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.
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 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.
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 from Woree High 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 in 2016 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 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 07 4041 3100
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!
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 a family run Italian restaurant. 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 found myself longing for a more personal approach and, in 2018, I joined 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 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 07 4041 3100
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 07 4041 3100
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.
Lachlan Pocock 07 4041 3100
I joined the Astute North Qld team February of 2020.
Having been born and raised in Cairns, I have an extensive network of friends within the area and know a large variety of locals. I have lived in other parts of the world but have always gravitated back to Cairns; home is where the heart is! Born in 1992, I am the eldest of three siblings. My sister, Jordan (born 1996) and lives in Melbourne, and my brother Ethan (born 1996), who is also a Cairns local.
I did not initially begin my career in finance; I came from a social work background, where I worked for around 6-7 years in various roles: Child Safety, Foster and Kinship Care support, and running vocational programs for juvenile offenders. I have a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a certificate IV in Training and Assessment. My focal point during my time as a social worker was working with traumatised children and improving their social and emotional wellbeing/capacity building.
I left social work due to the nature of the work; I was looking for a more positive career to spruce up my life. Social work has helped me immensely with my interpersonal skills; I can talk to anyone and am always up for a chat.
I’m tremendously excited about being given the chance to do a 180 degree turn and alter my career path. My focus on customer well-being and service is one of the most positive attributes that I bring to Astute. I am very approachable, so please feel free to come and have a chat with me, anytime.
I will always work toward gaining the right solution for our clients.
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.