Finance & Mortgage Solutions founder Madhu Chaudhuri describes herself as an accidental broker but her passion for embracing diversity and inclusion is certainly no accident.
Growing up in India as the daughter of a single parent, she learnt first-hand the importance of being empathetic to different circumstances and experiences and the value of helping diverse people achieve their aspirations in life.
“My family are very philanthropic, when I was growing up there was always a desire to assist people beyond the family,” she said.
She believes that mortgage brokers play a critical role as the “cog in the wheel of life” for their customers and therefore helping her customers, especially women and migrants, become financially independent is a key driver of her business.
“Mortgage Brokers have a real passion about what we do,” she said.
“For us it’s not just a job – it’s more than that. It’s really important that we are able to provide different types of financial support to people dependent upon their individual circumstances.”
Having migrated to Australia more than 20 years ago and then subsequently raising three daughters on her own as a working mum, she sees financial stability as a key driver of mental and physical health and invests a lot of her time helping educate and support the more vulnerable members of our community.
This includes writing blogs for single mums with tips on how to save money and grow their financial wealth, being a financial mentor for migrant women and investing in initiatives to support local schools and Indian charities. Since 2001, she has also been involved in a large charity called The Vedanta which has helped build centres in major cities across Australia and NZ helping hundreds of new migrants and others get assistance and make important community connections.
“What I really like about the work I do is having this holistic impact on people’s lives and making them a functional person who will contribute to the community,” she said.
“Learning to give back from where we live whether it’s to our country or town or community is very, very important. We need to get more people talking about giving back – it’s so important that we support each other.”
Madhu believes that COVID has taught us all great lessons about the importance of people supporting each other without any expectation.
“We are seeing more of a community focus now because COVID forced us all into a conversation where we could do things for people without thinking about what resources it took away from us,” she said.
For Madhu, one of those things was helping a family divert money no longer being spent on childcare during the COVID enforced lockdown, towards the purchase of a larger family home.
So how did the accidental broker get her start in the industry?
Formally trained as an architect, Madhu was working for FAI Property Group at the height of the 1990s recession when she struck up a relationship with AFG, who had an office next door and who made her a broker in 1997 paying her trail for referrals for a number of years.
She then got a diploma in Financial Planning and studied mortgage broking before commencing her career with Law Form and then later joining FAST Brokers in 2006.
In the same year, she started Finance & Mortgage Solutions focussing on deposit bonds and has since grown the business to six staff providing personal loans, mortgages, asset finance and business loans to clients across Australia.
When first starting in the industry it was very obvious to Madhu that she was in the cultural minority so she sought out “her own people” through her involvement in Indian charities including helping secure the finance to build Sydney’s largest Sikh Temple in Glenwood.
She says her secret to success and longevity in the industry is staying true to herself, not suffering fools and working hard.
“I always found there was opportunity for someone who was prepared to work – I think the secret to success is the harder you work the luckier you get,” she said.
Madhu says the mortgage and finance industry has changed a lot since she started some 22 years ago but she believes that continued diversification of the demographics of the brokers working in the industry will help future-proof it to ongoing change and disruption.
“Money might change into Bitcoin or Afterpay or Zip Money but the concept of different people looking at the world and doing things differently is so important to survival of the fittest – because if we keep doing what we are doing as an industry we are going to keep getting what we are getting,” she said.
“We can’t just keep doing business with the 20 per cent of society who look like us while missing out on the opportunities of the other 80 per cent who don’t.”
She says increased education and formal qualifications have had a positive impact on the industry but believes there is more work to be done on making information available in the many different languages spoken by culturally and linguistically diverse customers.
Looking back on her career her she says her advice to her younger self is that it’s okay to make mistakes because they always lead to personal growth.
“Everyone’s younger self never listens,” she said.
“But that’s okay – I’m glad that I had the journey I had and made mistakes along the way.
“They are not all wrong – often it’s just a fork in the road which may take you to a better opportunity.”