How commercial finance can recruit the next generation

Commercial finance expert shares pathway into industry

How commercial finance can recruit the next generation


By Ryan Johnson

The commercial finance industry is a powerhouse for economic growth, yet it remains shrouded in mystery for many potential recruits.

Unlike its well-known cousins, retail banking and mortgage broking, commercial finance often goes unnoticed by graduates and young professionals.

This lack of awareness presents a significant challenge. How can the industry attract the brightest minds if its exciting possibilities remain hidden?

Brian Steele (pictured above left) from LBH Partners, a champion for industry talent acquisition, has taken note.

Driven by a desire to showcase the hidden gem of commercial finance, Steele has embarked on a mission with Australian Broker to illuminate the career paths within the industry.

In this third and final instalment of this commercial finance series, Sarah Estrada (pictured above right), director of product and client success at LBH Partners, shares her experience, uncovering the diverse roles, rewarding opportunities, and untapped potential that await the next generation of talent.

Commercial finance: a noticeable lack of female representation

Estrada's journey into commercial finance began with a lifelong interest in finance, fuelled by her desire to create financial stability for her family after immigrating to Australia.

Despite majoring in finance at university and genuinely enjoying it, she had limited knowledge about commercial broking and its career prospects.

“After spending a year abroad on student exchange, I was eager to get my foot in the door, and fortunately landed an admin role at the commercial broker firm Stamford Capital whilst still studying,” Estrada said.

In a similar experience discussed in the series’ first instalment, one aspect that surprised Estrada was the “noticeable lack of female representation in the industry”.

“Coming from a co-ed high school to a fairly diverse university cohort and having worked in hospitality since I was 14 only ever having female managers, it was a very different workplace dynamic,” she said.

However, Estrada found incredible male role models who addressed the underrepresentation and created opportunities for her to develop her skills.

The learning curve in commercial finance

Entering the industry from a non-finance background presented challenges for Estrada. While her transferable skills from hospitality, like being personable and having a strong work ethic, were valuable, the learning curve was steep.

The biggest challenge, she said, was realising that much of the theory learned in university wasn't directly applicable in the real world. Additionally, navigating meetings where she was often the youngest or least experienced person was initially intimidating.

“I’ve since learned that I’d much rather be the least knowledgeable in the room, because it gives me agency to ask questions, learn from others, and not have to prove that I know everything… because I don’t.”

Riding the commercial finance wave

Compared to other career options, what made commercial finance stand out for Estrada was how diverse it could be.

Estrada has held many different roles ranging from broker admin and customer service, technical and business analyst positions, to her current role as a financial technology product lead, serving lenders and brokers in commercial finance.

“My experience is proof there are so many different avenues available in this industry, whether it involves you working as, for, or with commercial brokers,” she said. “What has consistently stood out for me is the high quality of people and relationships.”

“The commercial brokers I’ve worked with are always so passionate about what they do and take immense pride in their work and expertise.”

Estrada said she finds immense value in the passion and expertise commercial brokers bring to their work.

“There is so much to learn from this industry, and I've found that brokers are always willing to share their knowledge and experiences with you," she said, recalling a conversation with a senior executive who encouraged her to "ride the wave for as long as you can" – a mantra she has adopted.

Attracting young talent

In Estrada's opinion, the lack of financial literacy education during high school is a significant barrier to attracting young people to commercial finance.

“it’s not surprising that most young people lack a basic understanding of finance – let alone commercial finance – and the roles banks and brokers play in the lending process,” she said.

She pointed to her experience mentoring a high school student passionate about cybersecurity, whose interest was fostered by awareness programs available in that field.

“If there were similar initiatives and pathways established for financial services and broking at all educational levels, I believe there would be more interest and a diverse talent pool early on, instead of having to wait for seasoned bankers to transition into the industry.”

Looking ahead: Fostering a supportive environment

Estrada believes the pressure to balance one’s professional and personal goals can be a challenge for many professionals, especially early on where young people are made to consider “sacrificing personal well-being for workplace status and financial gain”.

“I’ve personally had to reframe my own motivations over time and go through a process of self-discovery on finding my purpose, and what kind of legacy I want to leave behind,” she said.

Estrada said she had been fortunate enough to have several industry leaders as mentors in the last eight years, which has helped her navigate these conversations, but this can be difficult for young professionals if they don’t have the support available.

“Creating more spaces and forums for these conversations is crucial, as they can highlight the tangible impact and personal fulfilment achievable from working in this industry.”

How can commercial finance recruit the next generation? Comment below.

Related Stories

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!