When Col Hahne accepted three awards at this year’s Australian Mortgage Industry Awards -“ including Best Brokerage -“ he was shocked. No, he didn’t feign a swoon like an Oscar ingenue, he was truly taken aback. His company GAL (Gay and Lesbian) Home Loan Service was founded only three years ago and was competing against organisations like RAMS Home Loans, Aussie Home Loans and, you know, all of those banks.

Surprised really isn’t the word, Hahne said. It was a bit overwhelming -¦ It wouldn’t have worried me not winning any awards given the company we were competing against -“ I didn’t think we had a hope.

The company won Best Office on the Block and Hahne himself won Salesperson of the Year, something he neglects to discuss in the interview. A little digging uncovers this win was because Hahne personally wrote $90m in mortgages in 2002. His slight drawl and downbeat demeanour belie this fact, but maybe it’s because he’s still a country boy at heart. His journey began in the bush, with some good old-fashioned homophobia.

My own personal experience was going into a bank with my partner to apply for a construction loan for this property we were building, Hahne explained. We were treated really well until the term -˜partner’ was actually deemed as meaning a male couple -¦

The bank manager’s attitude instantly changed. I thought -“ I’m not gonna put up with this -¦ I’ve worked in finance for 17 years and I just don’t understand that mentality.

The company was born in Melbourne three years ago and now has a regular staff of 10, with branches in Geelong, Prahran and Sydney, with Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide offices opening soon. The clientele includes gay, lesbian and straight people, because business is business, and we’ll help anyone who walks through the door. Still, Hahne maintains strong connections with Melbourne’s lesbian and gay community, securing principal sponsorship for the 2004-2006 Midsumma Festivals and supporting Pride March Victoria, the ALSO Foundation and more. It’s a sense of community Hahne believes began at his father’s butcher shop.

I wouldn’t expect any business opening up, not to support their community, whether that be one of religion or different nationalities, Hahne said. I just think that’s what business people should do. My father owned a butcher shop and I sort of had that mentality from him as well, because they would support their network of customers -¦ I just feel that the more you throw back at a community, the more they’ll support you and the better it is for everyone concerned.

Business may be booming, but there’s still a long way to go to free up the world of finance, Hahne said, especially given the reaction to his acceptance speech at the awards night.

A few people freaked out when they worked out what -˜GAL’ stood for, laughed Hahne. I was like -˜duh’. You’re supposed to be intelligent finance people. Come on, wake up!

For more information on GAL Home Loan Service phone (03) 9521 2888 or visit www.galhome loanservice.com/home.html.

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