By Ryan Johnson
While mortgage broking offers a bridge to diversify into commercial deals, among the industry there remains a worrying trend: the struggle to attract young talent to the world of commercial finance.
For Brian Steele (pictured above left), chief revenue officer for commercial strategic advisory firm LBH Partners, attracting young people into commercial lending and broking is of top concern.
“I have three daughters, all of whom thankfully are good academics, and I was contemplating what we would need to do as an industry to win them when they start looking for employment,” said Steele. “I don't think there is an obvious on-ramp.”
In this three-part series, Steele teamed up with Australian Broker to get the inside scoop from three "young guns" of commercial finance.
In this first instalment, highly-decorated commercial broker Isabella Constantinou (pictured above right), sales director of Simplicity Loans & Advisory, revealed her career path, challenges faced, secrets to success, and fresh ideas for attracting the next generation to the industry.
Isabella Constantinou’s commercial finance journey began in 2017 as a mortgage broking associate at Simplicity while finishing her university degree.
Mortgage broking has fast become one of the key pathways towards commercial broking, with over 20% of mortgage brokers writing commercial loans last year, according to MFAA data.
“I didn’t even really consider the fact that a career in commercial broking was something I could do,” Constantinou said.
In this role, she spent three years assisting a director, gaining valuable exposure to different aspects of commercial broking. By April 2020, she transitioned to a broking position, where she quickly found herself drawn to the fast-paced and dynamic world of construction and development finance.
The most unexpected challenge, according to Constantinou, was the “degree of resilience” required to navigate the intricacies of the industry.
“I was so young and naïve to the industry when I started so I anticipated challenges, but I think I was surprised at the level of determination I quickly had to develop to thrive and stand out in such a male-dominated environment,” Constantinou said.
“This challenge has become a driving force in my career, pushing me to constantly grow and prove my capabilities.”
Since then, Constantinou’s commercial finance career has gone from strength to strength, being recognised as MPA’s 2022 top commercial broker in Australia and among the top 100 mortgage professionals globally.
Like Constantinou, many university students are brimming with career options, yet the path towards commercial lending often goes unnoticed. This lack of awareness at university level presents a key challenge in attracting young talent.
“In such a digital age, I think to attract young professionals it’s critical to leverage digital platforms and social media to showcase the industry’s dynamic nature and rewarding aspects,” Constantinou said.
“Utilising these platforms to highlight success stories, mentorship programs, and the potential for financial growth can be incredibly effective.”
Constantinou also stressed the importance of establishing mentorship programs and internship opportunities with educational institutions.
These "hands-on experiences", Constantinou explained, can bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, making the industry more appealing to the younger generation.
“Industry bodies like MFAA, CAFBA and the various aggregators have such a platform to create awareness around the positives of a commercial broking pathway and they should have structured processes in place to encourage young professionals into the industry,” Constantinou said.
Instead of having young people just “fall into the industry”, Constantinou outlined a multi-faceted approach to make the industry more appealing and supportive of young professionals.
Implementing tailored mentorship programs to guide and empower young talent is crucial, she said.
“We also need to establish a culture that values diversity and inclusion to ensure that young professionals feel acknowledged and respected,” Constantinou said.
Additionally, embracing technological advancements and offering ongoing training programs will not only keep the industry relevant but also attract a diverse pool of young talent eager to contribute to its growth.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been improvements. Since entering the industry, Constantinou said she has “definitely seen a growing recognition” of the importance of the industry’s next generation.
“I believe that the industry is on a path towards greater balance,” Constantinou said. “However, there is still work to be done, and I am committed to being part of the movement that fosters an inclusive and encouraging environment for all.”