PJ Patterson of Keystone Financial recently received the MFAA State Excellence Community Champion Award NSW/ACT, and it is not difficult to see why.

Two years ago, PJ realised it was time to give more back. Fortuitously, he was introduced to the global philanthropic B1G1 (Buy1Give1) endeavour, and the rest is history.

PJ is now leading the way in the movement amongst brokers to boost charitable involvement and incorporate philanthropy as a central element of their business reputation and offering.

PJ Patterson is this edition’s Prospa Groundbreaker.

MFAA: What is your current focus at Keystone Financial, particularly as we re-emerge from COVID-19?

PJ Patterson: My focus right now is on risk managing investment assets and on self-managed superannuation funds. I am a financial planner as well as a finance broker, so I’m focusing my business on the financial planning side of things, primarily because of the environment we’re currently in.

MFAA: Tell us a bit about the history of Keystone Financial.

PJ: I started my business back in 2002 as a finance broker, mainly writing residential mortgages and I have been doing that for 18 years. My focus right now is on the wealth business. When I see clients invariably there is a debt that needs to be dealt with, restructured, possibly an interest rate that can be improved upon, and with almost every client I work with I will end up doing their mortgage as well. We also have a real estate license and I offer an accounting service, so we pretty much do everything.

MFAA: Keystone recently received the MFAA State Excellence Community Champion Award NSW/ACT. Congratulations! Can you tell us about your philanthropic endeavours and how you got started in that space?

PJ: A couple of years ago I had a realisation, I’ve got three teenage kids, I’m reasonably successful in business, I’m not wanting for anything, and I said ‘you know what, it’s time for me now to give back to the world so that when I shuffle off this mortal coil I’ve hopefully left the world a better place’. The only way I know how to do that is financially. So, I was on the lookout for something when I was introduced to a man named Paul Dunn who is the Chairman of B1G1 (Buy1Give1). Up to that point I had run a fundraising program for the Aleppo crisis, donated to cancer research, and given to charity ad hoc, but I’d never had something that I was fully committed to. Paul educated me about B1G1 and engaging on a global philanthropic level, and I was like ‘this is it’.

MFAA: So, what is B1G1 all about?

PJ: It’s a global platform that has two separate businesses, one is the actual charitable side where they have about 600 different projects around the world that had all been vetted, so 100% of the money I give goes to the project I choose. That was really important to me. The second thing is B1G1’s business itself, they have staff and a team that run the business, so I actually joined that organisation and paid a membership fee to support their business. The lynch pin of all this is that they are aligned to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. I saw that and thought ‘this is perfect, this is exactly what I want to be aligned with'. It’s a story that I can weave into the fabric of my business. I can engage my clients with it and I would be the one doing the giving on behalf of the clients that are supporting my businesses. So, the way I approach it is I say to my clients, ‘I’m doing this and I’m able to because you support me and my business and isn’t that cool’. It works because there are a lot of people looking for businesses that have a social conscience and make a difference in the world.

MFAA: What have been the specific projects you’ve focused on through the initiative?

PJ: So, all the projects that I currently support, and there are 29 of them, are aligned to a UN Goal such as clean water, economic empowerment for women and communities, and education initiatives. My view is that there are two things unique to developing countries that stop people from being able to get out of the cycle of poverty. The first is basic living standards like having clean water, safety and security. The second thing is they need economic capabilities. They need to have access to things like micro-loans and education to help them establish businesses within their own community. So I focused on projects that were getting kids off the streets and into school, and I’ve expanded that to ensure I have a project in every single sustainable development goal.

The way B1G1 works is it is focused on actual impacts, not just money. For example, one of the projects I support is a tree planting project in Indonesia that allows me to plant a tree for $1.40. It’s also my goal to have a carbon neutral business, so I donate to this project every month with a hope that one day there will be a big forest somewhere because of the trees that are planted on my behalf. Another project allows me, for one US cent a day, to provide clean water access for one person. That to me is an absolute no-brainer. Another thing I did was give chickens to families in Kenya. This enables the families to have a source of protein, and potentially have more chickens. So, I think it will make a lasting impact. I give about $1,000 a month and have done so consistently for almost two years. It is now embedded in my business and every quarter we report to our clients on what we’re doing.

MFAA: And what has the charitable work done for your business?

PJ: A couple of things. First, the richness of the conversations I have with clients has grown. I repeat the story often enough that people are saying, “oh, that’s really cool what you’re doing”. This year I even started surveying my clients to ask them to tell me what project or UN Goal they’re passionate about. So, I’ve used that to engage my client base and the benefit is it is an added selling point. I’ve noticed I’m getting a lot more referrals and I think one of the reasons is that we have a demonstrated social conscience. I believe now more than ever clients want to be aligned with an organisation that is a business for good.

MFAA: What are your plans for the future? What’s your next initiative and what are you hoping to achieve?

PJ: Every year, except for this year, I travel to various places for conferences and work, and one of the cool things I’ve been able to do with B1G1 is meet the charities in the places I go. I’ve travelled to Hanoi and Bangkok in the last year and I looked up the charities that were operating in those cities. I made arrangements to visit them and every time I did that I received an outpouring of love and welcoming from the organisations. It was truly humbling and inspiring. So that is a fun thing and I want to continue doing that. Luckily, there are a few charities in Australia, so I’ll be able to visit them this year instead of travelling overseas. Beyond that, I do hope to continue growing the business so the amount of revenue I’m able to provide to these projects increases. I would like to add another five or 10 projects this year to make even more impact.

MFAA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

PJ: The only thing I’d like to add is that the broking community right now needs to stand up and firmly establish ourselves in the community as a profession that adds tremendous value to its customers. We already do that through our normal course of business, which is writing home loans and consulting or advising clients, but we have an opportunity to firmly differentiate ourselves from other groups and say, 'by the way, we also do these other things that make an impact'. So my call out would be to say to every broker out there, find something that you can be passionate about in the philanthropic space and pursue it. Weave it into your business story, and don’t by shy about it. Don’t be afraid to tell that story because human beings love that. It resonates with them and we need to tell that story now more than ever.