Sarah Wells always wanted to be a polo pony groom – then a chance meeting changed her career direction. Now she’s a top-performing broker working with life-saving doctors and time-poor lawyers
With almost 20 years’ experience in the industry, senior finance executive Sarah Wells believes broking makes up only part of her role as a finance professional.
“I've realised so much of what I do with my clients is more around their lifestyle and their money goals, than simply just providing a mortgage,” she says.
Recognising the importance of building strong relationships with clients has allowed Ms Wells to offer financial solutions that are the right fit not only now, but well into the future.
“I like to explain to my clients that, yes, the tool that I provide you with to go and do what you want to do, is in the sense of a finance broker,” she says.
“But really it's my role as either a banking and finance coach, or a finance executive, to really understand what you want to do – so that when I do place you into that product or that facility, that it doesn’t just meet what you want to do now, but gives you all the flexibility and protection for you to decide what you want to do in two or three years’ time.”
When asked what her favourite part about being a broker is, Ms Wells says it is “getting to know people in a really intimate way”.
“When you talk to people about money, and buying a home, you really get to know them,” she says. “They share things with you that they wouldn't share with their closest friends.”
“I feel really honoured that they trust me enough to tell me about the fears and concerns that they have about money.
“Then it kind of goes into things about their job, things about their relationships, things about how they view themselves, just getting to know them. And that tight relationship that you have is awesome.”
Developing trusting relationships with her clients has also enabled Ms Wells to support them through any unexpected turbulence in the loan application process.
“It's just being able to hold those clients through those emotional moments, and have those conversations with them and tell them it is going to be okay. And sometimes that can be a bit draining. You feel like a psychologist sometimes,” she says.
From horse stables to pink diamond status
Financial broking is a far cry from the industry Ms Wells initially saw herself pursuing a career. Having worked primarily with animals in her previous years, Ms Wells always thought she would follow the path of becoming a polo pony groom. Then she met a broker who offered her a job at a major brokerage, introducing her to the industry she is now so passionate about.
“I met Tony Harris, who was with Mortgage Choice, and he offered me a role as his PA,” she says. “And I was really fortunate going into Mortgage Choice because I got lots of training.”
“I found in my first six months that I just loved it. I love problem solving. Every client has a problem, and it’s my job to really understand that and give them a solution. I love being a mortgage broker, I absolutely love it. And I love our industry. I really do.”
Over the past 12 months, Ms Wells has achieved great things in the finance sector.
“I've been very fortunate to be included again in the pinnacle group with my aggregator Vow, which are their top brokers.”
“Myself and my team have also been able to maintain the pink diamond status with CBA, which is about the quality of our submissions.”
“And even with all the changes in the credit landscape, I have still been able to provide solutions for clients, where they have been told by their retail branch channels of banks that they weren't able to help them.”
“I'm still able to really write good strong credit for clients, that I believe in.”
Client base “close to home”
Ms Wells found her niche in the industry working with clients in the medical and legal industries, after having positive experiences with doctors and lawyers in the past.
“My mum died when I was 16 and I didn't have a lot of family around me,” she says. “The people that were kindest to me at the time were actually the doctors in the hospital.”
“In a complete twist of fate, about 10 years later I ended up with a client whose brother was a cardiologist. And I met him, and he was so time-poor that he was putting all of his patients’ well-being before his financial well-being.”
“They work incredibly long hours, and they really need someone who can take away the stress and frustration. And that's what I like to do. I like to problem-solve and fix.”
Flexible and transparent communication is something Ms Wells regards as very important in the broking industry, and is especially crucial when working with clients within the medical and legal professions.
“A lot of brokers find doctors really difficult to deal with, I find them amazing. Yes, sometimes they do have text conversations at 10 o'clock at night, or 6am when they're on their way to do something. They will say ‘I'm just about to go and do an operation’. I've been talking to doctors and someone cardiac arrests and they've got to get off the phone.
“They're just awesome people and I love them.”
The decision to specialise came from Ms Wells’ desire to coach clients instead of making decisions for them.
“Lawyers I find great to deal with too. They're different. They're great at making decisions,” she says.
“My job really is about giving them the best credit advice and then they make a decision and I do the rest of the project management. Whereas I find with mums and dads, they're really looking for me to make a decision for them.
“And my job is not to make a decision for them, my job is to educate and guide them and let them decide.”
Ms Wells has great ambitions for her professional future, beyond continuing to grow her business.
“I'd love to be able to go to a country like Vietnam and set up a charity around micro-lending,” she says. “I really feel that if you can empower – particularly women – to make really good financial choices for themselves, that you can change an entire generation.”
“Financial literacy is another passion of mine, and that's something that I'd like to do a little bit more of. Really show people that you can do a lot with a little bit of knowledge.
“You don't need to be super wealthy to have a good life, you just need to understand money and it's not that hard. It's not about giving financial advice, it's just about empowering people to make better decisions.”