International Women’s Day

At AFG, we’re celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #ChooseToChallenge by highlighting the achievements and challenges overcome by women in finance. 

Get to know some of our industry’s best and brightest and how they started building their careers in finance – their wisdom and advice is sure to inspire you.

IWD 2021

Katrina Rowlands – Owner and Managing Director, Mortgage Success
Shirley Elliot – National Compliance Manager, AFG
Gill McLean – Director, Dream Freedom Financial


Meet Katrina Rowlands – Owner and Managing Director of Mortgage Success.

There is a saying on a magnet I have in my home – “Well behaved women rarely change history”. Do I want to be well behaved, or do I want to change history?

Katrina Rowlands

With 36 years’ experience in finance, Katrina is a leader, mentor, and stalwart to her industry with a generous spirit that gives back at every opportunity.

Here’s how Katrina answered our questions on this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #ChooseToChallenge.  

What is one challenge you faced early in your career, and how did you overcome it?

At the beginning of my career as a broker, there was a lot of after-hours appointments in homes and this was non-negotiable. I felt guilty at times that I challenged my priorities and didn’t always get it right. I worried that my attention needed to be so focussed on my clients that I was neglecting my family.

I realised that I was so busy thinking of how I felt that I didn’t actually ask my family for their input or understanding of what I did and why.

I took time to explain to the whole family what I did and how they were benefiting from this career and life choice too, and they actually really understood. We decided we should ALL be more involved together with clearer communication – I have to say that my husband has always been my biggest proudest supporter.

What advice do you have for others in the finance industry?

Know you are a professional and act like it – intentionally. This covers a plethora of responsibilities and accountability in your career, as well as to your own education and industry involvement.

Challenge yourself from the front and head on and laugh a lot. Use “why not” instead of “why”. Say ” I don’t know yet, but I would love to learn”.


Shirley Elliot is our National Compliance Manager at AFG.

Compliance in our industry requires innovative thought to ensure that change is handled practically in a way that enables growth without compromising quality. I enjoy the challenge of regulatory change or reform.

Shirley Elliot

With 23 years’ experience in finance, Shirley is the Co-Stream lead for the CIF Mortgage Broking Industry Code and President of the MFAA Compliance and Regulatory Forum.

Her compliance experience has also given her the opportunity to sit on the WA Women’s Football Board for the last 5 years (she loves football and is the mother of an aspiring AFLW star!)

Here’s how Shirley answered our questions on this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #ChooseToChallenge.

What is one challenge you faced early in your career, and how did you overcome it?

At the time when I was starting a family, I was worried about how I would juggle my career and be a good parent and role model for my daughter.

Since becoming a Mum and returning to work after maternity leave, I have learnt that achieving my career goals is still possible – I just need to find the right balance between my personal and professional commitments, so that I don’t spread myself too thin.

Having a good support network is also important, and I am grateful for the many people that have supported me over the years.

What advice do you have for others in the finance industry?

Pick a company that has leadership and values that resonate with your own – these will both play an important part in your career’s development.


Gill McLean has a passion for building new businesses.

Don’t be afraid to challenge the norm with respect, dignity, and an open mind.

Gill McLean

She was first introduced into the broking world after years of experience working in banking with the teams at Challenge Bank, Bank Of Melbourne, and Macquarie Bank.

Gill went on to lead Moneyquest Australia as Managing Director for 6 years and Capita Finance Solutions as General Manager, growing both of these businesses from the ground up.   Today, she runs her own business and has not looked back since!

Here’s how Gill answered our questions on this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #ChooseToChallenge.

What is one challenge you faced early in your career, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge in the early stages of my career was being taken seriously as someone who can contribute and make a difference. I realised that I needed a mentor to find the courage to stand up, be bold, and do things differently.

What advice do you have for others in the finance industry?

Believe in yourself, be true to your personal values, and always look for opportunities every day to improve yourself and contribute to other people’s lives.  

Women in Broking: Amber Linzner, AKL Finance Group in Victoria

Last, but by no means least, in our Women in Broking series, we interview Amber Linzner, Founding Director and Senior Mortgage Advisor of AKL Finance Group, in Melbourne, VIC.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a mortgage advisor?

When I started as a mortgage advisor’s personal assistant 11 years ago my aim was to learn about the industry, gain some experience and then become a business development manager for a major bank. But once I was working in the industry for six or so months, and gained some experience, I decided the mortgage advisor role had so many different aspects that excited me, that I would make this my long-term career.

What challenges did you face when starting out or along the way?

Being a commission-based industry, mortgage broking can be very hard when you first start.

Instead of going straight on to commission only, I spent my first two to three years working as an employee and increasing my knowledge. My then-employer changed the structure from having employee mortgage advisors to contracted mortgage advisors, so I if I wanted to stay I really had to back myself and become a contracted commission-only advisor. It was very scary but worth it.

I was also very young, working in an established area with high-net-worth clients. I found the easiest way to get past this was to upskill myself quickly on reading financials and structuring more complex loans.

I wasn’t deterred if I didn’t know something. I didn’t let it rock my confidence in front of clients. I would tell the client that I would need to clarify this with the lender and come back to them.

Which aspect of your role do you love the most?

I love checking in with my clients a month after settlement, when they are relaxed and enjoying their decision to purchase a home or investment property. I love hearing how happy they are that they made the decision to buy when they did.

I also love revaluing customer’s properties a couple of years later when their properties have increased in value.

Describe your career highlight to date and what it meant to you.

Early in my career, I worked as a mortgage broker with a real-estate-owned mortgage broking business. I was 28 and one of only two women. I approached our founding director and board members to express my desire to take on the general manager role and build the business. To their credit, they gave me a go and I ended up managing the business for two-and-a-half years. It meant a lot to me that the board, which was made up of six men – all established and successful real estate directors – saw something in me and gave me the opportunity. The relationships and opportunities that role provided me still serve me today.

Why should other women consider a career in the mortgage industry?

Being a mortgage broker provides you with so much opportunity. It gives you the knowledge that is invaluable in life and with your own financial situation.

You can choose to work within someone else’s business or be your own boss and create your own business. You also have the opportunity to create passive income by building your own trail book, which in turn can give you flexibility with working hours at different stages of life.

What makes a good mortgage broker?

You need to be able to listen to what your clients need and want, and you must be able to communicate clearly, with no jargon.

If I have learnt anything in 11 years it has been to follow up, follow up and follow up.

You must constantly learn. I have always spent time with other brokers who are more experienced than me and asked questions and asked for help

In your view, why is it important to have a mix of male and female mortgage brokers?

Men and women bring different skills and strengths. Clients have very different needs at different stages of life. For example, a woman going through a divorce probably requires a gentler, softer approach. Having a balance of male and female mortgage advisors helps cater to this, while also ensuring a diverse industry and business.

Women in Broking: Katrina Rowlands, Mortgage Success in New South Wales

Our Women in Broking series continues with an interview with Katrina Rowlands, director of Mortgage Success, in Wollongong, NSW.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a mortgage advisor?

The fact that I could self-manage my time, as a broker, and self-manage my success really appealed to me. I had been told in my previous company role it would be difficult for me to move into senior management because I was pregnant with twins. Someone else decided to limit my abilities due to babies! I also loved that I could really help people personally and enjoyed the challenge of helping all parties win in a transaction.

I loved the challenge of helping all parties win in a transaction, especially difficult matters in which I could dissect and discover issues and solutions. I started with clients who others left behind, which was a fantastic learning curve and so rewarding. To this day, I love helping the client who has good character and strong integrity, but maybe their life has had a hiccup or two.

What challenges did you face when starting out or along the way?

Pretty obviously – managing the birth of twin daughters whilst already having two other children and learning a brand new role. Challenges of meeting all of my life priorities at once is a continued aspect of my life but pretty happy with how things have gone so far. Gaining the confidence of key partners in such a young industry was an initial challenge 20 years ago. All these years later I still have a lot of my original network working with me.

The ongoing challenges have been around multiple changes going on for too long, I really am looking forward to just focussing for a while back on clients rather than the constantly changing paperwork. One of my pet issues now is the total lack of bank service consistency – seriously since starting this business I have gone from 2 day approvals (best I ever had was from submission to unconditional prior to upfront valuations in 4 hours) now we are being told to manage with 10 day approvals and we have done all the work upfront. I am not finished with this issue yet – trust me. It just isn’t good enough and I am really not sure how we have allowed this to happen.

Which aspect of your role do you love the most?

I love making a difference and helping people achieve their dreams and success in such a huge part of their life. I love really talking to people, understanding what they really want and helping them visualise it and then experience it.

I appreciate strong support from my lending partners when I ask for help, and who care as much as I do about an individual client who deserves that extra touch.  I love this industry and my friends in it – from business partners to lenders and clients.

Describe your career highlight to date and what it meant to you.

I believe my best is still to come, especially with family coming through our company.

I am incredibly proud of being named AFG’s first Hall of Fame recipient and the first Women in Business award recipient, as well as having the first Scholarship for Women in Mortgage Broking named after me, which has allowed me to work with wonderful new entrants to the industry.

Why should other women consider a career in the mortgage industry?

Being a mortgage broker requires empathy. You have to hear more than words when a client tells you their story.  You need to be able to encourage a client to be honest and ask them to trust you to guide them. I really believe that to build and hold a strong book you need to constantly nurture your clients and respond to them according to their changing needs.

Managing someone else’s priorities ahead of your own is a constant reality. Managing compromise and enjoying someone else’s success is all part of the game. Having the respect of the industry, good remuneration and flexible self-managed work hours (in most cases) allows you to be the best you can be.

In your view, why is it important to have a mix of male and female mortgage brokers?

I love working with my peers and hearing their viewpoints. We all think slightly differently and I realise some of that is gender, but also regional versus metro thinking and old versus young thinking, and banking background versus new-to-industry thinking. Having a great mix of males and females is crucial to any industry.

Women in Broking: Marissa Schulze, Rise High Financial Solutions in South Australia

Following in our Women in Broking series, we interview Marissa Schulze, Director and Mortgage & Finance Adviser of Rise High Financial Solutions, in Adelaide, SA.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a mortgage advisor?

Before becoming a mum I was working in Commercial Banking. I loved my job but once I became a mum I needed more flexibility than what the bank could offer me.

I started my career as a mortgage broker because I wanted a flexible career that would be stimulating and rewarding, and allow me to balance my family and work life.

I was an active and experienced property investor and loved everything about property. I wanted to help others achieve what I had achieved through property investment.

I wanted to be able to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

What challenges did you face when starting out or along the way?

Having come from commercial banking where I was the only female Senior Relationship Manager in the SA commercial bank this was nothing new to me. I have become very used to working in male dominated spaces since the beginning of my career. I think commercial banking is far more male dominated and stereotypical than broking.

I believe the mortgage broking industry is doing a really good job of attracting women. I love the fact high-performing female brokers are showing the way and being celebrated for their success.

Which aspect of your role do you love the most?

There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the look on a client’s face when they have achieved a goal they never thought possible, and knowing that I helped them get there.

Describe your career highlight to date and what it meant to you.

Winning the 2015 South Australia Telstra Business Women’s Entrepreneur Award was recognition not only of me as a broker but as a successful business owner who is making a difference to Australians.

Why should other women consider a career in the mortgage industry?

Mortgage broking is a wonderful career for women. It’s flexible and rewarding, both financially and emotionally, and I think women have an ability to connect to clients emotionally, which makes them good at their job.

What makes a good mortgage broker?

Someone who cares deeply for their client’s wellbeing and is not in it for the money.

In your view, why is it important to have a mix of male and female mortgage brokers?

Every client is different and will want different things from you, as their broker. Just as it’s important for clients to have a choice of lenders and products, it’s extremely important to have a diverse range of brokers so each client can find the perfect one for them.

Women in Broking: Michelle Towner, Towner Finance in Western Australia

Following in our Women in Broking series, we interview Michelle Towner, director of Towner Finance, in Perth, WA.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a mortgage advisor?

There was no one thing that inspired me and to be honest I almost fell into the industry. In 2000 we were buying a property and were referred to a local mortgage broker who came out for a chat. We had never dealt with a mortgage broker before and did not know what to expect but, as is required, we needed to give the broker a lot of supporting documentation and at the end of the meeting she was amazed at just how quickly I was able to produce whatever she needed.

This led to a conversation about organisation and efficiency and whether or not I would be interested in becoming a mortgage broker. Within two months I had joined the industry and quickly realised it was one of the best decisions I had ever made.

What challenges did you face when starting out or along the way?

I don’t remember ever feeling excluded or being treated differently because of my gender but can remember going to industry functions in the early days and being one of the very few females in the room.

I have never considered that being a female is a barrier to entry or impediment to success and have just been myself, which seems to have worked well.

Which aspect of your role do you love the most?

It might sound like a cliché but I can honestly say that there is nothing more rewarding than helping our clients achieve their financial objectives. Making that phone call to let them know their loan is approved, still gives me so much joy. It has never been about the money – in fact, I don’t think about what each lender pays for commission. The only thing that matters is arranging finance for our clients that truly works for them.

If you are doing it for the right reasons the money will come.

Describe your career highlight to date and what it meant to you.

It was a while ago now, being acknowledged by the MFAA as the best broker in Australia under 30 in 2006 was a proud moment for me – that was a tangible validation that the effort I had put in over those early years was worthwhile.

More recently is starting Towner Finance and seeing the amazing success I have received in such a short period of time and the number of referrals that are flowing in from new clients to Towner Finance.

Why should other women consider a career in the mortgage industry?

I don’t think it matters if you are male or female… if you have the right attributes, are organised and have the ability to keep things moving along on multiple fronts at once this is a very rewarding industry on so many levels.

What makes a good mortgage broker?

Organisation, empathy and an ability to multitask definitely helps. It is also important to be a people person because personal relationships matter not only when assisting clients and working to help them achieve their dreams but building and maintaining strong relationships with key people at each of the lenders can free up channels of communication and allow you to get things done quickly.

Keeping abreast of lender policy is also a critical aspect of being a great broker. We hear a lot of stories about brokers who do no more than punch some details into their software and offer the client only the options that are returned. Maintaining a thorough knowledge of lender policies can allow you to get deals, which may appear difficult at first glance, across the line.

In your view, why is it important to have a mix of male and female mortgage brokers?

As in any area of life, I believe it takes men and women working together to make the world go around.

Women in Broking: Bridget Headland, Vision Money in Queensland

In the first of our Women in Broking series, we interview Bridget Headland, founder and director of her own financial brokerage, Vision Money, operating in Darwin and Brisbane.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a mortgage advisor?

I worked within the finance industry, a different role to start with and then I was offered a position within the broker world – I leapt at it. The thought of being able to run my own show, be responsible for my own sales and work with clients that were looking to ‘beat the banks’ put a smile on my face.

What challenges did you face when starting out or along the way?

The start is always the hardest, finding my networking feet, telling people what I was doing and also focusing on the long-term approach that you have to have in this industry is hard. Creating trust with clients and referrals is something that takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. Being a young, blonde (at the time), female starting out in the broker industry had its challenges… Starting out had its challenges. I had to ask people to put their trust in me and my knowledge of the trade, which takes time. But now, after eight years, I have no need to advertise. I receive all my business via word of mouth, repeat business and some great business connections.

Which aspect of your role do you love the most?

I’ve managed to surround myself with some very successful people within the broker and property worlds. Working with these people doesn’t feel like a job! I also have some great staff and clients – people who truly value my time and who I enjoy being around.

Describe your career highlight to date and what it meant to you.

Before starting my own brokerage Vision Money, I worked with one of the largest mortgage broking companies within Australia. I managed to secure some great accolades and used the skill sets learned to help me open the door to my own business – we now have 3 offices located across Australia. Since bringing AFG on board as an aggregator I was able to join them on the Chairman’s Club Trip, this was an absolute highlight. This topped off a big year for Vision by where both myself and Vision were recognised as a Telstra Business Finalist within Australia.

Why should other women consider a career in the mortgage industry?

The industry is rewarding and engaging and, as a new mum, allows me to have great flexibility. I’ve been fortunate enough to take my daughter into the office from three weeks old, the port-a-cot was set up out the back and some clients were none the wiser about the sleeping baby!

What makes a good mortgage broker?

A good mortgage broker is personable, honest and willing to go that extra mile. Communication is key – if a client needs to follow you up then I believe you have failed at your job!

These days clients don’t want someone who is flashy and showy. They want someone they can relate to and to get honest feedback and information.

When I chat with my clients and I’m discussing a certain product or service, I like them to know I have tried it first. If it’s good enough for me, my family and my friends, they can be rest assured I’m talking from experience.

In your view, why is it important to have a mix of male and female mortgage brokers?

It’s the same within any industry: you need diversification – different genres, backgrounds and belief systems. Not everyone will be able to relate to a male broker, just like not everyone will want to work with or can relate to a female broker.

I do believe that as a female broker you tend to be able to empathise with the female client who wants to protect her home, her nest, and ensure it’s the best thing for her family.

It’s my opinion that having both genders in the broker world creates innovation and enhances the services we provide back to the client.