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From aloe vera salesman to decorated broker

by Reporter10 minute read
Aloe Vera Salesman

Earlier this year, Capita Finance franchise owner Adam Donald took home the award for Best Residential Broker in Western Australia at The Adviser’s Better Business Awards 2018. Charbel Kadib sits down with the leading broker to find out how he got to where he is today.

Can you tell me about your journey into the broking industry?

I got given a job when I was about 18 at an aloe vera distributor, and the lady hired me purely because we had the same birthday. I was selling aloe vera and she said: “Look, you’d be a great broker, my son’s got this company, he’s killing it, you’ve got the sales mindset and you’re good with people”.

I had no plan on doing anything like that career-wise, so I quit, worked in a bar for about two years and saved up all my money and went travelling. [When I came back], my former boss gave me an interview with her son and he took me on.


I worked in bars at night to pay the bills and tried to learn off some brokers, who I still deal with to this day.

Six years in, I was a part-owner and now I’m out on my own and own three [Capita Finance] franchises and have some guys working for me.

Can you tell me about your first job as a broker?

I was the inaugural broker. It was a brand that had been opened up by a real estate agency, and they had a general manager named Gill McLean. My aggregator, AFG, said that they thought I could do a lot with them, and I wanted to be a part of something that was on the ground floor, that I could really help mould the way I wanted the brand to be.

It was the best thing I ever did. I owe a lot to Jeremy Wealleans at AFG, and obviously my general manager, Gill McLean, because I wouldn’t have got to where I am today without their guidance.

They are very particular about who they bring on, especially Gill. It’s a certain type of calibre that she likes to deal with, and she’s very good at recruiting people that are hungry.

I worked in bars at night to pay the bills and tried to learn off some brokers, who I still deal with to this day.

Adam Donald, Capita Finance

What role does technology play in your business?

It took me a long time to get on the tech bandwagon. It’s becoming a bigger thing. At Capita Finance, the owners are investing a lot of money into tech. We’re realising it’s going down that path where Millennials are coming into the market and wouldn’t even know how to walk into a bank because it’s all gone online.

We’re investing a lot of money into big data and CRM systems, which allow everything to be automated but also give a better customer outcome. At the minute, it’s not a huge part of my business, but at Capita Finance, we’re investing a lot of money to ensure that we don’t miss that boat or at least be ahead of the curve when disrupters come into the market. I still feel that even with these disrupters and these online lenders, a lot of these clients still want belly to belly because they’re buying a very expensive asset and spending a lot of money. They want to know that the person they’re dealing with is someone they can trust, and doing that most of the time can’t be done over the phone or over the internet — it’s face-to-face.

How do you stay ahead of the pack?

My whole team’s ethos is about making clients’ processes as easy as possible. Anyone can put a loan together, but as [my mother and personal assistant] Deb says to all of our clients when dealing with the process of purchasing a property: “Let me do the worrying for you”. We ask them to just focus on the fun, exciting part. We really want our customer experience to be seamless and easy.

In this day and age, you’ve got to be a problem solver, you’ve got to think outside the box. It’s all about looking at what situation is going to be the path of least resistance for the client.

My team is really trying to drum home that we always focus on being the best and that we have a growth mindset. A lot of brokers, I find, are sitting on their trail book and writing $1 million a month, [but] that’s never going to get you to that next echelon.

There’s a lot of young brokers out there who want to do bigger and better things… and we’ve just adopted that same mindset.

What advice would you give to young or aspiring brokers?

It’s tough. You’ve got to get on the phone and talk to people. It’s all well and good being able to do all the mechanics of putting a loan together, but belly to belly is where you really learn.

When I started [before the global financial crisis], it was a boom time.

My boss at that time had 12 brokers, four or five support staff, heaps of staff running around, and they were making great money. He said to me at that stage that if I wanted to come on, I wasn’t allowed to write a loan in the first nine months, and I had to listen and go to client meetings with other brokers who were making money. It was a test to see if I could persevere.

The one thing I learnt out of that process was you’ve got to go out and have customer experience, especially young brokers who come on. The more people you meet, the better you’ll be at your job.

 aloe vera salesman to decorated broker

What do you think of recent industry probes and calls for change?

I welcome reform, as it always weeds out the bad eggs and lazy brokers. Even now, with this royal commission, it will make a lot of brokers either leave or be better, and that’s what we want for our industry.

I don’t like being thrown under the bus by major banks, but you know what, we’re here and we’re a big beast, and I’m a big believer that brokers deliver good customer outcomes.

Customers would otherwise just walk into the bank that they’re already with and be offered a fixed rate, a variable, a basic, and that’s it.

I don’t feel that an upfront fee or a fees-for-service model is sustainable for the broker. There’s a lot of us out there and for them to change that would kill the industry. Not to mention, I just don’t feel that consumers would get the variety that can be offered by brokers.

I’m a big believer in a model where it’s the same upfront commission with every lender.

With trail, I’m a big believer that the industry should go to a system where if brokers are receiving trail, [they should contact] that client and make sure [they’ve] given a document to say they have gone in that year to go through the client’s situation to continue to receive that trail, which is a privilege. Not to mention that contacting your client is what you should be doing every year anyway.

How have you maintained success in the WA market?

From a writing point of view, I’m heavy in purchases and [refinances]. I deal with a lot of real estate agents. In a time where it’s been very difficult in Western Australia for the last four or five years, coming off the mining boom, I’ve been lucky enough to be in a growth pattern, even in this difficult time.

One of the worries that I have is keeping up with higher volumes when it does get busy here. When everyone was trying to consolidate, I went the opposite way and tried to grow.

You’ve got to be the jack of all trades as a broker. You can’t just be good at writing residential loans because clients won’t go to a broker who only writes residential loans if they can go to a broker who writes residential, commercial, car loans, personal loans — all of the above.

In this day and age, you’ve got to be a problem solver, you’ve got to think outside the box. It’s all about looking at what situation is going to be the path of least resistance for the client.

Adam Donald, Capita Finance

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to hang out with friends down at the beach. Just recently, I got engaged, so I’m looking forward to that chapter of my life, to see how that all plays out. Down time is important. When the weekend comes along, you’re cooked. When you write volume, the more you write, the more problems. My partner and I also like to travel a lot.

What are your future plans?

Short-term plan is to just keep going. I’m going to maintain my current size at the moment, but obviously write more loans.

The medium-term plan is, ideally, to get to a point where I can write a bit less and have a bit more time to focus on growing the business as a whole, and my franchise obviously.

In the long term, ideally, I want to get it to the stage where I can just be the face and have some brokers that help me manage my book, and just keep moving forward.

I’m never going to leave this industry. I joke with my friends that I’ve been in it for too long that I couldn’t do anything else, so to be honest, I don’t know how to do anything else.

I love what I do and I love the problem-solving aspect of what clients sometimes bring to the table. It’s all about meeting someone new every day. There are not many jobs where you get to be on the road, meet someone new and help them get into their dream home. It doesn’t happen very often in our world.

aloe vera plant


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