Attracting talent: The long paths toward commercial finance

Award-winning commercial broker shares journey

Attracting talent: The long paths toward commercial finance


By Ryan Johnson

While many in the industry can attest to its benefits, commercial finance is not on the radar of many people as a viable career option.

Therein lies the stark reality: How can the industry attract the next generation of top talent if there is no clear path forward? 

Brian Steele (pictured above left), chief revenue officer of commercial advisory firm LBH Partners and an advocate for industry talent, pondered this point.

"How do we attract them? What are we missing?" he mused, echoing the industry’s concern.

Motivated by his daughters' academic potential, Steele embarked on a mission to bridge the gap between commercial finance and aspiring jobseekers.

 In this second instalment of a three-part series, Steele teamed up with Australian Broker to ask commercial broker and director of Blue Crane Capital Nick Wilcox (pictured above right) about how he found his path forward in commercial finance.

From hospitality to commercial finance

For Nick Wilcox, it took a while to fall into commercial finance.

“I never thought I would become a commercial broker, but after 14 years in finance, it felt like a natural progression,” said the Australian Broker Fast Brokerages 2022 winner.

After he finished school, Wilcox started a chef apprenticeship and worked in hospitality restaurant.

“Hospitality is a very tough lifestyle. Working late at night and weekends when all of my friends were going out,” Wilcox said. “After 18 months, I decided I didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life.”

Reaching out to a recruiter, Wilcox landed a job at a consumer finance firm, working in collections, customer service, payment processing, and sales. The company eventually expanded into commercial equipment broking, which he found more “challenging and rewarding”.

“After eight years, I moved to St George in the SME team as a commercial banker. And over the following six years, I worked with many brokers, including Chris Hall, who was one of my biggest referrers,” Wilcox said.

“Eventually, Chris recruited me to Blue Crane.  I've been here for two and a half years and wouldn't trade it for the world.”

For Wilcox, comparing commercial finance to hospitality is like night and day.

“As a commercial broker I work Monday to Friday and have my weekends for family. I also can work from home and flexible hours,” he said. “I also just love being on the journey helping clients, growing their businesses, and building wealth.”

Banker to broker: Finding a pathway

For many, the journey from banker to broker can be steep. However, Wilcox’s experience within the lending landscape ensured a smooth transition.

Still, it was not without its challenges.

“I had to start my database from scratch. In the bank, I worked with a lot of brokers who would send me deals. As a commercial broker I need to self-generate my own clients,” he said.

“However, being in the industry for a while made it easier to build relationships with accountants and other referrers.”

Wilcox agreed with the premise that commercial broking is a very small industry and not many young people even know about it.

 “Most people end up in commercial broking thinking that it’s not a career,” he said.

However, the team at Blue Crane Capital hopes to change that.

“We have been successful in hiring [a] young analyst new to the industry who helps our brokers with transactions, which is a very good way to learn commercial lending and transition to a broker when they are ready,” Wilcox said.

How can the commercial finance industry attract top talent?

While he sees the industry will grow given the economic climate, Wilcox holds no reservations about who the commercial finance space is attracting.

“At the moment, it’s someone who has finished a finance or business degree and doesn’t know which direction they want to go. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as I was also in that position.”

Wilcox said the industry needs to make young professionals more aware about the industry and pathways to becoming a commercial broker.

“The diploma of financial services (mortgage broking) does not cover commercial lending,” he said.

“If there was a course or additional modules added for commercial broking and official training, it would help more residential brokers or young professionals take the leap to commercial broking.”  

How can the commercial finance industry attract top talent? Comment below.

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