Renee Edwards used to be a clown
Yes, you read that right. Renee’s first job was a festival clown. A role that combined her passion for dancing, singing, entertaining and making people happy.
From festival clown to Aussie Mortgage Broker, Renee’s passion for helping people and wanting to make them happy has remained a strong part of who she is personally and professionally.
“After being a festival clown, I moved into the hospitality industry where I worked for 20 years including various places overseas running and working in pubs, clubs and restaurants. I loved it! I’ve always had a love for helping people and being customer facing. Which, of course eventuated into where I am now”.
Growing up on the Murray River, Renee now lives and works in Sunbury, Victoria with her husband Tom and their adopted English Staffie, Abby. Renee has been in the industry for over six years now and although sometimes finding it challenging, has relished in the role of being a mortgage broker, just recently going next level by increasing her business by 60% in 2018.
Bricks and mortar
Renee realised her love for bricks and mortar in her early 20s. Everything to do with the housing industry, buying, selling, renovating – Renee would drive monthly from Echuca to Melbourne to attend as many seminars and workshops as possible. Renee couldn’t learn enough about it.
It wasn’t until Renee was 38 years old when she attended one of these seminars and listened to a woman named Medine Simmonds talk about what it meant to be a ‘Mortgage Broker’. Renee had never heard the term before, let alone knew what it entailed, but after listening to the presentation, Renee knew mortgage broking was exactly what she wanted and needed to do in her life. She set up an appointment with Medine that very week to find out what was required to become qualified.
From then on, Renee was determined to learn everything there was to know about lending – and be able to provide people a service that made sense to them.
“I wanted to be able to explain to people about the processes and the policies in a language they could understand…without the jargon”.
Determined to get her start
After deciding to become a mortgage broker, Renee admits to annoying a lot of people and asking a lot of questions until eventually she got her start in the industry with Aussie and became qualified to do what she loved.
“I put all the aggregators I knew into a spreadsheet and went and saw each one of them. I walked in and I said, I want a job and I don’t care if I you only pay me $500 a week, I just want a start in this industry”.
A Bali wedding and the incident that changed her life
In 2016, Renee and her husband tied the knot in Bali surrounded by their family and friends. Four days after the wedding, Renee and her husband were to start their honeymoon when something completely unexpected happened.
They were hit by motorbikes (three of them in total) – both completely taken out. Her husband was left with a broken left ankle, broken wrist and Renee almost had her left foot amputated in the accident resulting in permanent nerve damage.
During the happiest time of their lives, they were left to face a living nightmare. Once, back home in Australia, the travel insurance was finished and the reality set in that they didn’t have a plan B. Renee was self-employed, her husband an armed security officer unable to return to work until he had clearance to fire a revolver – he is right handed and broken his right wrist.
Renee spent three months in a wheelchair, followed by three long months of gruelling rehabilitation including having to learn how to walk again – Renee was at Royal Melbourne hospital five days a week determined to get back to running her business.
“It was a nightmare. I tried to go through my Superannuation to get some financial help, but it was impossible. Tom couldn’t receive Centrelink because it ‘was possible’ for him to return to work in 12 weeks’ time. Every single road we turned down, we would face another nightmare. I was trying to keep my business afloat in a wheelchair and there were just so many expenses – parking at the hospital was $32 an hour and I was there for rehab five days a week and we had absolutely no income coming in”.
“We were lucky in the sense that we had an investment property which we could sell to keep our heads above water, but that took time and we still had our home and investment loans to cover. Those repayments didn’t stop, I look back now and just don’t know how we survived”. Renee’s mother moved in with them and was an absolute godsend. “She helped cook, clean, bathe us and run me to all appointments and rehab until Tom was able to drive. We would have been lost without my mum (and dad) and Tom’s Mother who were able to help - but even they were pensioners, so it was really difficult for them too”.
Offering MPP helps Renee sleep at night
Renee admits to being blasé about Aussie’s Mortgage Protection Plan before the accident. While MPP may not have changed the outcome for her situation, Renee had never realised what it could mean to someone going through a traumatic event like having Cancer or suffering a Heart Attack. Having gone through such a horrific time in her and her husband’s life and having little in the way of a plan B, Renee makes sure every one of her customers is educated on MPP.
“We were so happy, just married and in the prime of our lives, on our way to start our honeymoon. I could never have predicted something like that would happen. The reality is, things like this do happen and being able to educate my clients and tell them my story – it helps me sleep at night. I have every customer walk me through their back-up plan and when they say they have cover in their Superannuation, I ask them to really investigate that. I mean, do people actually know the process for accessing funds prior to retirement?”.
Some cover is better than no cover
Renee begins educating her customers about MPP from their very first meeting. When they are breaking down their finances and all the fees and repayments they can expect, Renee includes MPP in the repayments and works with her customers to find a level of cover they can afford.
“I follow up with an email detailing clearly, everything we spoke about in the meeting. I include a lot of information about MPP and the brochure too, so they are fully aware of it and how it will work and why I’m including it. It’s usually at their doc signing that I play them they appropriate video from the video brochure and let them make the decision”.
Using the flexibility of MPP to her advantage, Renee works with her customers to find a quote to suit them.
“Not everyone is able to take out full cover, that’s why it’s so great being able to offer different variations of cover to suit them. The customer is still getting cover, and we can all be rest assured knowing there’s a back-up plan in place”.
Renee still recalls her very first customer. Having just completed a Diploma of Finance and Mortgage Broking Management, Renee took her first phone call at Aussie to book in an appointment.
“I even remember trying to weasel out of the appointment with the Franchisee owner Jason Rohde because I was so scared of messing things up, but he gave me some great advice and said, “Take a note pad and pen, go have a chat and find out what they want to do”.
“I’ve been doing that ever since. I go out and see them, we drink coffee, eat Tim Tams and soon discover they have four properties to refinance and want to purchase another. I couldn’t even understand my own notes and hadn’t even heard of the word ‘Refinance’ - I had to google it when I got home. It was my ‘Ah ha’ moment when I realised, I could really help Australian families move forward in much better position…I didn’t need to have all the answers, I just had to start asking questions…and find the solution”.
Biggest challenge was the greatest joy
Renee was given a referral to a gentleman who desperately needed help. He had recently and quite quickly lost his wife to Cancer, endured a triple bypass surgery in the same year – all the while, trying to maintain a full-time job and take care of his two dependent daughters.
Renee recalls how challenging the loan was to write, it was also the emotional toll of helping him to just keep going and not give up which played heavy on her mind.
“It was my greatest joy to see him come out the other side. He now has his feet firmly planted, his youngest daughter is in Grade 6 and the eldest is off to University this year. They have also just returned from an overseas holiday. Hearing this brought happy tears to my eyes”.