a bona fide local, he is a blow-in from Townsville, but he has spent the last decade in Mount Isa building up trust in a community which is naturally suspicious of investment advisers after being burnt several times by dodgy product salespeople. Mining towns and other parts of rural Australia have been notoriously easy pickings for fly-by-night investment product-floggers and Williams says miners don’t tend to be particularly good savers anyway. “;Miners are used to earning big incomes but they’re used to spending big as well,”; he says. “;But if you can show them the benefit of saving for their retirement most will listen.”; A lot of Williams’ work is also in providing strategic planning advice to miners whose employment contract means they are obliged to direct their super money to the NAB-owned Plum corporate superannuation business – choice of fund doesn’t come into play here. However, there is still plenty of financial planning work in Mount Isa and the only thing holding back even faster growth for Williams is the difficulty of finding and retaining staff in such an isolated setting. “;It’s almost impossible to get qualified staff out here – I’ve offered twice what you can get on the coast and still found it hard to find someone,”; he says. Despite the staffing constraints Williams aims to expand the Mount Isa business to his home ground of Townsville within five years. Meanwhile, 900 kilometres away from the nearest town of any substance he is content to hone his financial planning craft and business-building skills in one of the biggest cities in the world. Name: Steve Williams Business name and location: Steve Williams & Co, Mount Isa Qld Dealer name or self-licensed: Professional Investment Services Number and designation of staff: Accounting practice – 3 full-time professional staff, 2 part-time, 2 Admin Staff Financial Planning – To date, only myself, have just employed a PA to start soon. Area of speciality: Accounting Practice – Individuals and small business; Financial Planning – No particular specialty Relevant qualifications: Accounting – Batchelor of Commerce, Registered Tax Agent; Financial Planning – Have completed DFP’s 1 thru 7 (except taxation which I intend to RPL) currently enrolled in DFP 8 Are you a member of the FPA?: Yes, associate membership Number of clients: Accounting – 3500 to 3800 (mostly I returns); Financial Planning – Approx 80 (excluding corporate super members) Funds under management (or funds under advice): $6 M Method of fee collection: Mostly commission Investment platforms: Mostly Mentor, administered by Oasis. Some Navigator. Front-end planning software: Have just purchased COIN but don’t have it installed yet. Office management software: Handisoft Practice manager Investment research: van Eyk Insurance research: n/a I outsource risk insurance to a specialist to ensure my clients receive the best advice in this area. Technical and legal support: PIS Head Office Ongoing education provider: Tribecca and Head office. Other seminars from time to time eg NTAA

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