Inspiring women to reach new heights

Broking has tended to be a male-dominated industry, but Mortgage Choice CEO Susan Mitchell tells MPA how the broking network is helping change that with its ASPIRE program

Inspiring women to reach new heights

Across financial services, Australia is one of few markets around the world with a strong broking system. Data from the MFAA shows that Australian consumers continue to choose mortgage brokers for their home loan needs. Brokers facilitated more than half of all new residential mortgages during the March 2020 quarter (52.1%), which shows that there is strong demand for broker services.

This environment creates a significant opportunity for brokers to thrive. That said, female representation is still very much a work in progress for the broking industry. MFAA research shows that female participation in the industry took a sharp turn in 2019, and the proportion of females who were new recruits was trending down.

For Mortgage Choice CEO Susan Mitchell, redressing this balance and creating space for women in the industry into the future is of critical importance.

“At Mortgage Choice, we have a history of successful female brokers who have built profitable, sustainable businesses,” says Mitchell. “But most of these women will tell you that they wouldn’t have been able to achieve success without sacrifice and strong commitment.”

Embarking on a broking career – or further down the track, starting your own broking  franchise – on a part-time basis is extremely difficult, Mitchell points out. Broking has never been a traditional nine-to-five job, and women juggling work and family life tend to be particularly beset by difficulties; societal expectations around women fulfilling the role of a homemaker alongside work commitments create significant challenges.

“The pressure of being everything to everyone can be a huge obstacle to female broker business owners,” Mitchell says.

She does believe that positive change is occurring though, pointing to the shifts that have taken place since she joined the industry.

“With women making a significant share of household financial decisions today, there is untapped opportunity for female brokers to support these women” Susan Mitchell, Mortgage Choice

“When I first started in the financial services industry in Australia 15 years ago, it was rare to see women in leadership positions, but I’m glad to say that the industry has slowly changed for the better,” she says.

Mitchell notes that Mortgage Choice has both a female chair and a female CEO for the first time in the company’s 30-year history. Additionally, half of its sales leadership team are female. She believes this reflects wider trends towards diversity and inclusivity around the world; there’s a growing momentum of change.

“We’re seeing more success stories of women in leadership on the global stage, and more women being celebrated for their actions and recognised for their achievements,” she says.

Mitchell also sees opportunities for future brokers: in 2017, the BT Australian Financial Health Index found that 89% of women were at least jointly responsible for making major financial decisions for their households, while 48% were the key decision-makers.

“With women making a significant share of household financial decisions today, there is untapped opportunity for female brokers to support these women with their property ownership goals,” she says.

With these considerations in mind, Mortgage Choice launched its ASPIRE program in March 2020 as an indication of its commitment to supporting established and emerging female talent within the field.

“We wanted to celebrate and further develop the incredible female talent that exists within our network of mortgage brokers, financial advisers and their teams,” Mitchell says.

For the inaugural events, Mortgage Choice held afternoon teas in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane and invited women from its network to hear from guest speaker Jane Counsel. Recognised in the industry as an expert in diversity and inclusion, Counsel facilitated a panel of female business leaders who shared with the audience their experiences as brokers and business owners.

“One of our objectives with ASPIRE is to celebrate our female role models and nurture the emerging talent and next generation of female franchise owners in our network,” Mitchell says. “These events allow brokers and advisers to share with and learn from their peers.”

“The more we shine a light on women that are doing well, the more we will encourage other women to follow in their footsteps” Susan Mitchell, Mortgage Choice

The next instalment of the ASPIRE program will take place in September, with three digital masterclasses featuring a high-performance coach. The masterclasses have been designed to equip the female talent pipeline with tools to build resilience, maintain energy and develop a high-performance mindset in challenging times. They will demonstrate how women can set and achieve business and personal goals and live with purpose.

“The more we collectively shine a light on women that are doing well, the more we will encourage other women to follow in their footsteps and break down the barriers,” Mitchell says.

“We want a thriving community of business owners and brokers from diverse backgrounds, so we need to celebrate successful brokers with diverse backgrounds, embrace new people into the industry through mentoring, be a role model to younger generations, and act as a positive force in our local communities.”

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