This article is the first in a series about regional brokers whose commitment to their communities exemplifies the true value of a good local broker
The best thing about being a finance broker in the country is the length and depth of relationships, says Arch Cullen.
And while sticking around long enough to honour these connections has proven difficult for some, this Griffith broker says he wouldn’t be anywhere else for quids.
“My family has been here for three generations and I’ve been here almost all my life. I farmed here, owned businesses here, own property here, worked corporate here, own water here and married here.
“I’m active in local sporting clubs and I’ve played and coached basketball for many years. I enjoy being involved in sports particularly to keep the young ones engaged and help keep them in town.”
Retention is a chronic issue for Griffith, and not just among young people keen for a change of scenery. Turnover of bank managers too has long been a problem for banks and clients alike.
A March 2018 Weekend Australian article reported the big banks had closed 100 branches in the previous 12 months, many of which were in rural towns. The branches that remain, often struggle to retain staff.
In Griffith, this phenomenon has had an impact on relationships and trust between the local community and the finance sector.
But where the banks have struggled to maintain customer service, Arch has seen opportunity and shown true commitment to the region and its people.
“I totally understand why city people do a stint here and leave, I certainly don’t begrudge that, but often clients can feel disheartened by it.
“It comes back to relationships. If a good relationship was built, the client can feel that a friendship, just as much as the business connection, has been broken.
“That’s where I come in. When I’m involved I help ease that pain of manager turnover and pick up the pieces with the new person.
“This is one of the standout reasons I got into broking, because I believe there is a void there that I can fill.”
Before moving away to attend boarding school and university Arch, now 43, always knew he would come home to Griffith.
After 15 years running the family farm, he shifted to work in a local bank before taking his business and banking know-how to become a broker.
Focusing on the commercial space, particularly asset finance and agriculture, Arch has benefited greatly from his diverse experience.
“My clients include growers of wheat, rice, cotton, cherries, almonds, stone fruit, oranges, stock, fish and vegetables,” he said.
But more than local knowledge, his long-standing connection to the community has seen Arch continue to deliver for the town’s people.
“I love helping farmers, I know what farming hardships are like, and people know that I’ve been ‘in the trenches’ and I’m not some fly by night adviser.
“In the country you get to know people at a much deeper level, both because of the smaller community and simply that you cross paths more often.
“I see a lot of my clients at school functions, out at dinner or playing sport, so I’m constantly in touch, and I have a big Christmas party every year to enjoy everyone’s company on a social level.
“Hell, some of my clients play in my local basketball side and come to my fitness boot camps (another small business run). I call them my ‘triple dippers’.”
For Arch, word of mouth and good relationships are everything, and he intends that this will always be the case.
“Many people I have known my whole life, and I know many of my clients and their parents, kids and even grandparents. These people are like family, so helping them from a business perspective is a real pleasure.
“I’m pretty entrenched out here, my connection to the local community is strong, and I can’t see that ever changing.”