Football, finance and fast growth

by Maya Breen15 Jan 2016
One of his most influential coaches once told him that if you work hard, you get what you deserve. And that’s exactly what Premiership winning footballer and former Port Adelaide Club captain Dom Cassisi has done throughout his AFL and finance careers.  

The same as with professional sport, there are no shortcuts in business but “it’s a bit easier on the body – finance broking,” says Cassisi.

Managing director of brokerage Funding Options in Norwood, Adelaide, Cassisi launched into full-time broking after he retired from a 15 year career in football.

Now just over a year into the business, Cassisi has already received the Rising Star Award for the 2014/2015 year at the Australian Finance Group’s High Achievers Gala Dinner which is based on volume of business written by a new entrant in broking.

AFG state manager Alan Walker congratulated Cassisi on the achievement saying, "Dom’s impressive business results are a testament to the fact he is able to bring his leadership skills from the footy field to the finance field.”

Build strong relationships and growth will follow
Funding Options’ strong growth in a short time frame is not a result of expensive marketing and internet sourced leads Cassisi points out, but through building strong relationships with a number of linked providers – including real estate professionals, accounting, conveyancing, financial planning, general insurance providers, risk and life insurance, building inspections and a vehicle supplier.
Forging these ties was a high priority from the start, particularly their connection with the biggest independent real-estate company in South Australia, Toop&Toop playing a key role.

“The initial reason to set up the business was to form a strong alliance with them and we’ve generated a lot of home loans from them,” says Cassisi. “They have big presence in property management and we help landlords refinance.”

The brokerage also offered commercial lending, equipment and motor vehicle finance right from the beginning.

“It’s the holistic approach of being able to provide lending for basically most things which I think has set us apart a bit and which has been great for client retention.”

An example of this involves one of his best clients who was selling a house and which they helped in financing his next purchase. This then led to assisting in refinancing his investment property and also more unusually, a flight simulator from the US and two aircrafts, as the client had just bought a flying school in Adelaide. Over the next 18 months, they financed each addition to his fleet, which grew from six to 16 aircraft.

Cassisi says it was daunting to start a business and finding the answers to questions like how they would contact people going through open homes; their strategy for land lord business; and how to target external referral partners like accountants and financial planners early on.

“But I was always passionate about property and finance and I got to know a broker here in Adelaide with a really good business and asked him about the path into the industry.”

And the challenges have been worth it as Cassisi explains it is in meeting new people each day that is the best part of the job.

“Whether you’re assisting someone buying their first home or sitting down to do a big commercial deal – no matter the value of the deal, it’s really about getting to know someone new and helping them achieve what they want to achieve.”

Bringing lessons from football into finance
Drafted into the Port Adelaide Football club at 18 years old and after a long, successful sporting career, the transition from football to finance was a big change. But after playing over 200 AFL games, Cassisi has brought his leadership experience from the locker rooms to the office.

“When you’re playing professional sport you’re always looking at ways to improve,” says Cassisi. “You’re always analysing your performance and not always going to get to play the perfect game. So you might have prepared really well but you’re going to face problems whether that be in-game or during the week and you have to work out a way to overcome them and that directly relates to what I’m doing now.”

He reflects on how playing professional sport in front of large crowds demands good decision making under pressure and this clarity of thought is mirrored in business as well.

“My only focus is doing the little things well. That’s my whole ethos - do the little things well,” says Cassisi. “I can set goals and say I’ll settle $80 million worth of loans but that’s not achievable unless you’re doing the little things well each day, with each deal and with each conversation.

“Little things all add up, creating big momentum and once you’ve got that momentum going it’s pretty hard to move it. I’ve never been big on setting goals because I think you can lose focus on what has to be done now, today and tomorrow.”