John Watts 0418 716 033
We started Astute North Queensland 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 Queensland the success it is today. 20 years on and with a number of subsidiary companies, including Equipment Finance, General Insurance, Financial Planning, Accounting and Bookkeeping we have group of individuals that genuinely build relationships with our customers.
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 Toowoomba 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.
If you want to deal with someone the way bank managers were in the old days, contact us.
Orla Watts 07 4041 3100
In 2000 John and I started Astute North Queensland because we felt there was a real need for customers to get better service than others were offering.
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 since 2000 John and I have established successful sister offices in Port Douglas, Atherton, Mareeba & Ayr.
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 very young with my family to travel. My parents packed up the caravan and worked their way around Australia for three years with us kids in tow. 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. My role is to look after our clients helping keep them informed through-out their purchase/refinance and then after settlement to ensure we stay in touch, review their loans on an annual basis 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 am a Planning Assistant where my main role is keeping our existing customers happy and helping our new customers to make sure their experience with us is as easy and hassle free as possible. It is great to see customers achieving positive outcomes for themselves and their families. Helping families build a better financial future is always a rewarding experience.
I came to Cairns in 1999 for a three-month holiday and fell in love with Cairns and my hubby. I have had many years working in customer oriented businesses within Cairns, mainly in Hospitality and Small Business Management.
Gus Soper 0400 636 953
I have been part of Astute North QLD since 2007 and during this time I have learnt 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.
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.
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 Queensland 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.
Phil Collins 0421 965 638
I joined the Astute team in 2015. Originally from the South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne my partner Jodie and I moved to Northern Beaches of Cairns in 2013. After we had been here for a year we decided to settle down and buy a house. I have a son named Josh and we are looking forward to bringing him up in the outdoors and in the sunshine of North Queensland.
Originally from a trade background with 6 years working as Bricklayer in Victoria I have a great understanding of the build process.
Like most at Astute, I love what I do and would like to think that I have become great friends with my customers. My team has grown over the journey to include Andrew, Customer Service Manager and Karla our Aftercare Specialist. This allows me more time to help my customers and deliver a great service.
Michael Jacoby 0408 805 648
I have over 30 years banking experience, predominantly in business banking in North Queensland, based in Townsville. Over the years I have also worked in Toowoomba, Chinchilla, Dalby, Stanthorpe, Darwin, and until very recently in Brisbane working for a large Asian Bank in Corporate/Institutional banking. However, my preference is very much towards assisting the family owned business owner/operators of Northern Queensland.
I have been fortunate to have experience across a broad range of industries including hospitality, accommodation and tourism; professional services firms; smaller end manufacturing; transport and logistics; marine services; construction and trades; mining services; civil contractors; property investment and property development; motor dealers; retailers and wholesalers; health; and the agricultural sector amongst others.
I will be able to assist market sectors including small business, larger commercial businesses, emerging and lower end corporate, property investors and developers, and agricultural.
I am very pleased to have joined John and Orla Watts and the Astute North QLD Group based in Cairns, but am available to discuss current or proposed business banking arrangements across Queensland.
Whether you are looking at a specific transaction to be financed, refinancing existing debt, a review of current banking arrangements, or just would like a chat, I am contactable by email or mobile any time.
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.
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 retails 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 husband 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 care of and most of all secure that you are in good hands.
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 0423 961 648
I have been lucky enough to be born and raised in beautiful Cairns.
As a teenager, I moved to my father’s home town in Argentina for 6 months where I went to school and learned a little of the language. I met a lot of amazing people and was bitten by the travel bug! In 2019 I backpacked around Europe for three fabulous months with my partner and a couple of friends, eating and drinking our way around the continent!!
Growing up, my parents ran a small local business where I learnt the importance of great customer service and the impact that good word of mouth can have on a business.
I began at Astute NQ in 2017 in the Equipment Finance team working as an Office Manager and have since become a Finance Broker specialising in asset finance, personal and commercial lending. I feel very lucky to be a part of the Astute North Queensland team and look forward to helping you with your finance goals!
Tracey Kitson 0408 796 239
I have over 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 the 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 over 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.
Amy Harms 0435 374 075
Perth born and Cairns raised and wouldn’t have it any other way! My journey with Astute started the day after my 20th birthday when I purchased my first property, where Tania Pocock was my mortgage broker.
Fast forward 5 years and having a quarter life crisis, I left my job of 7 years to kick start my career in Equipment Finance (which I knew little about!) and I absolutely love it and could not think of doing anything else! I look forward to helping you with all of your Equipment Finance needs and questions.
Lisa Zolnowski 0422 308 797
I was born and raised in Cairns, when I was 15 my family and I moved to Brisbane and I attended year 10 and 11 there and I graduated high school in Cairns. I then started work at Optus for 2 years as a sales representative. During this time I gained a lot of interpersonal skills and realised the importance of customer service.
When I’m not at work, you’ll find me camping or being adventurous on the weekends every chance I get! I adopted my first dog in 2018 and I told myself that she was only going to be fostered. She now goes everywhere with me and absolutely loves the outdoor lifestyle.
Growing up I was constantly surrounded by cars and motorbikes (boy’s toys). I really enjoyed that lifestyle although it was not something I wanted to get into. A position came up to join the equipment finance team and I couldn’t resist and knew I had to apply. The feeling of being able to help clients purchase their dream car is amazing and would not have it any other way.
I feel privileged to be a part of the equipment finance team and look forward to helping you get the car, motorbike or boat you’ve been dreaming of!
Jessica Cho 07 4041 3100
Originally born and bred in Seoul, South Korea I was always curious and interested in learning about other cultures which is why I decided to study abroad in Beijing China, this is where I completed my Bachelor Degree in Advertising Design. After graduation, I gained employment experience in various industries such as hospitality, early childhood education and retail as a sole trader in Korea. Over this period of time working for these different industries I learnt the importance of communication and social interaction with others.
One day, I had an epiphany! I wanted to pack everything up and travel around Australia! So I did! During my travels, I fell in love with the city of Cairns, its beautiful nature, lifestyle and it’s also where I met my husband.
I am proud to say that we have settled in this beautiful city of Cairns and I would love to help people with similar dreams with a very personalised service here at Astute North Queensland.
For whatever dream it may be, let us help you to achieve it and let us be a part of your story.
Andrew Hardy 0401 029 113
My Cairns journey has only just begun. I lived in the bayside suburbs of Melbourne my whole life and never considered making the move north until in my second week working for Astute in Melbourne I was asked if I wanted a challenge… With only a slight initial hesitation I accepted that challenge and haven’t regretted the decision since.
My work history prior to Astute had always involved administration in a faceless and non-personal manner where dealing with the customers was more of a process rather than a partnership. What I love about this new role is the relationships we get to create with the clients while at the same time guiding them through what is generally the biggest purchase they will make in their lifetime. The decision to choose to work with us is based on trust rather than a forced sell which in turn only builds better relationships!
I have had a great time so far and can’t wait to see what the next challenge this role offers me is.
Rebecca Flynn 0438 390 995
Originally from Melbourne, I moved to Cairns with my family in 1991 and started my career in Finance with Suncorp. After a transfer to open Suncorp branches in Sydney in 1995 I returned to Cairns and moved into the Insurance Broking Industry.
The allure that has kept me in the industry for 25 years are the relationships that I have made with local business owners, Insurers and the Cairns community. Being a local, I understand the unique needs of Far North Qld and the perils of finding and providing insurance solutions to suit my clients and most of all ensure they are protected.
I have partnered with Astute North QLD to create Astute General Insurance and I look forward to growing the existing relationships I have made and supporting new clients through all aspects of their Insurance needs through exceptional customer service, which Astute are so well known for providing.
At home there’s 2 teenage boys, 3 dogs, 1 cat, and 3 horses. I love being home cooking/creating which is not often or find me at the racetrack dressed to the nines in an original local creation (supporting local designers/artists is a passion) or at the gym thinking about getting back into Bodybuilding after a long off season 2016. I’m dedicated to whatever new adventure or challenge comes into my life and giving back to this wonderful community of Cairns whenever I can.
Nicole Bennett 07 4041 3100
I grew up on a beautiful property in the grassy hills of Japoonvale, just south of Innisfail. I spent a lot of time in tourism and customer service, until I fell in love with insurance and the puzzle of finding the perfect coverage for each individual customer after spending time at a bank in Innisfail.
In 2020 I decided it was time to step out of my small hometown and into the sunny city of Cairns. I was lucky enough to be successful in obtaining the role of General Insurance Broker Support Officer for the wonderful Rebecca, where I continue to learn and be challenged in the warm and welcoming environment of Astute.
Insurance, to me, is about helping people feel safe about whatever it is in their life that they are wanting to insure, and to bring peace of mind to our valued customers.
I am very happy to be a part of such a great team and look forward to helping you with any Insurance needs you may have!
Karla Mills 07 4041 3100
I grew up in Cairns and can honestly never see myself living anywhere else. Once I finished high school, I ended up spending 7 years working for various hotel groups and chains around Cairns. I realised quite quickly how crucial customer experience is and I enjoyed going above and beyond every single day seeing people happy and providing that “wow” factor.
Buying my first property at 22, I remember vividly the combined feeling of confusion and excitement surrounding the entire process. When my partner and I purchased our new car recently I got that feeling again and thought how much I would love to be a part of that process. I work with Phil to help look after new and existing clients and to make sure their exciting experience doesn’t just end on settlement day.
Olivia Mills 07 4041 3100
The definition of a true local – parents, grandparents, my partner Max and myself, all born in Cairns. It is no secret that we all love the far north. I finished school in year 10 because I decided it was not for me, and I wanted to work full time and set myself up financially at a young age.
I dove in headfirst with getting two jobs and studying a Diploma of Beauty Therapies. I then branched off into different aspects of beauty such as skin science and laser therapies. Not long after working in the industry I took the scary step of opening my first business when I was 18 years old. I built up a very successful small business here in Cairns that traded for 4 years and had a large client base.
After buying my first home at 19 years old through a broker at Astute, I was so intrigued by the process of the mortgage broker. I identified the reason as to why I had such an attraction to the industry, considering it is complete left field to beauty therapy, and it was because I love to make people feel good.
Buying a home is a huge milestone in people’s lives, it is scary and exciting all at once! I love the satisfaction of helping people achieve their goals, and I want to be there every step of the way. I have fallen in love with the industry and cannot wait to help service all my future clients with their home loans.
Kim O’Malley 07 4041 3100
As a kid growing up on the Mornington Peninsula, I pretty much spent every afternoon in my parents small business, observing and learning the basics of good old fashioned customer service. As a client of Astute, I was always super impressed by their amazing customer service and the genuine warm vibe the entire team exudes. I always thought that if an opportunity presented to join the team, I’d jump at the chance, and here I am.
Once finishing high school, I travelled to Osaka and assisted in opening several restaurants and bars. Upon returning to Australia I completed a Business Management Diploma in Hospitality at William Angliss College, and have worked in a plethora of hotels and restaurants over the years. I’ve managed to raise two absolutely amazing sons and was manager and morning show host on Radio Port Douglas for 8 years. I have spent a number of years singing for my supper as part of the local muso scene, and I’ve worked in sales within the automotive industry.
Whilst born in raised in country Victoria, we moved to Port Douglas 20 years ago, so I think I can almost call myself a local now. I am really looking forward to my new adventures at team Astute and hope to meet you soon.
Jade Holmes 07 4041 3100
I am a Cairns local, born and raised. I grew up on the sporting field playing hockey, football and everything in between! After graduating high school I entered the tourism industry and completed a Certificate III in Tourism. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people and providing a memorable experience and continued to work in the in the industry for over 5 years.
After moving between various administration roles, I joined the Astute North QLD team in January 2021. I jumped at the opportunity to work in an administrative role that allowed me to work with clients on a more personal level and provide the same high level of customer service I love. My role in aftercare is to be your home loan ‘guardian angel’, looking after existing clients to ensure their loans are tracking well, their rates are competitive, and discuss adjustments as needed.
Outside of work I enjoy spending time outdoors exploring beautiful Far North Queensland with my husband and puppy.
Jimmydee Baker Spittles 07 4041 3100
I’m a Gordonvale local and have been since I was about three years old. I was originally born in Camperdown NSW, but my family decided it would be better to trade the city life for the beautiful sun of Far North Queensland.
After graduating from Gordonvale High School in 2014, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with myself, but in 2015 I started my career with Commonwealth Bank in Cairns and never looked back. I moved around the Cairns area working in multiple branches, until I decided I wanted a little bit more adventure and moved to Manchester, UK, for two years with my partner Sam.
I had an absolute ball leaving Australia for the first time in my life and travelling to 18 different countries in Europe, despite my last year there ending abruptly because of the pandemic. While living in the UK I worked at HSBC UK as a Universal Banker and a Business Loan Processor for Covid-19 relief funds. I loved my time there, but I am glad to be back in the tropics near family, friends, and my dog Moxxi.
I was finally able to return home in December 2020 and found that I wanted something more than working in a bank. I am very excited to be working with Astute, a local business with a genuine care for our customers and helping them reach their financial goals.
Brittney Gibson 07 4041 3100
I was born in Melbourne and grew up in the lovely city of Bendigo.
While I was still doing my VCE, I started working in telemarketing sales in the energy industry. It was here where I learnt the importance of great customer service. I switched from telesales to face to face sales talking to businesses in the metro Melbourne area.
It was not long after that I started in the automotive industry working predominantly in sales and customer service for many Brands.
In 2014 I relocated to sunny Cairns where I met my fiancé. We now have two beautiful boys and have just moved into our new home.
My first encounter with Astute was when we started looking into purchasing our own home. I was impressed by the welcoming environment, professional, friendly team and really got to understand the core values of Astute and why they are so successful.
I am now lucky enough to work alongside two inspiring women in the General Insurance department under the guidance of the highly experienced Rebecca Flynn.