Brazilian-born Fabio De Castro moved to Australia when he was just 17. After learning English while working as a kitchenhand, the expat went on to become a chef, a BDM and finally, a broker.
Residing in the northern beaches of Sydney, De Castro made 19 in last year’s Top 100, writing more than $96m in settlements during the 2019 financial year.
He says making yourself accountable to a strict set of goals can keep you on track and moving forward.
Trading BDM for broker
About four years ago, De Castro was working as a BDM for AMP in its broker channel.
Dealing with about 500 brokers and seeing their businesses inside and out, De Castro recognised a gap in the market that he was keen to fill.
“I thought brokers were very transactional.”
“When dealing with them it was always based on the best interest rate and cashbacks and things like that.”
“I thought there was a market for me to start a business and change that sort of mentality; to have a long-term relationship with clients and structure their loans correctly, creating wealth through property.”
His financial planning background also played a big part in this.
“We joined Oxygen which has a relationship with McGrath Real Estate.”
“The primary reason was to use that as a stepping stone to have relationships with real estate agencies.”
“I’m still with Oxygen and I love it.”
“You’re self-employed but you’re part of the group.”
The transition from BDM to running a small business
De Castro says the biggest challenge he has faced as a broker was the transition to being self-employed.
“It was really about adapting to becoming self-employed after working in a corporate role for so long.”
“There’s no one else around you telling you what your targets are, so you have to set them yourself and keep yourself in check.”
“It can be quite stressful to run a small business, especially in the beginning when you’re looking at cashflow – and it takes about three months to get your first payments.”
He overcame this by setting himself tasks and making sure he followed them through, just as would have needed to in a PAYG job.
“I set myself monthly targets on applications lodged and settled, and I always make myself accountable by measuring that.”
A strategy for success
De Castro says one of the biggest highlights he has had so far was during his first 15 months when the business settled $57m in loans. Since he started out with no database, this was a huge number to achieve within his early days on the job.
Since then, the business has done consistently well.
“When you look at the business, we have been growing 20-30% year on year since we started.”
Leveraging his relationships with real estate agents to provide value to them has also been another highlight.
To new brokers, De Castro says it is important to have a business plan and make yourself accountable.
“Map out your first three months, your first six months, your first 12 months and the first two years of your business.”
“Have a really good structure as to where you want to be at each stage of your business and force yourself to be there. Don’t be complacent on those targets.”
“You need to visualise that and look at it on a monthly basis at least.”
He says understanding your target market is key, adding that many brokers don’t know what their true motivation is for entering the profession.
Once you know what excites you about mortgage broking, it becomes easier to identify your client demographic as well as who you are competing with.
Cooking to decompress
After moving to Australia by himself when he was just 17, De Castro went on to work as a chef after a couple of years as a kitchenhand.
While his career path has changed since then, he says he still has a real passion for cooking.
“Every night, that’s how I switch off.”
“I go to the kitchen and cook myself dinner.”
“That makes me relax and not think about work. It helps me decompress so that I can sleep and work again the