Azaria Bell seems a little flummoxed by all the attention.
“At times it can be, well, not surreal, I’m not famous or anything, but sometimes I’ll stop and have a moment of reflection and think, how does this stuff happen to me?” Bell says.
The 21-year-old Griffith University student was still animated after speaking on a panel at the Professional Planner Licensee Summit in the Blue Mountains. During the session, Peita Diamantidis, managing director of Caboodle Financial Services, stood and pledged to give Bell her ticket to FINCON, an annual three-day conference for digital content creators and influencers in finance, to be held in Orlando, Florida, in September.
The gesture caught Bell by surprise.
“I had no idea it was coming, no clue,” she says. “When Peita said that, I could have cried on the stage, but I had to stop myself.”
Bell is no stranger to accolades. She won the 2017 Financial Planning Association (FPA) University Student of the Year award, was granted a $10,000 scholarship and is asked to speak at numerous industry events. She has her own YouTube channel with instructional videos on everything from personal finance and superannuation to time management and study tips, several of which have more than 20,000 views.
Within minutes of Diamantidis’s offer, a gofundme page had been set up to help pay for the costs involved with Bell attending the conference. Bell estimates that she will require $5000 to cover flights, accommodation and other expenses.
Diamantidis says gifting the ticket – worth $700 – was an easy decision.
“As Azaria told her story,” she says, “it was impossible not to be impressed by her enthusiasm and eloquence.”
Diamantidis says she became convinced she and Bell were “connected in a past life” when Bell answered a question about the difference between providing advice to an individual and having her own YouTube channel by saying, “Is one-to-one enough of an impact?”
Bell says Diamantidis has gone “above and beyond” in providing guidance and inspiration.
“I’m just blown away by her generosity,” she says. “She’s given me so much good advice and encouragement, which is just so motivating. She’s even added me to a group of other people who are going to FINCON, so I get to know some of them before I leave.”
Events such as FINCON aren’t available in Australia, Bell notes.
“In America, the financial blogging community is massive, but there’s not much of it in Australia,” she says. “If I can take inspiration from the guys that are doing it full-time, that would be incredible.”
The impact of mentors
Having strong mentors has had a huge effect on Bell. After meeting Madison Financial chief executive Annick Donat at the FPA conference in Tasmania last year, she says she became more confident and focused.
“Annick’s been a wonderful mentor for me, absolutely incredible,” Bell says. “She sat me down at the FPA conference and said, ‘You can do anything with your life, don’t let anyone dim your shine.’ That was the first time anyone had told me something like that. She’s been such a huge source of inspiration for me. As a young woman in the industry, having someone like her in my corner is huge.”
Donat is strong and assertive, Bell says, but fair at the same time.
“She’s someone that I’d love to be like one day,” she says.
Donat herself says Bell’s greatest attribute is the courage she has to be herself.
“What struck a chord with me is that she’s courageous and authentic,” Donat says. “She doesn’t follow a model, she’s happy to brave the wilderness, so to speak, and rethink the delivery of advice.
“She also knows where she’s at [in her career],” Donat continues. “She doesn’t expect to be advising 65- year-olds when she’s 23. She respects the generation before her and wants to learn from them.”
While Bell’s ambition is to be a financial planner, she has “no idea” where her career may take her. The main focus, she says, is to help as many people as possible.
“When I look back on my life in 20 years,” she explains, before pausing. “Well, I guess I’ll only be about 40, but I hope that I can say I’ve really helped a lot of people improve their life and become financially empowered.”
TOPICS: 2018 Professional Planner Licensee Summit, Annick Donat, Azaria Bell, FINCON, Peita Diamantidis