“I never feel like I’m working, ever. I love my job. I would never do anything else,” says Melita Beilicz. “I totally agree,” Suzanne O’Connor adds. Needless to say, this love for their profession has played an integral part in the success of their brokerage.
Both Beilicz and O’Connor are mortgage brokers and directors at Dominion Finance in Canberra, which they founded in 2002. Each with a background in banking, the pair have worked together in the financial services industry for 30 years and today, their partnership is as strong as ever.
The duo is proof that the ideal but often elusive idea of work/life balance can in fact be a reality, and that broking in particular is a profession that can give anybody, but in particular women, the opportunity to thrive in a career while also raising a family.
The Dominion Finance team is an all-female cast, and this was a conscious and proud choice made by its directors.
“We really want to promote broking to women because it’s a fantastic industry to be in when you are a young woman and out there trying to make your way,” says O’Connor.
“And then it’s a fantastic industry when you have children and to be able to work around having those kids.”
As for why the pair went into business together rather than venturing out on their own, Beilicz and O’Connor explain that working as a team has always been the right route for them, given they had made such a strong team during their time working in banking.
An added benefit of working as a duo, they add, is the flexibility the partnership allows you when it comes to taking time off.
“We totally have each other’s backs with each other’s clients,” says Beilicz. “My clients know Suzanne and Suzanne’s clients know me so everyone is very comfortable when one of us goes away. We both like to travel and do things and you just can’t do that if you don’t have someone you absolutely trust to take care of things.”
O’Connor points out that being of a similar age and having similar values also helps the partnership and therefore the business, a lot, and that communication is crucial.
“You’ve got to communicate. You have to basically give the other person your absolute truth. So if something doesn’t feel right or you don’t agree, you’ve got to say it. Everyone’s got to have really clear, open communication.”
When it comes to clients, Dominion Finance spans a broad demographic with a large number of ongoing customer referrals and both brokers have similar sized client bases, as Beilicz grew her business early on before she had children and O’Connor has grown hers since her children have gotten older.
The brokerage has evolved over the years alongside their aggregator eChoice, which offers them access to great technology and service support.
“The biggest tool for me is the technology and the CRM,” says Beilicz, adding she and O’Connor utilise it to work smarter, keep their database up-to-date and maintain regular contact with clients.
They both agree that clients are the number one referrers and that being organised whilst also being flexible is the key to a thriving service business.
Case in point: Dominion Finance is now expanding, with Beilicz and O’Connor having recently brought two other brokers and one loan processor on board. A new office space is also on the horizon to help cater to their clients throughout the Canberra region and beyond.
But while the success these two women have achieved is undeniable, Beilicz and O’Connor are also frank about the gender inequality in the sector, stating that their success was not without its challenges. When it comes to breaking into the finance industry, Beilicz says, it’s definitely harder for women.
“We learnt that very early on working for the banks,” she says, noting in her experience women have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition that men get. But, she adds, this ended up being an unlikely gift because this situation made them even more determined to become the success story they are today.
“We’ll go to a PD day and in a room of a couple of hundred people we’ll be the only two women in the room - it’s that male dominated in Canberra,” said Beilicz.
For this very reason, looking ahead, they say their biggest goal is to contribute to bringing about the change that will bring more women into the mortgage industry, through supporting and promoting the women already in the industry.
“It is quite male dominated,” said O’Connor. “But it is definitely getting better.”