Setting the Benchmark for local teachers

 MEDIA RELEASE – 23 January 2013


Local financial planning business, Benchmark Consultants, recently presented selected teachers from St Bridges College, Kalamunda High School, Swan Christian College, Darling Range Sports College, Carmel Adventist College and Lesmurdie Senior High School with awards recognising their selfless contribution in nurturing children, particularly in raising confidence and increasing self-esteem of struggling students.

Created by the Principal of Benchmark Consultants, Mr Peter Stewart in 2000, the Benchmark Award takes the form of a small sculpture representing the figure of a teacher with arms circling a student displaying encouragement and nurturing. Peter felt that many teachers in local schools went above and beyond the call of duty to provide support for students who are dealing with personal issues and stressful times at school.  Teachers provided the valuable link and positive encouragement required by many students to feel comfortable at school and fit-in with their peers.

Teachers, parents and students are encouraged to submit nominations to their school for selection of the award recipient and each school decides on their own recipient for that year.

Winners of the 2012 Benchmark Award were;

St Brigids College                               – Magdalena Lambie
Swan Christian College                     – Meril Myers
Darling Range Sports College          – Amanda Fleming
Kalamunda Senior High School      – Noelene Clarke
Lesmurdie Senior High School        – Allyson Goodhew
Carmel Adventist College                  – Devin Stafford

photo 11Benchmark Consultants are proud to present this annual award to the special people who support our local children.  All of the Benchmark team live locally and have a genuine interest and involvement in the local community.  This award is one way of demonstrating the ongoing commitment to improving the quality of life within our local community.

Benchmark Consultants are your local financial planners, providing professional investment and wealth creation advice.  Centrally located at Suite 2, Barber House, 16 Mead Street Kalamunda 6076, Benchmark can provide clients with a financial plan tailored specifically to suit their lifestyle and financial goals.

For more information contact Benchmark Consultants on 9293 2922 or email or visit our website Benchmark Consultants are a division of Australian Financial Services Ltd.  AFSL: 297239


Your Invitation – Meet Max Walker, 6 Dec 12

Call Benchmark Consultants on 9293 2922 to book your tickets.  Cost $50pp includes drinks nibbles. Places strictly limited to book today.  Thursday 6th December 2012, Burswood on Swan Function Centre from 6pm.

Plus other great speakers, Finance, Economic Update and forecast for 2013, Aged Care Advice, MiAdviser, Social Media, Technology and more.

New Opportunities for State Government Workers

GESB Financial Advice has been wound up as per the State Governments request.  As such, GESB members will now need to seek financial advice from another Financial Planner as GESB can only offer General Advice.

Recommendations from GESB say to seek advice from a Financial Adviser with an Australian Financial Services Licence.  Our recommendation is that you seek advice from a FPA Professional Practice.  A qualified Certified Financial Planner is the best option.  Benchmark Consultants can provide advice under these qualifications and more.

For any former GESB members who now find themselves without Financial Planning advice, please feel free to contact the Benchmark Consultants office on 9293 2922 to arrange an obligation free initial meeting.  We can help you get back on track, with over 25 years experience with government employees, you couldn’t be in better hands.

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The Next 25 Years

The Next 25 years in investment markets are predicted to be very different to the last 25 years.

The focus on using easily obtained borrowed funds to invest into property caused inflated valuations and price bubbles around the Western World, which contributed to the Global Recession. This was more prevalent in Europe and the USA.

Sovereign nations also spent more money than they were receiving in tax revenues to fund pensions, generous welfare and other government expenditure. This has meant that the debts have climbed, in many cases, to unsustainable levels. There are ageing populations in all parts of the world including Europe, China, Japan and to a lesser degree in the USA, Canada, Australia and the Third World. This will have a huge drain on Nations to keep up. Increasing costs to fund generous pensions, health care, pharmaceuticals and residential care accommodation is a problem for all countries.

So what has to happen? Exactly what is happening in Europe right now – a painful period of restructure and repair of the damage done in the last 25 years. Interest rates and inflation are now at uniquely historically low levels around the world. The Fixed Interest Bond investments have had great returns in recent years. However the future looks like they are likely to have poor returns in the near future.

Nichols Bratt from Lizard Asset Management who is based in New York, along with his investment team, manages the Zurich Global Thematic Fund. This week at an Adviser briefing in Perth, Nick spoke about how the Bond Market now looks very dangerous for investors in the near term, being the next 5 years. As economic growth picks up we will see rising inflation and interest rates.  The global market avoided a second recession in 2008, and had the central banks not acted as they did at the time, the result may have been much worse. Now this monetary easing (governments printing money) has left a legacy of cheap money and a lot of sovereign debt.

Equities (shares) now look very attractive around the world due to valuations and also because the income or yield investors are receiving are greater than compared to the Fixed Interest Bond market. Nick said that you have to go back to the 1940’s to see a similar time when this occurred and believes Bonds are currently grossly overvalued. Some investors are buying Bonds knowing they are getting negative yields (minus interest income) just to secure their capital.

Nick said the case for Equities over the next 3 to 5 years is very strong. There have been very few periods in history where equities have had negative growth over a rolling 10 year period. The last 10 years to 30 June 2012 the return was positive 4%pa. However, the 10 year average is 12%pa. Therefore the starting point arguably is now ideal for a strong equities growth over the next 5 to 10 years.

As I have mentioned in my other Blogs, most Fund Managers are now increasing diversification of investment portfolios to minimise volatility or risk and maintain liquidity. This is done by building portfolios around 8 to 12 big ideas such as what the Zurich Global Thematic Share fund is doing.  Nick Bratt said that these ideas are not highly correlated, as industry sectors tend to move together. Therefore being lowly correlated you are lowering investment risk further for investors.

The Zurich fund has 4 new themes Lizard Asset Management is looking to.

The first theme is US Renaissance. This is because of increased use of robotics and new advances in technology in manufacturing, making the USA companies more competitive compared to China and the rest of the developing world. This is particularly the case as rising labor rates in China are now occurring. The other important reason for the US Renaissance is the development of franking of shale oil which is producing natural gas. This will provide the US with cheap energy, thus moving away from coal and imported oil. The vast reserves will make the USA energy self-sufficient and a net exporter of energy. It is estimated that there are reserves in the USA to meet over 100 years of energy needs.

The second theme is the growth of the internet giants that have survived the tech bubble, including AMAZON with the increasing online shopping; GOOGLE for the search engine capability; VISA Card benefiting from online purchasing and another potential investment is FACEBOOK as a source of hundreds of millions of people’s personal information; but only if they work out how to monetarise this.

The third theme is secure streams of income from companies who are realising strong cash generation, such as industrial gases company Global French and company Air Liquid that has 22% world market share.

The fourth theme is companies who are strong in intellectual capital and can monetarise these ideas. Such as Monsanto who produce seeds and plants for food and other agriculture, and Pearson’s – a British education publication company.

Some continuing themes in the Zurich Global Thematic Fund that Nick Bratt spoke about were gold and precious metals. Sovereign governments who continue to print money are devaluing their currencies. Gold is a commodity that is holding its value, due to new resources being in scarce supply. The other theme is Japan and its equity market that is grossly undervalued. Somewhere in the vicinity of 65% to 70% of Japanese listed companies have more cash in the bank than what their market capitalisation is valued at on the sharemarket. Japanese companies are cashed up and in a very strong financial position. The huge Japanese sovereign debt, which is now over 200% of GDP, is largely owed to the Japanese people themselves in their pension funds and life companies and not foreign nationals or nations. So the sovereign risk for this debt is negated as the people own it themselves.

With the currently high Australian dollar, it is an excellent time for investing in overseas foreign investments, due to its current purchasing power. With the historically low valuation of equities internationally, the opportunities for investment is very good. By utilising the expertise of fund managers such as Lizard and managed funds such as the Zurich Global Thematic Share fund, investors get the benefits of investment diversification that produce lower risks and excellent investment growth prospects over the next 5 to 10 years.

As always, investment decisions involve a process of matching what is appropriate for the individual investor’s time frame, investment risk profile, objectives and personal circumstances. Engaging a Certified Financial Planner to provide advice in relation to your investment planning is the sensible approach to take.


If you are seeking Financial Advice from a adviser who runs their own Financial Planning Practice, and is not commission remunerated, then contact us at Benchmark Consultants on 92932922 for a complimentary initial meeting to discuss your needs.

Peter Stewart the Principal of Benchmark Consultants is a Certified Financial Planner. Benchmark Consultants has been accredited as a Professional Practice of the Financial Planning Association (FPA). Benchmark Consultants is a corporate representative #289570 of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL#297239

Phone: 08 9293 2922


FP Week 2012

Making the time to manage your finances is extremely important. Whilst financial information is avaliable from many diferent sources such as banks, accountants, superannuation funds and more, seeing a Certified Financial Planner is more valuable than these other avenues combined.

Take this opportunity to speak to a Financial Planner.  Call Benchmark Consultants on 08 9293 2922.

FP Week 2012

Consumer Confusion about Superannuation Offers

With all the volatility over the past 5 years with the investment and financial markets, plus the constant criticism of the different Superannuation alternatives being blatantly broadcast on TV and in the press, it is understandable that everyday people are lacking in financial confidence.  It is important to understand that just because something is advertised in the media, does not make it the best choice for every person’s individual situation.  This is why it is important to get some professional advice on finance and investment, preferably from a Certified Financial Planner.

Consumer confusion is gaining momentum due to the current turf war occurring between peek industry bodies vying for membership. Bank and independently owned Financial Planning dealer groups are spruiking their offers. Accountants, financial brokers and real estate agents are promoting investment strategies. The majority of industry Super funds are largely run by Unions, having their biasness and the various Financial Planning Industry and Professional bodies are all arguing amongst themselves. No wonder we are all confused and consumers are selecting products not right for them.

The general feeling amongst everyday people at this point in time seems to be:

 “I wonder if I am positioned correctly for my retirement.”

“Do I have the correct structure for my investments?”

“Should I be in an Industry Super Fund, or a Public Offer Super Fund or set up my own Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF)?”

Advice regarding Superannuation is becoming very competitive across the financial advice industry and other peak financial bodies.  The new Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) legislation has passed and is now Law. People claiming to give financial advice need firstly to be licensed and regulated though ASIC and they also must act in the best interest of their clients. Advisers who are not paid commission by the product providers, but paid a fee for advice and ongoing client services is the more certain way that the advice will be appropriate for the client’s needs and objectives.

If you are seeking Financial Advice from a adviser who runs their own Financial Planning Practice, and is not commission remunerated, then contact us at Benchmark Consultants on 92932922 for a complimentary initial meeting to discuss your needs.

Peter Stewart the Principal of Benchmark Consultants is a Certified Financial Planner. Benchmark Consultants has been accredited as a Professional Practice of the Financial Planning Association (FPA). Benchmark Consultants is a corporate representative #289570 of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL#297239

Phone: 08 9293 2922


How to Avoid an Investment Train Wreck

Seek professional advice from a Financial Planner who is licensed and regulated with ASIC

The Post Global Financial Crisis landscape and trying to navigate through the cycles of pessimism and optimism is a dilemma for investors in deciding whether to be risk averse or get back into growth investments particularly those investments in Superannuation.

Europe is going to take a decade to get back to better times and has yet to make the economic policy changes to achieve this.  The USA and Japan have to deal with their large debt position and will need to reduce their government spending. The valuation of domestic residential property in Australia is at very high multiples of average incomes. Shares have been volatile and interest rates are coming down.

Setting a multi asset mix of investments in cash, fixed interest, shares and property and then forgetting about it is no longer good enough. Increased diversification is now needed.  Investments that have strong medium to long term growth prospects by the mere fact that their current valuations are fundamentally good value today is what investors should be looking for.

More and more players are coming into the investment advisory business. Some of these so called wealth creators that spruik their wisdom at seminars to the public. Generally they are not Financial Planner/Advisers and therefore not licensed or regulated under ASIC. These so called investment experts once the facade is stripped away are no more than glorified property sales people or property developers. These people are quick to say that they are not giving financial or investment advice but then sell you on the idea of a particular investment generally in direct residential property.

Buying one single asset as the main source of wealth creation is not diversification. If you’re primary investment is in say a direct residential property and you also borrow the funds for this investment to achieve some tax savings. Taking on new debt you also increase your investment risks. These include lack of investment diversification, lack of cash liquidity or part thereof. Also many unforeseen circumstances such as changes to employment, family situation and expenses, taxes can be impacted with property investment returns.

Human nature and emotional investing trends or fashions are like following a herd mentality. The herd follows what is fashionable or dressed up as the latest or best way to go….. but is it?

A true cost benefit analysis is needed to determine the most appropriate solution for the individual investor. This analysis must include all the advantages and disadvantages, what will be gained and what will be given up with a change strategy.

Only licensed Financial Planners/Advisers can provide this comprehensive analysis for investors. Yes this will require a payment of a fee for receiving this advice. Without proper analysis investors’ risks are increased even more and could result in a train wreck and financial loss. In most cases this could be their investments for their retirement.

We advise clients what is the most appropriate investments for them.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the cheapest option. Other considerations such as clients Goals, Objectives, Investments Risk Profile, Cashflow needs Personal and Family circumstances and Estate Planning all need to be considered.

Benchmark Consultants is a Corporate Representative of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL#297239.  For more information about how Benchmark Consultants can help you contact us today on 9293 2922.

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Russell Investment Summit – Melbourne 19 Jul 2012

Benchmark Consultants principal financial planner, Mr Peter Stewart, was lucky enough to attend the Russell Investment Summit in Melbourne today (Thu 19 Jul. 12).  The summit featured some notable international experts who spoke about the current investment climate.

Chris Corneil – CEO Australasia Russell Investment, says a retirement tsunami is coming to Australia with 5.5Million baby-boomers set to retire.  In the next 10 to 15 years it is expected that 40% of all retirement investments will need to be transferring from accumulation phase, to income phase.

Mr Alan DuPont, another key speaker at the Russell Investment Summit covered the topic: “Transitioning to a new world order. More turbulence ahead”

DuPont said, Geopolitical conditions are shaping the current economic conditions and volatility is the new normal. We are currently transitioning to a new world order.  Old templates will no longer work.  Pax Americans is unravelling. IMF, World Bank, USA.  Emerging economies and states have their own views on how the world should be ordered which is different to the Western Nations.  It is estimated that it will take more than 5 years to turn the economy around. It will be running $1Trillion annual deficits for next 8 years with a significantly large debt.

Japan is in bigger trouble with more debt and no GDP growth in the past 20 years.  Population is now in decline from 126m to 50m by end of century.

China and emerging nations will be 78% of world GDP in 25 years. The Financial Crisis is forcing major political change. There is a major risk of heightened strategic competition between the major powers, particularly the US and China.

It is estimated 40% of trade in world and 60% of energy is found in the Western Pacific thus creating an area of greater risk of potential conflict including key strategic islands.  China’s perception is that near these strategic islands are huge reserves of oil and gas with these islands being claimed by other Asian nations. There is a strong possibility that the US and China Navy’s may attempt to face-off each other over these strategic islands. USA is responding to this strategic risk by repositioning its military. Economic in-connectivity will be the potential peacemaker in Western Pacific as conflict would be a lose lose for all nations.

With Iran and other Middle East countries acquiring nuclear weapons, we expect the fallout will play out and come to a head in the next 18 months.

Andrew Pease – Global Head of Investment Strategist for Russell Investments said “Doubt is not a pleasant condition” the risk in risk of world will be around for a while, so we need strong investment processes.

The Share market is good value. Composite value Ind Undervalue USA 7%, emerging Markets 16%, Euro Markets 19% Australia and Japan 25%. The longer view rolling 5 to 10 years returns forecasts in Australia shares 8.5% pa and Fixed Interest 3.0% pa.

Finally, in today’s news: the Aussie Sharemarket SPI was up 35 points at opening today. The US housing market rebounds.  Corporate profits are continuing and the $AUD still remains strong.

If you want more information about personal financial advice, we urge you to speak to your local financial planner.  Call Benchmark on 08 92932922 to make an appointment with a Certified Financial Planner.

Benchmark Consultants is a corporate representative #289570 of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL #297239 AFS ABN #50116900362. Peter Stewart, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional, and a member of the Association of Financial Advisors Ltd and Financial Planning Association of Australia Ltd.

Great Reads – Article featuring Andrew Pease 18 Jun 12

This article was written in the Australian Financial Review 18th June 2012.  Great story featuring Andrew Pease covering why Equities will bounce back. 


Benchmark Consultants is a corporate representative #289570 of Australian Financial Services Ltd AFSL #297239 AFS ABN #50116900362. Peter Stewart, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional, and a member of the Association of Financial Advisors Ltd and Financial Planning Association of Australia Ltd.

To find out more about Benchmark Consultants go to or phone 08 9293 2922 to make an appointment.