Last month, Banjo hosted a female-led panel discussion featuring a broad range of entrepreneurs. The webinar was part of a series organised in line with the release of this year’s annual Banjo SME Compass report.

The panel included the following successful leaders:

  1. Rachel Hind- Founder of Best Capital International, keynote speaker, financial mentor and coach. Helps clients maintain financing in the bank market and look for alternate sources and lending.
  2. Suzi Trajanovski – National Network Growth Manager of Loan Market for over ten years. Supports brokers in the development of their businesses.
  3. Lisa Spiden – Managing Director of fibreHR. Has an extensive background working with large organisations such as HSBC Investment Bank. She has worked in various sectors such as banking and consulting in London, Melbourne, and Adelaide.
  4. Sarah Wells – Founding Director of Sarah Wells – Tailored Banking & Finance Solutions. Her passion and expertise are in delivering strategic financing outcomes for high-net-worth families and their businesses.

In this post, we share the experience of each leader being forced to adjust what they were doing in their businesses to pivot, adapt, and succeed during COVID.

Question 1. What are some of the key investments you are making in your business to continue to stay competitive in the current landscape? 

Suzi – Some key investments we are making at Loan Market is the investment of hiring new developers and IT specialists to support the expansion of our online platform to ensure it aligns closely with our customers’ expectations. So, I would have to say tech and people have been our most significant investments in the organisations. 

However, we also purchased three aggregators earlier this year for the mortgage broker space. Again, this shows how serious we are about the industry and our desire to see the industry evolve. 

There was also a massive growth in staffing with the addition of 600 clients service managers. This means brokers grew their business because they had access to see their clients on zoom and transaction with them digitally. We also saw a spike of 37% in female business owners. It’s exciting to see more women taking a risk and going out on their own.

Sarah – The investment in human capital is an area I’m advising my clients to focus on. Investing in keeping people happy is vital, so they remain loyal and stay with the business. I’m also seeing my clients invest time in their strategic planning to see how they can disrupt the market after COVID. It will be interesting to see the growth experiences of those organisations that have stayed with their current service and product offering in the next 24-48 months. 

Rachel – We cut our costs dramatically by trying to enter new markets, like Singapore and UK, to offer advisory and funding services. I saw an opportunity to expand to Singapore after seeing many senior roles being placed in Singapore. Establishing myself in Singapore has also allowed me to work closely with the Australian High Commission, ex-pats and start-ups looking to fund their business. 

Lisa – Over the last two years, 50% of my clients are thriving and becoming super-efficient while the other 50% are struggling. Many clients are coming to us about staff burnout. So, I want to see how businesses will support their staff (one of their most important asset) because it will impact the businesses financially.

Question 2. If you trade online, what are some initiatives you are working on to ensure your online presence continues to play a key component of your growth strategy? 

Lisa – My two businesses, fibreHR and Roster Right, are very different. FibreHR doesn’t require a huge online presence from a marketing perspective as most of our clients are via referrals. The other business, Pay Review, has some presence online, but if people have underpayment issues, they don’t Google the issues; instead, people turn to their advisors or accountants for help.

Roster Right is a new product and helps businesses to optimise their rosters. I have invested with an agency for lead generation led marketing activities to allow clients to find us easier in Google which will increase Roster Right’s online presence. Over the last few months, I’ve put a strategy to help better understand the customers, their buying patterns, and the best ways to meets those requirements.

Question 3. What are doing as a successful business leader to keep a strategic mindset during the operational challenges that COVID is causing?

Sarah – From a personal perspective, I feel that there are not enough hours in the day. The challenge for advisors and financial services is that we charge per hour. I’m also trying to prioritise finding work to ensure I have personal fulfilment. So, the balance I’m trying to find includes what work I enjoy, what is profitable, and what work will make the most impact. 

It’s also very difficult in a debt space to see what that long term strategic plan looks like. For instance, we are in a low-interest rate environment with cheap capital. How will I grow now and pay that off in 2025? How can I grow now to ensure my business model is there post COVID?

Suzi – COVID has been a real leveller for women because it has helped women be more flexible. Common barriers and discussions with females starting their own mortgage broking business includes the thoughts they are having if entering motherhood. How will this affect their newly created businesses? It’s crazy that we are still discussing this in 2021, and it’s still a big discussion point for women wanting to start their brokerage business.

Question 4. As a woman in finance, what is a recent challenge you have had, and how did you overcome it?

Rachel – I’m on a mission to help SMEs with a desire to keep owners and lenders more connected. After a recent event I organised called “Seek 28 SMS in 28 days’’ an event connecting lenders and SMEs, I was astonished that 75% of SMEs did not know whom to go to for funding outside of banks. Some SMEs don’t have the cash flow for over 20 days, and with the government only doing so much, the grant system is hard to navigate and isn’t quick enough. So, to continue to try and get that message out there to connect SMEs with lenders.

Question 5. What would you do differently?

Lisa – At the beginning, I wasn’t aware I could get funding. One of my businesses has a safe and secure funding stream. But the other one is tech-heavy and required a heavy investment in tech. So, funding for that business was a lot harder. It would have helped if I knew that earlier. Every cash flow formula is different. So, my advice is to know how your business is eligible for funding and set up for success

Sarah – How to keep your stakeholders happy while navigating COVID. Business leaders imagine a life post COVID. How can the products we offer be better and more competitive over our competition? 

Suzi – Brokers need to change the way they do business. I am seeing a shift in how to nurture my existing clients better instead of getting new clients.

We hope you enjoyed this write up featuring some very successful and strong female leaders in the industry. We look forward to sharing more insights into our future webinars here on our blog. For the latest on our webinars, be sure to check out our LinkedIn page.