Elite Business Writers 2015

Yes, it’s that time of the year again – time to recognise those brokers who are raising the bar simply through the volumes they are writing. The Adviser is proud to present the top 50 brokers in Australia right now...


Adviser Elite Business Writers 2015

Meet the elite

The numbers don’t lie – and if you want irrefutable proof of who can claim to be Australia’s top brokers, then look no further. 

It’s been yet another interesting financial year for mortgage brokers, with plenty of industry changes keeping them on their toes.

In February, former prime minister Tony Abbott proposed a range of new fees and penalties that would make life harder for foreign real estate investors – and potentially brokers.

One of our elite brokers for 2015, Raymond Xue of ACA Mortgage Solution, admits he has reason to be concerned, given that he deals with a lot of foreign investors – in fact, more than 40 per cent of his loans last year were for foreign investors.

Meanwhile, APRA has put the spotlight on investor lending, imposing guidelines on banks that can only see them grow their portfolio for this type of borrower by 10 per cent. As a result, banks have reacted with a plethora of changes, such as increased interest rates and higher LVRs for investors – and subsequently, some have made it easier for owner-occupiers by doing the exact opposite. Brokers heavily involved in the investor space have had to adapt and consider alternative revenue streams to keep business ticking over.

The concept of digital disruption has also been hotly discussed and debated. With technology playing an ever more central role in mortgage distribution, the future of mortgage broking is uncertain. With no end in sight to the digital migration, brokers need to ask themselves where they fit, and how they can continue to compete for business in an ever-changing mortgage landscape. Yet despite all these hurdles you as brokers have faced in the last financial year, you have increased your market share in 2014-15 from 48.3 per cent to 51.3 per cent, according to research commissioned by the MFAA.

Leading this growth in market share are our Elite Business Writers. With a combined total of $8.82 billion in business volumes – $6.03 billion of that being home loans – this year’s top 50 brokers have made no excuses when it comes to growing their loan books and building their referral network. With some 14,422 residential loans written between them, and a combined 507 years’ broking experience, this list truly reflects the level of talent operating in the third- party channel.

Perhaps demonstrating the significance of the changes over the last year is the fact that 2015 sees a whopping 19 new additions to our top 50 list – indicative of the opportunities available by adopting a more flexible business model.

So, without further ado, let us present the cream of the crop – the top dogs of the broking world – the Elite Business Writers for 2015.

Congratulations on a job well done!

Click to download the complete rankings

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A word from Teachers Mutual Bank

Teachers Mutual BankTeachers Mutual Bank is proud to be the sponsor of the 2015 Elite Business Writers ranking, recognising the top- performing brokers from across Australia.

We got involved in the Elite Business Writers ranking to celebrate the hard-working and passionate brokers who deliver quality service to Australian consumers. We want to acknowledge the best of the best – those who have truly excelled this year.

Since entering the broker channel in November 2013, we have been overwhelmed by the strong support and growth we have experienced. Sponsoring this ranking is a small symbol of our commitment to the channel and our appreciation for the excellent service our members receive through our accredited brokers every single day. Now in its seventh year, the Elite Business Writers ranking provides the third-party industry with unparalleled insight into the portfolios of the highest-performing brokers and offers a means for brokers to benchmark themselves against the industry heavyweights.

I would like to congratulate, on behalf of Teachers Mutual Bank, all of the high-achieving brokers who made this year’s Elite Business Writers ranking.

Mark Middleton
national manager of third-party distribution, Teachers Mutual Bank

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The methodology

Each entrant to this year’s Elite Business Writers either submitted their own application or were nominated to do so.

Among other criteria, each submission asked for three core areas that related to each broker’s business over 2014-15.

Those areas included the volume of home loans written; the volume of other business written (including commercial loans, leasing and equipment finance, car loans, business loans and personal loans); and the value of total insurances written (including home and contents insurance, mortgage protection insurance and life insurance).

Each of the three were weighted equally and each broker’s final ranking was based on the total volumes written for the financial year.

The Adviser takes the information provided for the report at face value and believes it to be a true representation of a broker’s business. We also asked each broker to nominate their aggregator or, in the case of a franchisee, their state manger to verify each submission.

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#10  Wei Hu

Homes Finance & Conveyancing, Heidelberg, VIC

Total business volumes: $199,000,000

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 82.4%

Number of residential mortgages written: 100

Years of experience: 7

Number of support staff: 5

2014 ranking: New

 

#09 James Chatfield

Chatfield Consulting, Wembley, WA

Total business volumes: $204,348,716

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 73.3%

Number of residential mortgages written: 329

Years of experience: 4

Number of support staff: 3

2014 ranking: 16 (up 7)

 

#08 Tony Bice

Finance Made Easy, Chiswick, NSW

Total business volumes: $211,835,231

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 28.3%

Number of residential mortgages written: 185

Years of experience: 15

Number of support staff: 5

2014 ranking: 8 (no change)

 

#07 Gerard Tiffen

Tiffen & Co, Canberra, ACT

Total business volumes: $216,063,418

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 55.9%

Number of residential mortgages written: 418

Years of experience: 20

Number of support staff: 2

2014 ranking: 11 (up 4)

 

#06 Wendy Higgins (top female broker and most improved)

Mortgage Choice, Glenelg East, SA

Total business volumes: $247,513,000

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 47.3%

Number of residential mortgages written: 433

Years of experience: 17

Number of support staff: 2

2014 ranking: 20 (up 14)

 

#05 Raymond Xue

ACA Mortgage Solutions, Sydney, NSW

Total business volumes: $292,549,550

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 98.3%

Number of residential mortgages written: 502

Years of experience: 13

Number of support staff: 5

2014 ranking: 6 (up 1)

 

#04 Rael Bricker

House & Home Loans, Osbourne Park, WA

Total business volumes: $346,819,000

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 38.2%

Number of residential mortgages written: 587

Years of experience: 14

Number of support staff: 4

2014 ranking: 3 (down 1)

 

#03 Mark Davis (most mortgages written)

The Australian Lending & Investment Centre, Melbourne, VIC

Total business volumes: $369,397,495

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 72.2%

Number of residential mortgages written: 769

Years of experience: 5

Number of support staff: 5

2014 ranking: 4 (up 1)

 

#02 Jeremy Fisher (biggest residential mortgage volumes)

1st Street Home Loans, Sydney, NSW

Total business volumes: $681,411,358

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 46.7%

Number of residential mortgages written: 362

Years of experience: 13

Number of support staff: 1

2014 ranking: 2 (no change)

 

#01 Justin Doobov

Intelligent Finance, Sydney, NSW

Total business volumes: $685,475,197

Percentage of total business volumes residential: 46%

Number of residential mortgages written: 763

Years of experience: 14

Number of support staff: 5

2014 ranking: 1 (no change)

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Q&A with Leon Spadavecchia (#42)

managing director, Afirm Financial

The Adelaide-based broker says he’s had to write more loans to compete with the volumes of his interstate peers 

Leon SpadavecchiaQ. How have you remained one of Australia’s top loan writers since debuting on the Elite Business Writers list in 2013?

By staying focused, maintaining good referral relationships and introducing a database marketing program which communicates to my clients at least six times per year. Having the right support by my side at work and at home has also been a massive winner. 

Q. The property market is not exactly booming in SA. Does that make your top 50 achievement even more special?

Yeah, I guess so! We have one of the lowest average loan sizes in the country, so we need to write more loans to compete with the volumes of our peers interstate. 

Q. Have you had to adapt your business model to continue writing the volumes you do?

I am fortunate to have had my personal assistant alongside me for the past five years, but to manage more loans and volumes, I have now taken on a second assistant, which has definitely helped. Delivering excellent service and outcomes to my clients has been key to my sustainability.

Q. Is it hard to maintain agent relationships? Should more brokers and agents work together?

Working with agents has worked for me, however it is not for everyone. This relationship has big demands due to the nature of an agent’s sales cycle – we need to act quickly when presented with a lead to assist in moving a transaction forward, as opposed to allowing time to lapse and the client going cold. 

Q. You currently offer financial planning, commercial lending and mortgage protection in addition to home loans. Do you have plans to diversify into any other revenue streams?

Not at this stage. My focus on other revenue streams is predominantly centred around ensuring the financial planning arm continues to have a positive trajectory.

Q. Have you safeguarded yourself for any unexpected downturns in the property market?

If you stay close to your referrers and your client database, the business will be there. I have focused on assisting my clients with refinancing to better rates and packages, adding value to them and therefore keeping them as clients.

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Focus with Kelly Cameron-Tull (#19)

director / mortgage broker, Get Real Finance

Kelly Cameron-TullThe Get Real Finance director says going above and beyond to service her clients is key to her success.

Having dropped out of the Elite Business Writers list in 2014, Kelly Cameron-Tull has repositioned herself amongst the top tier of brokers this year. She puts this down to growing her “fantastic” staff team.

“We offer genuine love and guidance to our clients, and they become friends and advocates,” she says. “We help them through thick and thin, and we are dependable and supportive. We get lots of unexpected presents from our clients as well, so we do know that we are appreciated.”

With her number one referral source being existing clients, Ms Cameron-Tull says her business has always performed well, irrespective of market conditions.

“I have been in business for 16 years and I’m always flat out,” she says.

“We have fantastic systems in place for all of our clients, and we have very personal relationships with our clients, so we are always talked about.”

But Ms Cameron-Tull’s success has not come without its share of challenges.

“In the beginning, for probably the first 10 years, I drove to people’s houses and there were times when I did not feel safe,” she explains.

“I used to have signage on my car, and I stopped that as a form of marketing after attracting a few unwanted stalkers. I have always been very good at standing up for myself and my staff, so in business, I just get on with it.”

Ms Cameron-Tull adds that having children and trying to balance work and family life – especially with her husband away all month, bar five work days – is not a walk in the park.

“Being a mother, we have a very family-friendly office for our clients and our staff, and we include all the little ones who enter our space,” she says.

Ms Cameron-Tull says the best thing up-and-coming brokers can do to get ahead is to educate themselves and focus on their customers.

“If you don’t know the answer, get it. Be the specialist,” she says. “Keep your focus on what is important – the people. The dollars will look after themselves. And give unconditionally – you will be repaid in kind.”

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Q&A with James Chatfield (#09)

director, Chatfield Consulting

James ChatfieldThe WA broker has faced some tough times during the mining downturn, but his business continues to grow thanks to a passionate team and a strong focus on diversification

Q. You debuted at 16 in last year’s rankings. How have you been able to continue writing big volumes and remain in the top tier of brokers?

We have been faced with very difficult times in WA with the mining downturn, however we have continued to grow and surpass targets. My team is the key to writing big volumes – they are passionate and have a strong drive to help clients. Furthermore, we have developed new referral relationships and are working on developing funding options through commercial funding and private equity.

Q. What key things have you learnt that have helped your development as a broker?

Since 2013, I have learnt a number of business lessons through developing new networks and exposure to several business executives. The main point is that I needed to take a step back in order to move forward – I am one person and I can only do so much, so I had to learn how to let go and allow others to take over key roles while I work on the business instead of in it. That’s been very challenging for me personally, but pivotal in the continued success of the business.

Q. Have you safeguarded yourself for any unexpectedly sharp downturns in the property market?

Yes. The company has a national focus on lending, so we are working in varying property and finance markets around the country. There are always highs and lows in the property cycle, and it is essential that we work in different areas to combat these fluctuations. I believe that it is essential to have a diverse range of clients and not to concentrate on any one area. 

Q. How do you plan to continue growing your business over the next 12 months?

We implemented property and financial planning last year to the mix and we will work towards growing these divisions. Further to this strategy is the set-up of our permanent Queensland office and to find a long-term home for our brokers, planners and referrers. The only other growth strategy to this is the set-up of a specialised asset lending company using wholesale funding to service these clients.

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Mr. Positivity

Raymond Xue (#05)

senior manager, ACA Mortgage Solution

Since moving to Australia in 1994, ACA Mortgage Solution’s senior manager, Raymond Xue, has proven his worth as one of the best brokers in Australia. 

Raymond Xue explains his secret to success in five words: “Keep focus and keep momentum”.

The 2014-15 financial year was a fruitful one for Mr Xue, who boasted total volumes of more than $292 million and moved up one spot to fifth in the Elite Business Writers rankings. He also took home the Editor’s Choice award for New South Wales at this year’s Better Business Awards.

Just 1.7 per cent of his business is non-residential, and the majority of his clients are investors, which begs the question: does he feel the need to diversify his business in light of APRA’s crackdown on investor lending?

“Yes, we are putting more emphasis on commercial loans and insurance,” he says.

Mr Xue also deals with a lot of foreign investors – in fact, more than 40 per cent of his loans are for foreign investors, and he admits that the government’s proposed foreign investment reforms could have a significant impact on his business if legislated.

“But on the other hand, the low Australian dollar will enable money to flow into Australia, which will offset the negative effects,” he adds.

Nobody could blame Mr Xue for wanting to exit the industry now with such a solid loan book, but retirement seems to be the furthest thing from his mind.

“I’m not thinking about that at the moment. I’m enjoying what I’m doing right now,” he says.

And his message is clear for young brokers aiming to follow in his footsteps.

“Being passionate, listening to customers’ needs and hard work are crucial to being a successful broker,” he says. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

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Q&A with this year’s top business writer - Justin Doobov

Justin DoobovHaving topped the list in 2011, 2012, 2014 and again this year, The Adviser’s top loan writer says he’s still got more to achieve before handing over the reins

Q. You’ve featured in the Elite Business Writers rankings every year since its inception in 2009, and have finished first four times now. How have you continued to write such big volumes?

I have built a loyal client base who constantly refer me to their friends and family. From my first day in business, I chose to invest money back into my processes and systems – this ensured my clients received market-leading service, and they would then want to refer everyone they knew.

Q. You wrote over $315 million in residential loans, and were named Residential Broker of the Year at this year’s Australian Broking Awards. How do you think residential broking is going to change over the next 12 months in light of APRA’s investor lending crackdown?

I am confident the lending market is still growing. Even if the lending market as a whole started to decrease, the share that brokers write is increasing. I think APRA has been too heavy-handed by pulling on the investment-lending handbrake. That said, while it may keep investors away, a lot more owner-occupiers are coming into the market as property prices are not as high, and with interest rates so low, in many cases it is cheaper to own a property than to rent it.

Q. Having written more insurance business than residential in 2014-15, is this a sign that you’re heavily focused on diversification?

I have created several revenue streams, both inside and outside my business. While diversification is important, my main focus is mortgages, as I feel there is still a lot more I can achieve here.

Q. What makes your business model so successful? How is it different from other brokers?

Other brokers tend to run their own show and may have one assistant. My background – besides having degrees in finance and accounting – is process engineering and logistics. I have used my background to map out the whole lending and purchase process and I have a team that work on my clients’ applications at each stage of the process. Each assistant specialises in a different part of the process, so they become the expert at that step.

Q. You’re the sole loan writer for Intelligent Finance. Would you consider hiring another broker to ease the workload and accelerate your business?

If only I had $1 every time someone asked me this question! My clients love my current business structure as it is very service-centric, so historically I have kept putting on assistants. That said, I would definitely consider putting on brokers if they were the right fit for our company and had the ability to grow.

Q. Have you safeguarded yourself for any unexpected downturns in the property market?

I have never advertised or actively gone out looking for business, so if the property market slowed, this is an area that I could easily get new business from. Even in a down market, people are buying and are looking to refinance, so I am confident my team and I will be okay. My company wrote a strong amount of loans during the GFC, and now I have a stronger team behind me, so I am sure we can keep growing.

Q. What are the plans for Intelligent Finance over the next 12 months?

I would like to increase my volumes by 50 per cent. There are lots of changes in our industry at the moment, making it even more relevant for a client to use a broker instead of going to the bank directly.

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Click to download the complete rankings

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