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Visionary with plenty of go

A BACKGROUND in accountancy and broking combined with a long-held passion for information technology culminated in Steven Goh’s creation of Sanford Limited in 1996.

Growing up in the late 70s-early 80s, Mr Goh spent a lot of time at the University of WA, where his father was an academic.

“I used to jump on the old PDP11 and basically taught myself how to program when I was eight years old,” Mr Goh said.

“I can program in six different computer languages but while computing was a strong interest as a hobby during my teens, for some reason I went into accounting.

“I then worked in broking for a couple of years so I suppose Sanford is a manifestation of those three skills sets.

“But I can’t take credit for the whole business because we had a very strong team from the start, which has shone through all these years.”

Mr Goh said the business was originally founded with friends and family, starting with a relatively small capital base and a 40 square metre office in West Perth.

“Three years later, we have 2,400 square metres on St Georges Terrace over two and a half floors,” he said.

“We now have 230 staff and record an average of 180 to 200 new accounts every day.

“Up until early this year, the company grew at a rate of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent per month – pretty much every month for the past three years.

“If you compare June 1999 to June 2000, we are still doing five times as much business as we were a year ago.”

Mr Goh said the company had witnessed two stock market crashes, including the one in the last quarter of 1998.

“In percentage terms, that was a far worse crash than the one we have just supposedly had,” he said.

“Back in March this year, the Australian Stock Exchange recorded a record number of trades in the market of about 110,000 trades.

“In June, we recorded an average of 40,000 to 50,000 trades in the market, so the market is definitely a lot cooler now than it was in the first quarter of this year.

“Nevertheless, our business levels are still up four to five times, which I think is absolutely tremendous. It’s certainly on the high side of my expectations.”

Mr Goh said Sanford Limited’s emerging investment banking business was doing well.

He said the company was exploring other opportunities in complimentary industries both domestically and overseas.

“We have two major shareholders in UBS Warburg and the National Australia Bank, and also have a good relationship with a range of parties in South East Asia.

“When you think about it, a broking firm is the sophisticated capture of an order and settler of a complex property right.

“So whether it’s a share, a car or a boat, this service can apply to all manner of industries.”

Last year, Sanford announced it had entered into a strategic supply agreement with National Australia Bank Limited to form National Online Trading.

Soon after, the company pioneered the online distribution of Initial Public Offerings.

But the company is most known for its Virtual Broker product, which gives corporate organisations access to live market prices and research and allows them to put orders directly onto the market.

Mr Goh said Internet broking was about transporting the broking experience from the dealing room and putting it on a client’s desktop.

“Virtual Broker takes that same paradigm and allows another intermediary to deliver a comprehensive broking service to the customer,” he said.

Last month, Sanford Limited successfully listed on the ASX.

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