Tell us about the journey you’ve taken in your career.
I graduated with a commerce/business degree and went into a grad role at EY. It was great because I got to travel a fair bit: to Sydney, Malaysia and more. I worked my way through a number of areas in the business, including internal audit, financial audit and business modelling. This was during the GFC.
I went on into a strategy role at NAB, working primarily on the mortgage strategy. At the time, NAB beat the market 26 months in a row!
Finally, I moved to ANZ as a Corporate Relationship Manager, where I really fell in love with finance. I worked with really big clients – lots of high wealth individuals. I got to meet them one on one, and they became my inspiration. They had such a love for what they did day to day – in their careers and businesses. I noticed that these people stayed true to what they did, and that really inspired me. I loved that one-on-one interaction.
So then I got married. I went on a honeymoon. And, while on our honeymoon, I decided I didn’t want to work in a job anymore – I needed a change of pace. When I came back I quit and took a few months off working.
It was only when my sister needed a home loan and had a terrible experience with a mortgage broker that I realised what my next career move was. My sister’s experience allowed me to understand the flaws that some brokers have. The mortgage broking industry has a massive lack of care. Seeing my sister go through what she did, I decided to start Elephant Financial – a young, vibrant, different brand.
We started in April 2016 and haven’t looked back. Every business goes through its first two years of learning, of course. That’s where you find out who you are, what you want to be and where you want to go. We’ve done well though – we won a few awards, and now we’re a team of four people. And, we’ve got big plans to grow with the help of Roland and Platinum People Group.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your career, and how did you overcome them?
It’s been a pretty tough career in terms of this sector. I started right when the GFC hit, so anything financial services related was struggling. Then we were hit by regulation reforms. The way I look at it is: there are always going to be challenges. You need to stay true to yourself, and the path will open up for you.
I’ve been so fortunate with jobs and bosses. I’ve been well supported from Day One. Eventually I found that I was chasing a career I wasn’t happy with, which is why I started my own business. And yes, I work very hard (sometimes 10 – 15 hour days). Finding time for things is hard. But it’s worth it.
What do you love about what you do?
Ultimately, I think my passion is to speak to people and watch them develop. We run our business with an educational approach. I’ve been fortunate to learn that finance is a way to achieve your goals. Many people see it as debt, or a risk – but that’s not how I see it. I love talking with people about that and changing their views from negative to positive. I really enjoy hearing everyone’s story, and finding a solution to my clients’ needs.
When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
A firefighter… then I got older and a lot more risk averse. I never had the guts to give it a serious go. I took a boring, super safe desk job instead!
What are your top 3 tips for other people wanting to build a successful career in mortgage broking?
1. Be and accept who you are
Don’t try and be something you’re not. It’s impossible to build relationships. At Elephant Financial we don’t wear suits, because that’s not us – it doesn’t make me feel comfortable. Our business attracts people akin to the brand. Be genuine, showcase who you are.
2. Step back
When assessing a customer’s situation, take a step back and look at the big picture when deciding what they can achieve. Sometimes we can put people in buckets. I find that everyone’s situation comes through in their stress points. Take the time to understand where they’re going, how many kids they want to have etc. – and you’ll achieve a better outcome.
3. Understand finance
It’s important to really look at yourself not just as someone who gets home loans for people, but as someone who understands finance. Really understand economy and interest rates, and establish that through continuous reading. Always be building your knowledge and growing yourself to better understand the industry.
What is standing out for you in the industry at the moment?
I think the reforms are a big topic of discussion. We started our business in the midst of heaps of change and reform in the industry, but the reality is that it was fairly easy to do that because I didn’t know the world beforehand! When I started Elephant Financial, and worked on my first home loan – I didn’t know any other way of doing it. It’s pretty fortunate I think.
Making the transition from banker to broker was an interesting move. Part of success is accepting that you will make mistakes. If you really like what you do, it will sustain you long term. I set a long-term plan when I set up my business. I figured if I was going to get a brand name and website, I’d pay for a really good one. It’s never easy starting a business. If I look back, it’s been really tough. But it’s also been great.
If, like Shehan, you’re interested in transitioning in your career, or starting your own business, Platinum People Group can help you get there. Contact us for a free career consultation or business consultation today.