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For female brokers who want to get into commercial finance, finding a good support network and access to practical information can be the difference between holding back and powering ahead.
Now in this age of Covid-19 induced social isolation, there has never been a better time to plug in and learn about all things commercial.
Women in commercial broking
According to the latest MFAA IIS Report, the number of Australians brokers writing commercial loans increased to 3,670 in the six months to September 2019.
With women making up roughly one third of the broking population, female numbers in the commercial space are looking sparse.
This is something Sydney based broker Rebecca Mansfield is working to change. She says more females in the industry would mean more options for the customer as well as a greater diversity of opinions and perspectives.
“There are a lot of female entrepreneurs and business owners who may want to interact with a female,” she says.
“If some people relate better to a female, then having that option is good.”
For the MPA Young Gun, taking the plunge into commercial finance was an easy decision to make.
“Diversifying into commercial was sort of a no-brainer,” she says.
At the time she made the move, the industry was in a state of flux following the Royal Commission, causing uncertainty around remuneration and the way brokers could run their business.
She says a move to commercial finance provided a solution to this uncertainty.
“It gives you access to other areas of offerings to clients.”
“Traditionally, I think a lot of clients running small businesses don’t realise that there’s brokers available.”
“But, now they’re getting more and more competitive in the commercial space, so I want to be able to offer that choice to people in giving them the best deal.”
She says her background in accounting meant understanding financials was like second nature.
But for someone without this prior knowledge, the move into commercial broking can be much more challenging.
The social network
Mansfield says learning the power of networking has been one of the biggest highlights of her career.
She recently partnered with Commercial Finance BDM Yasmine Shah to create the Women in Commercial Finance Forum, a peer-to-peer support group on Facebook that aims to provide support and knowledge for female brokers working in the commercial sphere.
“We are trying to encourage women so that it is not as daunting as it may seem.”
“You’ve got support of all these other people that you can workshop different scenarios with.”
She says the forum offers educational resources and live events to help people feel more confident in having conversations about getting started in the sector.
The Virtual Mentor
One of the participants in the group, Sylvia MacFarlaine, is the CEO and Founder of My Virtual Mentor and the Broker Business Blueprint.
The broker trainer agrees that networking can help women become more confident and better equipped to thrive in the world of commercial finance.
“These forums, they are amazing opportunities to create not just business but knowledge.”
“It’s quick information, it’s quick support and it’s a safe environment where you cannot be afraid to test your knowledge, ask for help and then leverage that to, not only make connections, but, help your customers at the end of the day.”
She says the main challenges women face when diversifying into commercial finance is gaining education, finding support and having the confidence to start a conversation.
It can also be hard to know where to start in an industry with so many niches.
“That’s something brokers are not taught to do. They’re taught to be all things to all people.”
“If you’re trying to master residential lending, trying to master commercial lending is a different kettle of fish altogether.”
According to MacFarlaine, while there is plenty of information available for brokers who want to diversify into commercial lending, there aren’t many resources or programs that show brokers how to put this information into practice.
“I think there is a lack of practical implementation training,” she says.
“Gaining technical knowledge is important but it’s not enough.”
She says being exposed to a huge volume of high-level content and constant information can be overwhelming – especially if it’s not implementable.
Her business, My Virtual Mentor, aims to bridge this gap as part of its core function to build “ultimate broker success.”
“We teach skill and knowledge but then we also show them how to implement that skill and knowledge and possibly back that up with one on one support.”
Completely virtual in execution, the company collaborates with experts across the industry to bring full capability to new and established brokers in an end-to-end solution.
Like Mansfield, MacFarlaine would like to see more female brokers enter commercial finance.
“I really think women can shine in this space.”
“Women are absolutely, amazingly ready to pounce because they’ve got that real capacity to build relationships and offer something really special.”
“Like any profession, women have started historically on the backfoot and we’ve just got to keep getting in there to try and even up the numbers.”
“There are some brilliant women in the industry right now. We’re certainly making inroads, but I think it will take time before we get some parity.”
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