As a former bank exec turned fintech co-founder, Athena Home Loans CEO Nathan Walsh is no stranger to bold moves. Here he explains how his first job laid the foundations for a business model that aims to turn the mortgage industry on its head
Q: What’s one of your recent career highlights?
A: The build and launch of Athena Home Loans has been an amazing journey. Lots of magic milestones, from the assembly of a wickedly talented team to attracting investors like Macquarie, Square Peg and HostPlus and building Australia’s best home loan experience. But the absolute highlight is delivering huge savings for Aussie families as they switch from typical big bank rates. Just two weeks ago we had a family who moved their home and two investment properties to save $275,000 over the life of the loan. Incredible!
Q: What do you wish you’d known when you started out in finance?
A: You can’t break what’s broken! Finance is critically important, but so often it doesn’t deliver for customers. There is a crisis of trust, and Aussie homeowners deserve better. We need people to bring a more critical eye and be willing to reinvent the model. This is something I have only come to realise relatively late in my career. It is inspiring to see young fintech teams bringing such passion and smarts as they look to challenge the status quo and make life better for customers.
Q: What was your first job?
A: While at university, I took a part-time job in the legal department of one of the big banks. It was eye-opening. A really lovely team, working incredibly hard but drowning in oceans of paper files and manual processes. Too often the customer got lost in the complexity. Incredible that 30 years later too much of this legacy still remains. It was a real motivator to create the Athena model – it inspired us to ask, how do we use modern technology to make refinancing surprisingly simple? How do we deliver consistently great service? How do we build Australia’s most loved home lender?
Q: What’s one thing, personal or professional, that you hope to achieve before 2020?
A: Help Australians pay down their home loans faster. The statistics are sad. Aussie household debt is now among the highest in the world. Borrowers are 10 years slower in exiting mortgage debt than a generation ago. I am passionate about Athena’s mission to save Aussies a whole lot of money by helping them pay off their home loans faster, and it has been central to everything we do at Athena. And excitingly, we are already reaching our goal before 2020 because life is too short for a long home loan.