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Ben Bucknell (Fr 1993)

Ben Bucknell (Fr 1993) is the CEO of OnMarket Bookbuilds. OnMarket is Australia’s largest equity raising platform. It has raised more funds for more small to medium sized businesses from more investors, than any other platform in Australia in the last 5 years. Ben shares with us the ups and downs he experiences with his job, how he came to be in the position he is in today and his fond memories of his time at St Andrew’s College. 

Please tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from originally and where did you grow up?

I grew up about 60km west of Coonamble. For my last 2 years of primary school, I boarded at Tudor House, then The Kings School. Before St Andrew’s College, I spent a year as a diver/deckhand with Paspaley off the northwest coast of Australia.

Why did you choose to reside at St Andrew’s College? 

When I returned from up north, I discussed the various colleges with friends. The camaraderie of all the Sydney Uni colleges was wonderful. But, I was particularly attuned to the fierce independence of the St Andrew’s student body, and that appealed to me at that age.

What was your favourite part about being at St Andrew’s? 

Easy to say, lifelong friendships. But, a more fulsome response would be that everyone was immersed in living in the present.

We heard you are fluent in Mandarin. What made you want to learn Mandarin?

I wish this were true. I did spend the better part of 1998, after I finished university, in Beijing studying Mandarin. Sadly, I lacked the discipline to keep it up. Still, it was a wonderful experience and I’m glad that I went to China when I did as it has changed immeasurably since then.

How did St Andrew’s help you achieve your goals in your life and or career?

I was extremely fortunate to meet Peter Cameron, a St Andrew’s Councillor and past Senior Student.  Peter was a partner of Allen Allen and Hemsley and was a tremendous mentor and role model for the first few years of my career.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far – career or otherwise?

Starting my own business in an area I am passionate about. But then, not giving up and being able to pivot when our first technology didn’t manage to break down the walls.

Tell us about the company you are CEO for – OnMarket Bookbuilds. What does your role involve?

OnMarket was founded to improve the fairness, transparency and efficiency of capital raisings using financial technology. Few people realise how most of the new capital that is raised by listed companies is only offered to institutional insiders, rather than all Australians.

When we started it, fintech wasn’t a word. So, a lot has changed in the last decade.

We now operate as a platform for enabling members of the public to invest in IPOs and also as an equity crowdfunding platform.

What is the biggest challenge of your job?

The Serenity Prayer i.e. the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Or, as the great Kenny Rodgers put it – You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Lots! Working with our amazing team, seeing a tonne of fascinating growth businesses across the entire imaginable spectrum, celebrating the wins and commiserating the losses alongside our clients, and probably most of all, when the technology that we’ve built delivers just as we hoped.

Not all these things happen all of the time, but enough happen every week to be a great reason to go to work.

How are you managing at the moment during the COVID-19 pandemic? (We hope you are doing ok!)

COVID looked like it was going to cause real dislocation in capital markets. For two months things came to a standstill. During that time, we designed a new financial service, sourced the tech, and wrote the legal documentation. By the time that we finished testing, the capital markets were roaring back on lower interest rates.

So, we ended up with another business, and the initial businesses stronger than ever. Given the hardship faced in the other parts of the world, and some parts of the Australian economy, we feel extremely blessed.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

I’m not sure that I understand the question. I run a small business.

What are you reading/ watching/ listening to at the moment that you would recommend to others?

I found Sapiens (by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari) to be a great, thought-provoking read. And, Girt and, its sequel, True Girt; both wonderful satires of Australian colonialism.

Enjoyed the podcast “The Eleventh” too – it’s about the dismissal of Gough Whitlam.

What words of advice would you give to young Androvians?

Live in the present, challenge yourself to learn or do something new each year, and don’t worry too much; it will all work out in the end.