Banking on the greater good


Banking on the greater good

May 11, 2020

Imagine a future where every purchase we make, big or small, contributes to a more just and sustainable future. This is the singular vision of Samuel Philipos and Mitchelle Katsande, co-founders of Benevolence Financial Group – a mortgage broker with a fundamental difference.

“Whether it’s your morning coffee or buying your dream home, we believe that every transaction can help fight injustice and shape our world for the better,” Samuel explains.

The recently launched social enterprise, based in the Macquarie University Incubator, is boldly turning the home lending model on its head. In an industry first, Benevolence invests up to half its net up-front commissions from every loan into social justice impact projects.

“Working for a major bank, and with the revelations of the Royal Commission, I began to question what I was contributing to,” recalls Samuel. “We created Benevolence as a viable alternative that puts people before profits. We’re aiming to disrupt the finance industry and lead the shift to a sector that is more sustainable and human-focused.”

The pair met in 2018 while they were studying at Macquarie.  Both were recipients of alumni-funded Mobility Scholarships – which took them to the National University of Singapore to attend an Enterprise Summer Program on Entrepreneurship.  It was there that Samuel (studying law, commerce and entrepreneurship) and Mitchelle (studying international business and finance) discovered that their values and aspirations aligned. The idea for Benevolence was hatched in early 2019 and the company launched in February this year.

Benevolence has established impact partnerships with carefully vetted organisations working to support society’s most vulnerable. The Hunger Project, which empowers rural communities in developing nations to end hunger and poverty through grassroots strategies such as women’s microfinance, is among them, as is fellow incubator resident The Generous & The Grateful, which works to deliver homes and hope for Australians in need. Their goals are ambitious and exciting.

“By 2025, based on our figures with initial partner The Hunger Project, we could realistically impact around 10,000 people, and that’s huge,” Katsande explains.

“For us, it’s all about the impact; we begin with calculating that impact target and work back to determine how many clients we need and the bottom line goals required to get there. It’s also about remaining agile and flexible to respond to issues as they come up, such as the response bushfires and now, the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Customers are empowered, choosing for themselves the cause their commission is directed to. They also get unique tax advantages; donations are made in the customer’s name, with a tax-deductible receipt provided. None of this comes at a cost to getting the best deal – in fact, the opposite is true.

“We work with all lenders in the market to understand their various offerings and risk tolerances and identify those best fit for each client’s need, just as you’d expect from any mortgage broker,” says Philipos. “We also track how all the banks are doing ethically, for example, if they’re investing in fossil fuels, so our customers can make an informed choice and hold their bank accountable. The focus is on absolute transparency and trust.”

Despite only joining the incubator in February 2020, Katsande says the benefits are already being realised, from connecting to The Generous & The Grateful to the insights gained through mentoring, and access to interns, professional consulting support and a vibrant community of entrepreneurial innovators.

“The education programs have been fantastic; we’ve been able to step back and clarify our customer value proposition and understand the challenges faced in social enterprise,” she adds.

Beyond delivering a great product with genuine societal impact, Benevolence’s co-founders are determined to activate systemic change.

“Over $2 billion in broker commissions were paid in Australia in 2016 – just one per cent invested in impact work would equate to $60 million,” Philipos says.

“Imagine as a result of this, other brokers and businesses change their model. And then we have more social enterprises delivering their service or product while investing in better outcomes for humanity and the planet. That’s the dream.”

Words by Jen Waters

Benevolence Financial Group is working on a new project called Home for Home. Every new home loan funded by BFG will help another family around the world get theirs too. Your new home won’t just change your world, it’ll change the world.

All you have to do? Speak with BFG and live a more purposeful life by knowing that you’ve given someone a fair go in this unfair world. Any questions, BFG can be reached via email at or 0403436379.

Q&A with Samuel and Mitchelle

Tell us more about the NUS Enterprise Summer Program you attended.

Mitchelle: As part of one of the programs offered by the Incubator and the National University of Singapore, Sam and I attended the NUS Enterprise Summer Programme on Entrepreneurship 2018. This was offered as a scholarship. I actually saw this opportunity on in the Global Leadership Program’s Facebook Group as I was doing that program as well. I had to submit an application to be considered for NUS Enterprise program.

Mitchelle Katsande

You recently graduated but missed out on the actual graduation ceremony due to COVID restrictions. Can you share a little of how you celebrated/marked the occasion and how you felt about it?

Mitchelle: I was really sad about not being able to attend my graduation. In my culture and family, graduations are a huge deal especially if you are the firstborn child. Though I didn’t get to physically celebrate the ceremony, I celebrated it online with family and relatives. I’m just waiting now until everything calms down and I can properly celebrate with friends and family.

Sam: Mum was most upset! They wanted to come and join me in this milestone. Whilst it was not the best, it was cool to have a different virtual graduation and celebrate it with my family at home. At least we’re unique, we got to graduate kinda virtually!

Samuel Philipos

How did your studies at Macquarie help you to achieve what you have with your social enterprise?

Sam: It was the capabilities built during my time of study that contributed to this. Critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, creativity and communication were the foundations that enabled our progress. More importantly, it was the belief that we could do anything – whatever we were passionate about, we could redefine expectations and challenge how things are done. Just because previous generations had to work primarily to earn a wage, we’re in an exciting time where no problem can’t be solved with technology and collaboration. Just because things are set up in a particular way, does not mean they have to be like that. What if we could rely on businesses in the 21st century to create innovative solutions for our modern global challenges? What if we could leverage the power of business to shape a different future? What could we accomplish together?

Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Sam: What we usually don’t hear a lot of is the amount of stress, hard work, commitment and challenges that are a part of the journey. You don’t see those challenges in the first week, month or even year, but rather for the foreseeable future. Those ‘challenges’ only become fun when you love what you’re doing and you have a clear understanding of why you are jumping into it. For me that ‘why’ can never just be money.

You need a strong team. You need to validate always. You need to be obsessed with a problem (maybe one that is even personal to you). We get told that we should never let fear hold us back. So when you start doubting whether you can actually do something, remember, that’s exactly the start of fear.

Any advice for students on completing their studies?

Sam: Macquarie University offers huge opportunities that are not available elsewhere let alone around the world. Everyone has a very different experience at uni. That experience is dependent on what you do and your perspective. Make the most of it.

Education is critically important, but it’s only a small part of the bigger picture. Experience and exposure are fundamental to build up skills and personally develop. Leverage the programs at university, get as much hands-on experience as you can, make as many friends as you can and enjoy the ride. I made the big mistake on focusing on the end goal – which is graduation.  And now I miss the experiences I had whilst studying. Especially Ubar Thursday parties!

Mitchelle: Enjoy the process and enjoy the journey. I was so anxious about the future while completing my studies and the best advice I was told that is still true to me is to enjoy the journey and not worry so much.

Any advice for anyone interested in bringing their idea to the Incubator and how to go about it?

Sam: ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or time, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.’ Barrack Obama.

99% of the effort is on understanding the problem clearly and visibly. Don’t worry about your solution. Come in with a mindset to learn more and more. The incubator is a huge opportunity with mentors, resources, working space, educational programs and intelligent founders. Apply through the incubator website or come and have a chat with the staff there. They are super cool!

The MQ Incubator is now accepting applications for new resident startups. Scalable businesses are encouraged to apply to join the Incubator, a burgeoning entrepreneurial and innovation community that opens endless avenues of support, collaboration and validation to help startups and researchers looking to commercialise navigate the path to market and scaling success. Following the closing of the Boosting Female Founders Grant we are particularly keen to encourage female founders to apply.


Comments (3)

  1. Rumbidzai Katsande

    I am impressed with the new innovations by Benovelence. Great ideas that change the world. Keep it up Macquarie Incubators.

  2. PWastell

    A brilliant initiative. I will be suggesting this program to the two people I know who are looking to take out a home loan.

    1. BFG Team

      By suggesting us, you’re personally making a huge impact on the lives of others! Every single person that comes for finance results in families being transformed and empowered. They’ll be getting the best deal in the market from 25+ banks with an expert doing all the legwork. #SameLoan.DifferentImpact


Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>