A YOUNG Australian wool broker who has made the industry her life by innovating to service company staff and grower clients has won her sector’s most prestigious award.
Elders wool technical co-ordinator and auctioneer Samantha Wan, 31, last night was announced the winner of the 2019 National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia Broker Award at the Wool Week Dinner in Melbourne.
In a hard-fought contest of live presentations, resumes and quizzing on industry issues, Sam was judged the award winner against Australian Wool Network wool and sheep specialist Russell Macgugan from Victoria and Western Australian Landmark broker Matthew Chambers.
Sam said she appreciated being part of the award alumni, especially among the several Elders brokers who have won the award and who she now looks up to.
“This is very much, as with anything I’ve ever done, a testament to all the people who have helped me get to where I am.
“Those who have given me a chance and supported some of the strange things I’ve decided to do and been prepared to give it a go and see how it flies.”
Although not born into the sheep and wool industry, after starting with Elders about seven years as a trainee, Sam said she has built her life around wool through her support role, advocacy, community work and involvement in industry programs.
“It’s all been because of wool, all the opportunities have been because of wool.
“So it’s not just a wool family, but it’s building a life around it,” she said.
“But it is very much a family and (tonight) I’ve been able to see some faces I don’t see very often and to have that support network — I know they are all there.”
The award’s prize includes an economy airfare, accommodation and Congress fees to attend the IWTO Congress in Tongxiang, China in May 2020 and a tour of the Chinese wool textile industry. The Award recipient will be exposed to the wider wool industry beyond greasy wool auctions and the international trading rules system for wool.
Sam’s passion persisted from the first interview
Elders National Wool Selling Centre manager Simon Hogan said it was so satisfying to see Sam win the award, whose passion first stood out in a telephone interview for a wool technical support officer role.
“It was her passion and enthusiasm for agriculture and wool, and her desire to get into the industry.
“She had researched the role, she had researched Elders and it is still showing through now,” he said.
“Sam is so passionate, and her dedicated and her willingness to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to make sure everything is done has followed through from day one.
“Wool is Sam’s life, she wears wool, she knows all about the product…Sam is wool 24 hours,” Mr Hogan said.
“She is up against it not coming from a farming background with so many challenges to overcome.
“But what she brings to our team is a point of difference, she brings a different skillset.”
This included her IT, social media and marketing skills, he said. Sam’s role at Brooklyn includes completing all weekly sale operations, providing technical advice to clients, district wool managers and the branch network. She auctioneers weekly in Melbourne and as required in Sydney.
“She is an excellent auctioneer,” Mr Hogan said.
Sam also created an internal weekly wool market report podcast and is always looking for ways to expand the Elders Wool digital and social media footprint. Her IT skills helped develop, implement and support of Elders’ new wool-valuing system across all three wool selling centres. She is also studying a certificate on Blockchain technologies.
Mr Hogan said examples of innovations introduced at Elders by Sam included livestreaming of the wool catalogue.
“Without Sam we wouldn’t have thought of that and now the whole industry is doing it.
“Sam brings a different dimension to our team — she breaks the mould,” he said.
“Sam brings that diversity and that’s what makes a good team – she’s a brilliant asset and we all love her.
Mr Hogan said every district wool manager has their grower clients.
“But Sam’s clients are everybody’s clients, she supports the whole lot and makes the district wool managers look good.
“Her attention to details and perfectionist manner makes it all comes together.”
Keep looking outside and to the future
Despite her achievements, Sam said there is still work to be done. The broker award and the Elders ‘Thomas Elder’ Employee of the Year award she won last year for improving end-to-end service to wool growers, helped set the bar for her.
“You just need to keep looking to the future.
“It’s a traditional industry which is what I love about it, but there are still things being used in different industries that we can bring in to make more money for the growers.”
Next week as part of her ongoing work in advocacy and educational work with youth as an Archibull Prize Young Farming Champion she will talk about her wool career at three high schools in Sydney.
“There a whole bunch of in the different fields of agriculture out there sharing our stories.”
Calibre of broker award finalists was excellent
On behalf of fellow judges WoolProducers president Ed Storey and Sheep Central correspondent Murray Arnel, AWTA raw wool general manager Ian Ashman said the calibre of all three presentations was excellent.
He said the complexity of modern day wool broking and the detailed skill set needed to do the job effectively was clear from the finalists’ presentations.
“In a close run race, the panel believes that Samantha best met the assessment criteria.
“In particular, Sam impressed with her strong focus on communication, education and engagement, both within the wool industry and to the wider community in general.”
“Her innovative approach and ability to introduce new tools and techniques to assist both broker staff and clients to get the best possible financial returns is extremely impressive.”
Mr Ashman said it was extremely difficult to separate the finalists and all would be very worthy winners.
All finalists impressed the judges with their passion and dedication to the wool industry, commitment to providing outstanding service to grower clients, their work in educating the next generation of brokers and the extremely high quality of their written submissions and face-to-face presentations.
The judging panel this year gave equal weighting and consideration to applicants who were office or field-based, within criteria that including innovation, service delivery, business outcomes, performance standards, ethics, presentation, dedication, business relations and industry awareness.