A taste for adventure

by Adam Smith11 Sep 2013

Otto Dargan balances broking with living life on the edge

Burwood-based broker, Otto Dargan, is possibly a little messed up in the head (we say that with the utmost affection). He’s gone paragliding with no training, “which was great fun until I face-planted into some thistles”. He once broke his spine  snowboarding in Japan, only to set out for Everest Base Camp as  soon as the brace came off. He’s competed in three 100km hikes, and he’s eaten “every bizarre food you can imagine”, from stillbeating snake heart to balut (Google it if you’ve got a strong stomach). But Dargan, who jumped into broking straight out of university, says he loves his less-than-spine-tingling (though arguably no less stressful) occupation.
The general manager of brokerage firm Home Loan Experts says he’s seen the industry change for the better since he started out back in 2003.
“When I started, Sydney was going through a property boom, our industry was unregulated and credit guidelines were very loose. Everything has reversed since then. However, I am really happy about the changes. A stable property market with reasonable regulation and reasonable credit guidelines is sustainable in the long term – which benefits everyone. Many of the part-time brokers and cowboys have left. Whenever I go to industry functions now, I’m really impressed with the quality of the brokers.”
But not everything’s coming up roses, he says. 
“We’re in an environment now where we’re paid significantly less for each loan than we were a few years ago. In addition to this,  we’re also doing more work due to compliance, lodging loans online and tighter credit guidelines. It’s a big squeeze on our margins. If we want to attract quality people to our industry, then something has to change.”
At the end of the day though, broking provides a nice balance for Dargan, who spends most of his down time as far from a desk as physically possible.
“I love nature so I like to spend a lot of time hiking… I’m a big fan of fishing, except that I never seem to catch anything. My girlfriend hates fishing and I have to help her set up her rod; however, she always catches the fish. I really enjoy travelling and trying bizarre foods from all over the world. I was born to live outside of my comfort zone.
“Life,” he says, “should be something worth writinghome about.