The Sweet Spot

By Seth Robinson

Who says you can’t do it all? For Bachelor of Commerce student Ben Richards, combining his love of sports and business just makes sense.

Ben Richards is a Melbourne local who always had the University of Melbourne in his sights, but for just what course of study he wasn’t sure until he received his ATAR results.

‘I grew up in Melbourne, and went to School in St Kilda, so I’ve lived my whole life knowing about the University of Melbourne and its reputation. When it came time for me to look at universities, its courses were definitely the most appealing to me, although I’ll admit I was interested in a couple of different paths. The first was definitely commerce, because I’m really interested in things like finance and the stock market, but I also have a real love of sport, so I was interested in physio and sports science as well. I set myself the goal of getting the ATAR I needed for Commerce while I was in year twelve, and let that be the deciding factor.’

Ben entered the Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) and threw himself into the experience, majoring in finance and economics, and eventually becoming the President of the Melbourne University Student Exchange Society (MUSEX).

Ben Richards
Ben Richards.

‘I went on exchange to the University of Southern California (USC), and when I came back I wanted to stay involved with the community as well. My brother had been on the MUSEX committee, so I joined them first, then ran for the presidency in 2019 and was lucky enough to be elected. We often talk about MUSEX being one of the biggest clubs on campus that you probably haven’t heard of. It flies under the radar unless you’ve been on exchange, but it’s a great community. We run lots of events throughout the year.’

Now, Ben is completing his Honours studies in Finance, with a research focus that was influenced by both his time overseas, and his love of sports.

‘Finance is what drew me to the commerce degree in the first place, so it’s been nice to continue with that into honours. It’s got a really strong research focus, and applied subjects, which I’ve enjoyed this year. For once subject, Numerical Techniques in Finance, we completed a major assignment where each student could pick a topic to investigate. I looked at the effects of COVID-19 on the stock market, focusing particularly on market volatility. So there’s an opportunity to see our research skills put into real-world practice,’ he says. “My main research project, is looking at optimal salary cap management in the NBA, so I’ve been able to take those finance skills and apply them in a sporting context.’

Ben has had the opportunity to merge his love of finance and sports outside of university as well, working with the AFL.

‘At the end of last year, I put the feelers out, trying to connect with people in the industry. I explained that I was a student and I’m really interested in AFL list management, and that I’d be happy to do any projects on an unpaid basis if they had something available. As a result, someone from the Western Bulldogs actually got in touch, and I ended up working with them at the end of last year.’

But as a lifelong Geelong supporter, the real treat came after that.

‘I think as a result of that project, and a bit more networking, I connected with a couple of guys from the Geelong Cats, and they ended up bringing me on to work on some data analysis projects with them. It’s been an incredible experience, and it’s made me realise that these skills I gained from my commerce degree are things that can be transferred. It’s the same processes you would use on any other data analytics project. The basic analogy I like to use is that picking a team is like picking stocks, you might pick young players who are on the rise, but they’re risky, they may not make it, or you can invest in players who are more stable, who you’re going to get with a bit more confidence but who come in at the top end of the price range. I think once you realise that, and can embrace a more flexible mindset, you realise just how far these skills can take you.’