John Watts 0418 716 033
I started Astute North QLD because I was disappointed with the way Banks had done away with ‘Old School’ bank managers that expressed compassion, knowledge and authority. So we developed a company to fill the gap. I believe the best thing we do is explain the process to the customer in a simple and easy manner; it is this philosophy that has made Astute North QLD the success it is today. 13 years on and with a number of subsidiary companies, I now lead a team of 22 who continue to make the process of getting finance easy.
In 2005 my wife Orla and I established a Port office, followed by an Atherton office in 2006 and a Beaches office at Campus Village in 2009.
Originally born and raised in South-West Queensland, I went to school at Churchie as a boarder in Brisbane. After school I worked in Gove NT, the Kimberly’s WA and Barcaldine Central Queensland, working in the mining and rural industries. I then moved to Toowomba to work in Real Estate as an Auctioneer and Salesperson, moving back to Cairns in 1996 to continue my real estate career with First National.
I believe it is my diverse background that makes me good at what I do. I can easily relate to people of all walks of life and genuinely enjoys getting to know my clients. If you want to deal with someone the way bank managers were in the old days, contact us.
Orla Watts 07 4041 3100
In the year 2000 John and I started Astute North QLD together because we felt there was a real need for a better service that was being offered then the banks.
With a background in Insurance, my management expertise combined with John’s real estate background made for the perfect foundation with which to establish a mortgage broking business.
Originally from Cork, Ireland I came to Cairns in 1996 for a holiday. Soon after I met John and decided to make Australia my new home. Working side by side for the past 12 years, John and I have established successful sister offices in Port Douglas, Atherton, and Cairns Beaches.
I’m passionate about the image of our offices and look after them, ensuring we exceed all of the standards set by the regulatory bodies and our affiliates.
Prue Swenson 07 4041 3100
I was born in country Victoria but left there when I was two years old with my family to travel and work our way around Australia. When we came to Cairns my parents loved it so much that they decided to stay. I married a born and bred local and am well and truly settled in with my own family and love the North Queensland lifestyle and what it has to offer.
I have been part of the Astute North Queensland team since 2011 and I work closely with Gus and Liam. My role is to look after our clients after settlement to ensure we stay in touch, review their loans and make adjustments accordingly as their needs change and portfolios grow.
Donnie Martin 0400 705 669
I made the move to Cairns after holidaying here in 1984. Sound familiar? Many people I meet come to Cairns on holidays and never leave.
I first worked for the ANZ Bank in Charters Towers, and when I moved to Cairns I worked for the Electricity Credit Union, Mercantile Credit and then AGC.
My father (Clarrie Clocker Martin) introduced me to the Motor Industry in 1987 and I have enjoyed a fantastic 23 years servicing the Cairns and Far North in Motor Sales and Management. Prior to commencing work at Astute North QLD I was the Business Finance Manager at Australian Motor Group for 11 years.
Already having a passion for customer service, and vast lending experience, I took up the offer as Lending Manager here at Astute North QLD, operating out of the Cairns office.
With the knowledge I have gained from years of business experience, it is our mission to provide a prompt, trustworthy service to the people of Cairns and beyond who are looking for finance, not just cars – the possibilities are endless.
If you are ready to buy, just looking, or merely want some advice, please give me a call.
Cath Allen 07 4041 3100
I came to Cairns in 1999 for a three-month holiday – that was 15 years ago! I fell in love with Cairns and have had many years working in customer oriented businesses within Cairns, mainly in Hospitality and Business Management.
I have been part of the Astute crew now for 4 years and really enjoy the great office atmosphere and vision that John Watts has created. I feel really lucky to have been offered a position with Astute North Queensland as a Key Assistant to both our Risk Advisers. My main role is to help ensure our clients have a simple and hassle free experience when dealing with us.
Gus Soper 0400 636 953
My 10 years with Astute North QLD has shown me that people love to deal with like-minded, approachable people. Just getting things done without the fuss has proven a far better approach than the way lending is often done in bank world.
Back in the day I started my working career in sales management. This taught me the importance of customer service, building relationships and delivering the right solutions and results for my clients.
It’s these foundations that have contributed to my success in the mortgage broking industry. Over my time I believe I have delivered some great results for my clients, working as their Lending Specialist and an Advisor. I have a strong commitment to all my clients and love to meet new people from all walks of life. Whether it is sport, travel, camping or kids, there are very few people I meet with that I can’t find some common ground with and help.
I am a fully accredited ASIC licenced broker with a Certificate IV in Financial Services and a Diploma in Mortgage Finance. I also hold all the necessary individual accreditations with the Banks and the MFAA.
Liam Busby 0414 763 071
Back in 2005 when I was arranging our home loan, little did I know that 8 years down the track I’d be joining the Astute North Queensland team and working as a qualified Lending Manager.
My wife and I came to Cairns in 2004 planning to stay for just one year, fell in love with the place, now more than 10 years and 3 kids later we’re proud to call Far North Queensland home. My recent history consists of 9 years in the local Aviation industry in an operational role, and previously in the Tourism industry in New Zealand. I love my sport, whether it’s out on the ground or from the comfort of my couch. Running is something I enjoy, but should do more of as I work towards running a marathon in the not too distant future.
My aim is to put you at ease with the whole lending process, it can be daunting, but it’s our job to make sure it isn’t. Having been through the lending process myself for my home and investment properties I fully appreciate what people go through when they apply for lending. I will offer you a professional, honest and informative service as we work through your lending requirements.
If you’d like to chat with someone who is down to earth and cares about customer service then please give me a call.
Kin Fei Chan 0412 340 257
As a lending specialist, it is my commitment to provide you with a professional and personalised service and to deliver the mortgage solution that best suits you needs. Our home loan services are free of charge to the borrower, and with no obligation, so come in and have a chat whether you are new to home ownership, looking at buying an investment property or wish to refinance your current mortgage.
With a Malaysian Chinese background, I am able to speak four languages fluently (English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay). I migrated to Australia in 2005 and completed a bachelor degree at the University of Queensland. I joined Astute North QLD after having experienced the exceptional service provided by this company. I embrace the opportunity of being the only Asian finance broker in the region.
Having been through the buying process myself, I understand that purchasing a home can be frustrating and confusing, especially if you are buying your first home. My job is to guide you through the process and give you the support you need to make it an easy, smooth and stress-free experience. I look after all the paperwork and liaise with other key parties including your conveyancer, real estate agent, builder and valuer. Having access to a full range of mortgage products and staying up to date with the latest rate movement, I will find you the right home loan with best features and competitive rates. So let me share your excitement of getting your dream home or investment property.
Damian Condon 0408 486 608
After 26 years and various management roles with ANZ, its exciting and rewarding to be part of a team whose vision of what true customer service should look like, is the same as my own.
Working for Astute allows me to provide the time and service level I don’t believe possible any longer with large institutional banks. The atmosphere is relaxed yet professional, which makes for a closer working relationship with our clients.
Originally from Cairns, I’ve seen peaks and troughs, and have always followed the residential market with interest. I’ve watched Cairns develop progressively over the years and am looking forward to helping people become part of this city’s future growth.
Stop in to our office any time, and see first-hand what genuine financial services look like.
Tania Pocock 0421 560 474
I joined the Astute North Qld team in August 2013.
Having grown up in Mt Isa I made the move to Cairns when I was 19 for the beach and the relaxed lifestyle.
I first worked for the Bank of NSW in Mount Isa at the tender age of 16. Moving to Cairns at 19 I switched banks and began my career with ANZ. Throughout my 27 year history with ANZ I managed many of the Cairns Branches, including Cooktown. I loved it until slowly I felt the customer aspect of my job was being removed and replaced with number crunching and paperwork when my real passion is people. I knew I wanted to interact with people and having so many years’ experience in finance it just seemed right to join Astute North Qld team.
I am very passionate about the work I do and providing outstanding customer service. I am more always up for a chat and love trying work with you to get the right solution.
Phil Collins 0421 965 638
I grew up in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne and made the move to Cairns with my girlfriend Jodie and our dog Muz. It’s been 4 years and it would be fair to say we have not looked back. When I finished school I became a bricklaying apprentice, I completed my trade and built residential housing for 6 years. When we moved to cairns I found it difficult to save money for a house through the wet season so I applied for JCU and started a graduate certificate of business. I continued my study and also completed a certificate 4 in Small business. Having bought our first house in early 2014 I can completely understand all the feelings and emotions that is the rollercoaster of dealing with a bank, the agent, solicitor, the list goes on!
If you want to have a friendly chat about your finances or even a point in the right direction please give me a ring.
Glenda Aitken 07 4041 3100
I grew up on a cane farm south of Cairns and attended boarding school in Townsville. After completing year 12, I started working with one of the major banks in Cairns and spent 29 years there in various roles with the last 20 years in lending and finance.
I joined Astute in August 2015 and love being a part of an organisation that prides itself on being a leader in customer service.
Kendall Young 07 4041 3100
Originally I come from the small town of Mooroopna, Victoria where all of my family currently reside. My partner and I first came up to Cairns for a holiday in September 2011 and we fell in love with the laidback lifestyle it had to offer. Two months later in November we decided to make the move and haven’t looked back since!
Each day is like a holiday in paradise and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I love getting out in the sun every chance I get, so I spend most weekends on our jet skis up at the dam. I am determined to learn how to wakeboard no matter how long it takes me.
Apart from skiing I enjoy going into town for lunch or dinner with friends, watching the Taipans game every chance I get, and for everyone that knows me they know I’ll never say no to a drink!
I first began my career in finance as a Personal Finance Representative in 2010, specialising in debt consolidation and personal lending. I was offered the opportunity to join Astute in November 2015 as part of the equipment finance team working under Donnie and Morene.
Being able to work with a diverse group of lenders makes choosing and delivering our finance solutions to our customers all that more special, as we are able to select the right lender that suits your current and future needs.
I am always striving to provide excellent customer service from beginning to end and everything in between. Being a part of Astute allows me to not only meet your expectations, but to provide a personalised service each and every time.
Heather Chipps 07 4041 3100
After living in Sydney for 15 years, I made the move to Cairns at the start of 2015 and quickly fell in love with the beauty, the lifestyle and the lovely people.
I have worked in financial services since finishing university ten years ago, primarily in sales and business development roles. Delivering above and beyond customer service has always been my priority and after starting with Astute it was so refreshing to witness a continuous desire to exceed expectations and do the absolute best possible for our customers.
I still remember the nerves, confusion and questions I had when purchasing my home. I am really grateful to now be in a position to help answer those questions for our customers, and to make sure they are kept updated and informed throughout the process.
Outside of work I love exploring beautiful far north Queensland, travelling and having a sneaky beer or two on the weekend.
Renaee McSwan 07 4041 3100
Born and bred in Cairns, I graduated high school in 2001 and went straight into the Pharmacy industry where I then spent the next 11 years. After a massive life change for the better, I decided a career change was also in order so I applied for a job in a bank. I then spent the better part of nearly 5 years as a Personal Banker helping people achieve their financial goals. Towards the end of my time at the bank I decided that I wanted to work for a Local Cairns Business with good old fashioned customer service.
As a local I was very aware of the Astute group and its strong focus on customer service within the finance industry and also their strong presence in the community so when I was offered a position as an Aftercare specialist I jumped at the chance to join this amazing and professional team.
I look forward to helping my clients achieving their goals and ensuring they are well protected as their lives also change.
Lina McElhinney 07 4041 3100
I was born in Adelaide but we quickly relocated as a family to Port Moresby, PNG when I was only 4 weeks old. I lived there for 3 years before heading back to Australia and setting up roots in Far North Qld, Cairns. I completed my primary and secondary schooling here before completing my Bachelor of Business majoring in Human Resources and Marketing at James Cook University.
My love of people found me working in retail sales for 7 years before dabbling in the medical field as a Receptionist. Giving customers a wonderful experience from the moment they walked through the door to when they left was something that was very important to me.
I first experienced Astute as a client when my partner and I were looking to buy our first home. Something that is very daunting for most, was suddenly so easy as soon as we were welcomed by the team here. It was definitely a work atmosphere I wanted to be a part of and feel very lucky to be working here. The Astute team go above and beyond to make you feel valued, well taken of and most of all secure that you are in good hand
Chantelle Ball 07 4041 3100
Being born and raised in Cairns, at 19 I was itching to move away. I landed myself a job at Virgin Australia and left Cairns to live in Canberra. This only lasted a year before I moved back, realising Cairns is definitely the place to be.
Being a flight attendant meant seeing a lot of Australia which I feel so lucky for. When I returned my partner and I expanded our family of two with a gorgeous little boy, so I put flying on hold. When he turned two I started working for Jetstar based in Cairns.
That was until 2016 rolled along. It was a massive year, my partner and I sold our first home, got married and bought a new home – all within a week. This would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the wonderful team at Astute.
A couple of months later a position came up and I knew I wanted to apply. I wanted to try something new and I loved being in customer service, so I knew this would be a perfect fit.
I enjoy being a part of your financial goals and love seeing you leave knowing you’re on the right track to achieving your dreams.
Crystal Culshaw 07 4041 3100
I grew up in beautiful Port Stephens NSW and moved to Cairns when I was 12. After I finished high school I went straight into the banking industry, working for one of the majors for the past 16 years. I worked in nearly every role in the bank from telling, to management. I discovered my love of home loans and assisting clients with their home buying dreams.
After returning to work earlier this year from maternity leave, I found my focus shifted and I wanted a role focused on customer service rather than sales. I wanted to help my clients and I also wanted a better work/life balance. As cliché as it sounds, having kids really does change your priorities.
I jumped at the opportunity to work with Astute after having dealt with them on a professional level through the bank for many years. I am very excited to be part of a fun team, getting back into home loans and most of all, helping my clients on their exciting journey of purchasing a home.
Jasmine Michel 07 4041 3100
I consider myself extremely lucky to have been born and raised in beautiful Cairns.
When I was 15 I moved to my father’s home town in Argentina for 6 months where I went to school. I met a lot of amazing people and was bitten by the travel bug!
My parents run a small local business and growing up, I learnt the importance of great customer service and the impact that good word of mouth can have on a business.
I feel very lucky to be part of the amazing and unique equipment finance team at Astute and look forward to helping you into your next car!
Keaton Williams 07 4041 3100
I was born in NSW but I grew up in Geelong, south of Melbourne. I spent many childhood days at the beaches of Victoria’s surf coast and the Great Ocean Road was one of my favourite places.
After school, I became a chef and worked for some time in an Italian restaurant as their chef. I then left Australia to travel and work in Europe. Basing myself in the U.K I ran a pub in a small village and travelled throughout Europe and into the Middle East and Africa.
I returned home and wanted a fresh start (and my weekends back) so I turned to banking with one of the big four banks in Melbourne. It wasn’t too long before the call of warm weather lured me to Cairns were I moved with my partner. After 6 years at one of the big banks I find myself at Astute.
I love working with people and getting to know them. The focus on our customers and the awesome working environment suit me to the ground.
Tracey Kitson 0408 796 239
I have 10 years’ experience as a Financial Planner, having moved to Cairns from outback Queensland (Mount Isa), and joined the Astute family in February 2018.
I grew up in Gladstone and started an admin traineeship with a Suncorp General Insurance Agent straight after leaving school.
My partner and I moved to Mount Isa where we called home for next 13 years. I worked for a Financial Planning Firm where I completed my Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning. Here I found my passion for helping clients achieve their financial goals, protect their most important assets (their family), but also build strong trusting relationships to enable me to be there for my clients through the tough times when claims need to be made to ensure this time is as stress-free as possible.
As many have done before me, a short holiday to Cairns lead to a love affair with the region. The majestic rainforest surroundings and reef, stole my heart and it wasn’t long before I trekked across the state to start the new chapter of my life with my family.
I have 10 years’ experience as a Financial Planner and am with you every step of the way throughout your lifetime. I take the time to listen to your needs and objectives and find solutions that you not only understand, but are comfortable with. I invite you to give our office a ring to see how I can assist you in the planning and protection of your financial future.
Sam Hayek 07 4041 3100
I was born and raised on the Gold Coast, and spent my childhood at the beach and playing sport with mates.
Throughout high school I developed an interest in business and finance. After graduating, I decided to follow this interest into a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Bond University on the Gold Coast, as well as working part-time as an accountant.
After graduating from university, I took a few months off and moved to Cairns to work on the Great Barrier Reef taking tourists scuba diving. This was a lot of fun and a great experience, but after a while I was looking for a new challenge, and started working at Astute.
I am very grateful to be working with a great group of people, and in an organization that values customer satisfaction and service as much as Astute.
Adam Casey 0419 765 594
I grew up in Cairns and on completing Year 12 at St Augustine’s College moved to Brisbane to start Uni and further my representative hockey aspirations.
In 2001 I entered the Financial Services industry in mortgage lending, spent a few years learning the ropes in paraplanning and in 2006 I moved into funds management with a Brisbane based investment bank.
I subsequently moved home to Cairns and worked as a financial planner at Westpac and ANZ. I joined the Astute Team in September 2018.
I play Reserve Grade and Masters Hockey for Brothers Hockey Club and when time permits my partner and I enjoy camping, whether it’s at Cape Tribulation or our favourite cattle station on the Tablelands, or head out to the reef for a day trip.