What could you be doing to stand out against your competitors? In this special feature, The Adviser’s Emma Ryan profiles your peers who are disrupting the traditional model of mortgage broking and driving the industry to new heights
Ren Wong, managing director, N1 Finance & Lease
A technology enthusiast, Mr Wong recently developed his own mortgage comparison site for Mandarin speakers, which now generates more than 20 per cent of his leads
Speaking to Mr Wong is nothing short of inspiring.
He has successfully developed chengdai.com.au over six short months with the sole purpose of filling a void for his foreign clientele.
As of October 2015, this platform has generated more than $9 million worth of settlements for Mr Wong’s business, which he says is encouraging given the short time span in which the site has been running.
“We see this growing significantly when we push out more marketing initiatives, which is also part of our IPO [initial public offering] plan,” he says. “Apart from local cities, we can scale this to other countries such as China, Singapore, Malaysia, etc, to reach Mandarin-speaking, foreign investors buying Australian properties.”
Since he launched the comparison website, Mr Wong says he has established strong relationships with developers and real estate agents given that they “have access to the growing Asian market with this disruptive technology platform”.
“We are seen as an information provider in the Asian community, providing quality home and car loan information. Therefore we see the website to be more than just a lead generation tool; it gives us the opportunities to work with more referrers while establishing ourselves as reputable mortgage brokers in the community,” he adds.
Mr Wong says feedback from his brokers has been overwhelmingly positive so far.
“Our brokers are more than happy as we gradually see the cross-sell opportunities from leads generated from chengdai.com.au, making them able to hit revenue targets easily,” he says.
Meanwhile, Mr Wong says his clients, who are primarily made up of first home buyers and first-time investors, are equally as receptive to the comparison website.
“As a lot of them are time-poor, the reason they go online to research is because they have control over communication timing. Therefore we have also integrated an online chat function onto the website,” he explains.
Looking ahead at 2016, Mr Wong doesn’t intend on slowing down and he plans to execute his own diversification strategy.
“We want to expand the website and our service to more cities, with more products to provide to our clients and being able to service other niche language markets via the website, as the website is scalable easily,” he says.
As far as his advice to brokers who want to stand out goes, he says finding a niche in the digital world and incorporating it into your offering is the way to go.
“We need to embrace the rapidly changing market,” he says.
“Using technology has no intention to replace human interaction, but to complement our value proposition.”
Otto Dargan, managing director, Home Loan Experts
A smart operator and multi-award winning broker, Mr Dargan has a loan processing centre in Nepal. If that’s not enough, he has developed his own training systems and processes
Q. Tell us about how you developed your own loan processing centre in Nepal.
We tried offshoring to the Philippines and India but both times it didn’t work. We just didn’t know how to manage offshore staff. After these experiences a friend of mine dragged me along on a trip to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. I met a really smart Nepali guy and offered him a job.
We hired some more people and within a year our experiment was working, so we applied for foreign investment approval and registered a company. This is an example of trial and error rather than a formal business strategy or decision.
Q. How has this changed your business?
Firstly we’re now a Nepali business. There’s more staff there than here in Sydney! We’ve been able to get support to specialise in different lenders and loan types. We’ve created a post-settlement team that handles construction loans, fixed-rate expiries, annual reviews and product switches.
We can have excess capacity so our brokers never have to worry that we can’t deliver on what we promise. We can have data entry completed overnight, which means we can be faster to lodge an application.
We can even have a full-time auditor who ensures that our team is compliant, and receive feedback on if they are following our processes.
Q. What challenges has this centre presented?
Nepal is out of step with the rest of the world. According to their calendar it’s the year 2072, they are on a time zone that is 15 minutes o their neighbours, their currency is linked to the US for some reason, they have power shortages and internet connectivity issues, completely different public holidays and occasional political instability or petrol shortages.
To do business in Nepal you have to provide for yourself. That means three internet connections, our own generator, our own petrol supply, policies for working from home in the event of a strike and great planning.
Our staff there are incredibly resilient and they do a great job, no matter what is happening in their country. However, one challenge everyone who offshores will face is training.
We’ve had some bank staff visit our Nepal office and we’re organising for some BDMs to visit soon as well. We’ll also be loading all of our training into an online platform, which allows our support team to become as experienced as our brokers.
Q. Why choose to develop your own training systems and processes?
Most of our industry doesn’t take training seriously. If we want to call ourselves Home Loan Experts then we can’t just rely on our lenders and aggregator Connective for training. We need to be an industry leader.
Paul Ryan, founder, Intouch Finance
The former co-founder of Wizard Home Loans has launched an app in just six months that marries financial literacy with lead generation. He shares what motivated him to launch this tech-savvy idea
When you think about an app developer, you imagine a 20-yearold tech nerd, a Mark Zuckerberg-like figure looking to break his way into the digital world. But with 30 years’ financial experience behind him, Paul Ryan is anything but. The founder of Intouch Finance has successfully launched a community platform, which allows consumers to have their finance and credit-related questions answered by users of the service, made up of mortgage brokers, bankers and other industry professionals.
“Unfortunately, we all get caught up with our day-to-day work. We get too busy and then, when we make a call, it often goes to voicemail and it takes the person two or three days to return our call. The app is a way in which people can simply, in the palm of their hand, ask questions and receive answers to enhance their financial literacy,” Mr Ryan says.
While reviewing a number of different insights, consumers are able to see the thought processes of brokers, the quality of their answers, and make a judgment on their consistency.
“That helps the customer connect with more finance professionals and helps them understand more about their finance and credit options,” Mr Ryan says.
If that’s not enough, the Eccho me app has a vital key point of difference in how it provides leads to brokers.
“If a consumer chooses to make contact with a particular finance professional they can request contact by phone, SMS or email,” Mr Ryan explains. “A push notification goes to the finance professional so they can obtain an email with the customer’s contact information.”
The app is free for consumers and free for finance professionals to download and use. However, a monthly fee buys you additional features such as push notifications when a user asks a question and the ability for users to share your Eccho profile on social media.
Mr Ryan sees the platform as being an avenue for brokers to become community leaders by advertising their service levels through consistent, quality responses.
“Anywhere where you can enhance your community awareness and social equity has got to be a positive,” he says.
“Potential borrowers are getting the opportunity to see how you communicate and your expertise and – depending on how you would like to participate – the cost is either free or very minimal.”
Mr Ryan says a major focus for him this year is to build a web version of the Eccho me app.
“The big focus for 2016 is to build the brand so that people are using Eccho and benefitting from the service as well as building the mobile web version,” he adds.
“The overall benefit of the Eccho community is the answers are posted by real people and the answers are independent, transparent and timely.”
Marshall Condon, founder/CEO, Neue Black
An Elite Business Writer and young broker, Marshall Condon has just launched a new brokerage targeting Millenials. He tells his success story to The Adviser and the big plans he has coming up
Q. You’ve just launched a new business, talk us through your career as a broker up until this point.
I started in the mortgage broking industry when I was 18. I was a loans consultant at a successful company, where I learnt a lot from some really good operators. From there I went into banking in both the business and commercial divisions. Following this, I owned a Mortgage Choice franchise for three years.
I started Neue Black so that I could build a financial services company that was for the next generation of Australians trying to build their wealth.
Q. What motivated you to start your own business?
I am passionate about assisting my generation get access to great products and services to aid them in getting ahead at a younger age. The purpose of Neue Black is to deliver these products and services as well as the education that this generation is looking for.
Q. Where does the name Neue Black come from?
I came up with the idea of New Black with our creative company. It is a bit tongue-in-cheek but the positioning is that we, the business, are the new black being the in-fashion business in finance.
Our creative company then suggested the spelling be Neue, which in German means newcomer, and black being the reference to being ‘in the black’ which is, of course, being in the positive.
So it has a bit of a dual meaning. We really wanted a different name and one that does reflect the premium nature of the business.
Q. It’s still early days but what are some of the benefits of starting your own business?
We can deliver on our purpose of building our clients’ wealth with products and strategy outside of just property investment. We will have other asset classes and education on these for them to be able to diversify their portfolio.
Q. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Developing a great strategy to deliver a differentiated service offering to the market. I am combatting this by surrounding myself with good people to deliver on this strategy. I also have a strong belief that what I am doing is the right thing and I am genuinely adding value to my clients.
Q. You’ve previously told The Adviser that you want to educate the younger demographic about making financial decisions and growing their wealth. How do you intend to do this?
We are using digital mediums to distribute educational content as well as hosting seminars with key referral groups. Also the way we structure our meetings and the proprietary tools we use help our clients understand the drivers that will impact their finances not now but in the future.
Nicole cannon, founder, Pink Finance
Nicole Cannon has won awards for her customer service, has an active role in charity organisations and has recently added a huge new business venture to her list of things to keep her busy
Nicole Cannon is a woman on the move. The creator of Pink Finance has immersed herself in a joint venture with aggregation firm AFG and real estate group First National to create First National Financial Solutions.
“The new project with First National Financial Solutions is about helping a financial network that supports the First National Real Estate chain,” Ms Cannon says.
“I spoke to them about this role purely because First National has very similar values to me where their head office is actually a not-for-profit organisation. They are affiliated with the Red Cross, they’ve got a lot of community engagement, their tagline is ‘we put you first’ and that’s something that very much resonates with me.”
Ms Cannon will be developing strategies for the rollout of First National Financial Solutions offices.
“I’m currently working out all the different levels and elements of the real estate business. It’s not just their residential that we’re focusing on, but also their commercial, their property management and they’ve actually got some tourism elements too – so we’re really creating strategies in every single element of their business so that the brokers can then roll out their strategies and use those strategies that are relevant to each individual,” she explains.
To keep up with customer demand in her own business and to cater for her new role within First National Financial Solutions, Ms Cannon says she’ll be hiring someone within the Pink Finance family to help keep things afloat.
“I’m still doing Pink Finance, Pink is definitely not a dead duck,” she says. “I’m just adding another layer again to really ensure that with this extra workload that I’ve got on things don’t get left behind.”
What separates Ms Cannon from many brokers is her willingness to go out of her way for her customers.
“The biggest mistake a broker can make is over-promising and under-delivering,” Ms Cannon says.
“Communication is the key, as is consistency. Even if it’s a simple ‘We haven’t forgotten you’ – that type of stuff goes a long way – so does not forgetting them post-settlement.”
What people might not know about Ms Cannon is that she is an avid cricket fan, which originally led her to her involvement with the McGrath Foundation.
“I’ve been a corporate friend of the McGrath Foundation since 2009 where I donate 10 per cent of my trail commission to them and then also the upfront referral fee for any loans that come directly from the McGrath Foundation,” she says.
“It’s absolutely imperative. Without even realising it, it’s created such a massive point of difference for me within the industry.
“If you’re affiliated with such a well-known charity you must have some good ethos about you as a result so it does create that trust without a doubt.”
Melanie Smith, mobile broker, Aussie
Melanie Smith took out The Adviser’s Editor’s Choice title at the 2015 Queensland Better Business Awards. We spoke to her about her integral value proposition and the advantages she has being a mobile broker
Q. How did you come to be an Aussie mobile broker?
I’ve been with Aussie for a little over five years. I was attracted to the brand and the support because while I knew I wanted to be a broker, I didn’t really think I could do it alone. Since then, I’ve moved along from taking Aussie leads to being referral only and taking real control over where I source business and what relationships I make.
Q. What are the benefits of being a mobile broker?
Being a mobile broker works fantastically for anyone with a young family. I love the flexibility, I love being my own boss. Plus working from home is a real joy – no sitting in traffic jams and I can do the school run every day.
Q. What have you been up to since your award win?
I have been evolving my business, looking for ways to work smarter, not harder. I’ve set some goals to set up some systems to strengthen my offering.
When I won the award, I was on a real high. Things were just working like clockwork; however, that clockwork was me working around the clock. I decided to bring on an assistant to help take some of the burden, and it was also a great way to get someone in who is a real asset to my business. She is learning more about the business and coming up with ideas now too.
Q. How did you use the award to market your business?
When I won I posted it on Facebook that night, and it was one of the most liked items I’ve ever posted. I have my gold medal on my signature, and it is also my iPhone sign off. We sent it out to all of my database in a newsletter.
Q. Why do you believe you picked up this award?
I am really friendly and not salesy at all. Being a mum I roll out a very caring persona. I make people feel comfortable and at ease about the massive debt I’m about to put them in. I make myself part of their home-buying team. I think I read personalities quickly and sum up situations, so I cater my pitch to the particular personality and situation. I’m certainly not a one-size-fits-all type of girl. I’m always looking for ways to improve and work smarter. I live for time management and strive for perfect days, and I think I really live my brand, day in, day out.
Q. As an award-winning broker, what do you think are the key traits that newer brokers should aspire to have in order to be successful?
Tenacity. Have a never give up, never surrendering attitude.
Have common sense, and have oodles of it. Some people want to do crazy stuff. Don’t let them do it. I’m not saying don’t risk it if you want the biscuit, but there are some things that are not meant to be done.
Be able to work under the pressure of deadlines that other people put upon you, and smile.