A decade is a long time in anyone’s language, let alone when you run your own business. As we celebrate Pure Finance’s 10th birthday, we thought: what better time to do a little rapid fire Q&A with our Founder + Managing Director, Brendan Dixon, than while he’s blowing out the candles after ten years building this business? (That doesn’t count as one of the questions...)
Thanks for sitting down with us, Brendo! Tell us what made you want to start Pure Finance in the first place?
What seems like many years ago now, I was working in a bank helping people with home loans. I learned, over time, that banks were not only slow to move on new ideas but I felt like a lot of customers were getting lost in the system or getting shuffled around from department to department. I also kind of felt like banks were obsessed with ‘new customers’ instead of taking care of their existing ones and deepening that relationship, and I saw the opportunity to fill a gap in the market where customers could just deal with the one person for any loan they needed at any time. It was also really male-dominated, toxic and ‘jobs for the boys’, and I just didn’t want to work (and live) like that.
And whilst this may sound a little like ‘bank-bashing’, it’s not. It was simply a case of me a) never feeling like I fit into a corporate environment and b) seeing an opportunity to create something different.
That makes sense! What was your original vision for the organisation and how is that different to what Pure Finance has evolved into right now?
The vision was always to provide a better and more holistic service than the banks do, and to help customers along their financial journey from their first car all the way to retirement. This still holds true, but we have an even greater emphasis on caring for our community, the environment, and people in general. We don’t put profits before people, we donate to causes we care about, we walk the talk, and I’m so proud to be a finance company doing all of that.
Can you tell us a little more about the kinds of people that Pure Finance was set up to support?
From day one, I wanted Pure Finance to help the people who were getting left behind or falling through the cracks. My experience in banking was that if there was a potential customer who had a difficult financial situation - say bad credit, people who are self-employed, or someone on a low wage - and supporting them was going to require a lot of time and effort, then I would see that those people wouldn't get a call back. Of course not always, but I would often see people in these circumstances whose files were effectively ‘put in a bottom drawer’.
So, I started the business by saying to partners like real estate agents or financial advisers, ‘send me your bottom drawer clients’! We essentially built our reputation by putting our hand up and saying ‘you know all the hard ones, I'll take them’, and we’re still here so I guess it worked!
Oh, and there's always something interesting in the 'bottom drawer’, isn’t there? So, can you give us some hope that the industry is slowly changing?
Absolutely. The industry has improved a lot since I started in it, as a result of things like the introduction of a national set of consumer protection laws back in 2010. And banks and finance companies are starting to slowly understand the impact (for good and for bad) that they can have on communities and the environment. Whether that is driven by more conscious consumers, looking for ethical lenders, or whether it’s self-serving - I’m not so sure.
There are good and bad in every industry, and the Hayne Royal Commission really highlighted that for the mortgage broking and financial services industries.
That said, we are now in a time where the current Government is getting rid of responsible lending laws, which will ultimately cause damage to those who are less financially literate. Overall, we’ve always done business the way we think it should be done, with total transparency and ethics, and so the industry changes never make much of a difference to what we do because we’re always trying to do right by our people and planet in the first place.
Where does that passion for doing the ‘right thing’ and supporting people who get left behind come from?
I come from quite a working class family and had hard work drilled into me. And I also just had a lot of different experiences in different industries and roles where you get a good sense of what things are like for other people. I draw on that a lot and realise that I'm pretty f*cking privileged to be doing this work.
If I had to put it down to anything, I think it's just from looking around at where I grew up in Perth and seeing a lot of people, not on high incomes, struggling to get a house. And then I would see the joy when they did finally get one, and I wanted more people to have that. In some ways, owning your own home is just a very simple thing. And it's a big goal for almost everyone, particularly in Australia.
And despite what the doom and gloomers are saying, it seems that the demand for housing is not going anywhere anytime soon. So, what’s surprised you about running your own business?
That there’s always something to do! No, it’d have to be the countless opportunities to help people and the positive response we get every day to our business model. I certainly have moments where I think about how far we’ve come, how much we are able to donate regularly, how well we take care of and remunerate our growing team, and it’s nice to be part of that. I'm always surprised and humbled by how supportive our customers are, and the willingness of the team around me to help each other.
The last thing I’d say on this is that I find it funny when customers always want more for their property when they're selling than what it's worth, and then they always want a bargain when they’re buying! I get it - but it doesn’t quite add up, does it?
True! You mentioned that you like to reflect on how far Pure Finance has come every now and then. What are some of the things that you are most proud of having accomplished in these last 10 years?
Getting the business to a place where it’s completely self-sustaining, without the need to pay referral fees or chase referral partners. Don’t get me wrong - we love working with other businesses and taking care of mutual customers - but getting the business to a stage where we are busy all year, every year (even during a pandemic), off our own bats gives me a real sense of accomplishment.
If you could go back to day one, when you lodged the papers to register the business, what words of advice would you give yourself?
Trust that the business will deliver and enjoy the good moments when they happen.
What have been some of the hardest lessons to learn?
That the hardest things in business are rarely to do with the work itself, but more to do with people. Hiring the ‘wrong’ people can really set you back. In my experience, the very best people that I’ve found, and currently work with, are all people from outside of the finance industry.
I’m pretty resilient now, and I just tend to rationalise a lot of things and think: ‘what's the worst thing that can happen, you know?’
If we were sitting here in another 10 years, while we can’t guarantee that people will still read blogs, what would be your wildest dreams for what Pure Finance could achieve?
To be honest - more of the same, but lots bigger! I never thought I wanted to grow this big business, but now that I can see how much impact we can create with this model, I’ve got a taste for it.
I hope the future looks like great people doing amazing things, and using our very privileged position to help others and give as much as we can to people and the planet.
And there you have it! 10 questions, and 10 answers, from 10 years in business from our very own Brendan Dixon.
If you would like to be part of the impact we’re building here at Pure Finance and want someone to take care of your loan - we’d love to hear from you!