When Peter Benson was in his early twenties, and working as a Gold Coast real estate agent, his life was changed forever by one random encounter.

Peter, the 234th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, was at a pub with a few colleagues when they started talking about how much money they could make if only they could get the finance to buy and subdivide an empty block of land nearby.

An older man interrupted them: he said he’d overheard their conversation and could solve their problem, because he worked as a non-bank lender. Peter and his friends ended up getting a loan from this gentleman, Ian, and turning a nice profit on the deal.

Other real estate agents then started contacting Peter to ask if he could finance their deals. At first, Peter just passed these people straight on to Ian, but, eventually, he realised he could enjoy a more lucrative career as a financier than a real estate agent.

So, 30 years ago, in 1992, Peter started his own non-bank lending business, which, these days, is known as Credit Connect Group. CCG provides property loans – sometimes from its own funds, but, mostly, by securing the finance from a pool of wholesale and sophisticated investors. CCG has built a strong reputation, because it assesses loan applications rapidly and finances deals that mainstream banks won’t touch.

When people ask Peter what qualifications he had to get into finance all those years ago, they’re shocked when he replies that not only did he have no qualifications back then but he was also a very bad maths student. However, Peter surrounded himself with very knowledgeable finance professionals, from whom he was able to soak up decades of experience. As a result, he now finds it easy to assess deals and decide if they’re suitable for CCG.

Peter is very friendly and down to earth, but he also projects an air of confidence and authority. I assumed this was something Peter had gradually acquired over the years, but he said that even when he was starting out in finance and was speaking to people who were much older and wealthier than him, he felt comfortable in their presence. His mindset was all humans are essentially the same, so none of us are better or worse than each other.

It’s funny how life turns out. Peter has had a very successful career in finance – but, as he said, if not for that incident in the pub all those years ago, he’d probably still be a real estate agent.