01 Sep 2015
September 1, 2015, 11:36 am

They say winners are grinners, and that was certainly true as the broking industry’s best and brightest were honoured at The Adviser’s annual Australian Broking Awards. For those who missed it, or who simply want to relive the excitement of the day, here’s the full list of winners and highlights from the red carpet …

Once again mortgage professionals from across the country gathered to recognise the industry’s stand-out performers and see who would be crowned Australia’s top broker.

Many of those in attendance noted the sheer size of this year’s crowd, with 710 people wining and dining at Sydney’s historic Royal Hall of Industries, with the ceremony led by comedian H.G. Nelson (of Roy & H.G. fame) as MC.

Among those in the crowd were a staggering 150 finalists, competing across 25 categories. This year saw the addition of six new awards, extending recognition to the efforts of regional and specialist brokers. Meanwhile, to better reflect the diverse sizes of brokerage firms across the country, the Office of the Year – Non Franchise category was split into two.

We can’t let the opportunity pass to give a big shout out to all those who made the event such a resounding success. Many thanks to CBA as our principal partner for the event for the fifth successive year, platinum sponsors ANZ and NAB Broker, entertainment partner St George Banking Group, drinks partner ING Direct, as well as all of the award partners.

Our thanks also go out to the organisers, venue staff, caterers, waitstaff and our illustrious MC for their efforts in making the day worthy of being our industry’s premier awards event

So, let the drum roll commence as we prepare to congratulate this year’s winners of the 2015 ABAs …

THE 2015 JUDGING PANEL

Simon Dehne, principal, Conscious Futures Tony Dormer, president, NSW Business Chamber Doug Driscoll, CEO, Starr Partners Josh Frith, managing director, The Dubs Jim Hall, head of mortgages and real estate, Sterling Publishing James Hickey, partner, Deloitte Brian Knight, CEO, Kaplan Professional Glenn Kunning, director, Futureways Craig MacKenzie, executive general manager commercial, CoreLogic Doug Mathlin, principal, Frontrunner Consulting Group Helen Merrick, general manager marketing and donor relations, Camp Quality Fariborz Moshirian, professor of finance, director, Institute of Global Finance School of Business UNSW Sam Plowman, CEO, Sandstone Technology Bridget Sakr, chief commercial officer, Genworth Financial Andy Scott, publisher, Smart Property Investment Brett Spencer, CEO, Stargate Russell Stephenson, head of wealth, Sterling Publishing Colin Strange, national partnership manager financial institutions, QBE Peter Strong, CEO, Council of Small Business of Australia Jeff Zulman, managing director, Book Buyers Brokerage

A WORD FROM OUR PRINCIPAL PARTNER, CBA

Sam Boer, general manager broker sales and third-party banking

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2015 Australian Broking Awards!

Commonwealth Bank has been proud to be the principal partner of the ABAs since 2011. The awards have grown every year, becoming a highlight on the calendar and a benchmark of success in the mortgage broking industry.

The awards offer a great opportunity for brokers to be recognised for their professionalism and customer service. They bring the industry together and allow us to celebrate our best and brightest.

As a finalist or a winner, the awards provide a broker with an unparalleled opportunity to:

  • gain recognition at a local, state and national level
  • raise the profile of their business to a broad audience
  • build a reputation for excellence inside and outside of the industry
  • benchmark their business year-on-year and against other businesses in their local area
  • improve employee engagement by involving their employees in the entry process.
  • The awards also offer a great opportunity for sponsors to align their brands with business partners who are dedicated to building sustainable and reputable businesses by delivering excellent customer service.

Commonwealth Bank is honoured to be the leader in this industry and to support the Australian Broking Awards.

BROKER OF THE YEAR

Presented by Commonwealth Bank

Winner: Greg Wells, Wells Partners/ Mortgage Link Group

Being Crowned Australia’s top broker is no easy feat, this year’s winner points out.

“To win the ABA’s Broker of the Year 2015 award this year… acknowledges our group’s ability to provide expertise in residential home and investment lending, and working closely with the client and accounting/wealth partner to get the structuring correct to best meet the client needs,” Mr Wells (pictured above) says.

“Next year will be my 40th year in finance and as such, my experience and expertise, and that of my team, allow us to perform every day [under] pressure – this is the life of a finance broker. We all care deeply for our clients and I am so proud to be part of [this] dynamic world.”

When asked what advice he would give to newcomers to the industry, Mr Wells points to the need to maintain a human face. “Treat every day as ‘Opening Night’ in theatre terms and love what you do and do it well,” he says.

“Always remember we are unique salespeople, in that one day, the bank wants the money back, so understand credit risk and identify the key risk areas and work closely with your client and lenders to mitigate these.”

Mr Wells donated the $10,000 prize from Commonwealth Bank to support recruiting new blood into the broking industry.

“Our group have decided to donate all the prize money in support of a Sydney university under a gift/scholarship program for students studying business/finance. This is one way we can give back to the community and also highlight the finance broking industry as being a great option for students to consider, which allows older brokers like me to one day go fishing knowing the industry is capturing a fair share of young talent,” he says.

The Broker of the Year is based on all of the individual broker categories and is awarded to the broker that scores the highest marks according to the judges.

ASSET FINANCE BROKER OF THE YEAR

Presented by Teachers Mutual Bank

Winner: Mary Nebotakis, Natloans Finance and Leasing

This year marks the first time a woman has taken out this award, with two female finalists present in the category.

“I think the statistics are one in 10 brokers are actually females. [But in terms of] the barriers… as long as you work hard, it doesn’t matter,” Ms Nebotakis explains.

“My whole team are actually women – every single one of them. And I love the fact that we’re unique, that we’re different, that we buck the trend and that… we’re very niche and an individual brokerage.”

Finalists:

Thomas Caesarowicz, Positive Lending Solutions Michelle Ivanov, Supra Financial Junies Lim Neal, National Fleet Australia Group Rodney Michail, 1800Approved Cameron Smoothy, HHH Partners

CUSTOMER SERVICE OF THE YEAR – INDIVIDUAL

Presented by ANZ

Winner: Josh Bartlett, Loan Market Bayside

Having been crowned Newcomer of the Year in 2013 and a finalist in the Residential Broker of the Year category last year, Mr Bartlett credits his continued success to his proactive approach to client contact.

“It’s taking a phone call at eight o’clock at night, nine o’clock at night, ten o’clock at night, when you’re thinking ‘hang on a second, that’s probably done for the day’,” he says.

Finalists:

James Buchanan, Aussie Home Loans Morningside Marshall Condon, Mortgage Choice South Yarra Justin Doobov, Intelligent Finance Bianca Long, Mortgage Choice Glenwood Louise Lucas, The Property Education Company Richard Wellsmore, Futurity Natalie Wilcox, Think Advantage

COMMERCIAL BROKER OF THE YEAR

Presented by ANZ

Winner: Daniel Holden, HoldenCapital

“I think commercial has maybe a few more complexities and a bit of extra dimension, but the rewards can be more. At the same time, being construction finance, especially, we had four or five years probably of slow times, and now it’s very exciting” Mr Holden points out.

“All we do is construction finance, so we’re focused on sticking to that and being a purist and a specialist in that field.” The judges note the “association with an investment fund to potentially assist clients was an innovative move and one which will help to continue their success”.

Finalists:

Marshall Condon, Mortgage Choice South Yarra George Karam, Byblos Finance Jayden Vecchio, Discovery Finance Kevin Wheatley, Bayside Commercial Mortgages

FINANCE BROKER OF THE YEAR

Presented by NAB Broker

Winner: Greg Wells, Wells Partners/ Mortgage Link Group

"The finalists in this award are really good businesses. They’re broad in their attack of home loans and business leasing, so stiff competition. To win it two years in a row is mind-blowing,” Mr Wells says.

“[The most important thing] is understanding the broader needs of the client, so what we try and do well is not just look at one piece of what they’re doing, but look at the broader piece of their cars, their credit cards, their home loans, their merchant facilities ... all things finance, and that’s what we do really well.”

Finalists:

Tony Bice, Finance Made Easy Mark Davis, The Australian Lending & Investment Centre Andrew Kelly, Anasta Finance Consulting Marios Rokka, Loan Market Peter Schroeder, Mildura Finance Mardee Thomas, 1st Street

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR

Presented by Bankwest

Winner: George Samios, Madd Loans

“I personalise everything – everything I do. That’s why I became my own business, because I like to do things my own way, [such as] I like to make the ‘congratulations’ phone call. I get high from you [the client] being happy - if you’re happy, I’m happy,” Mr Samios explains.

“To go straight into [broking] without working for a bank first, I think is difficult. Work for a major corporation then go into [becoming] a broker.”

Finalists:

Shahin Afarin, Elite Property Finance Loren Hill, Smartmove Professional Mortgage Advisors Suresh Kandasamy, Loan Studio Raymond Li, Alliance Mortgage Solutions Hao Lim, Australian Finance House Jasmin Wilson, 1st Street Joel Wyld, Oxygen Home Loans

REGIONAL BROKER OF THE YEAR

Presented by Bank of Sydney

Winner: Robert Trewin, Robert Trewin Mortgage Broking

For Mr Trewin being the first winner of the new Regional Broker of the Year Award was a chance to highlight the efforts and work being done by brokers in regional areas.

“I feel that in the country, we probably treat our clients as a relationship, not necessarily a transaction,” he explains.

“So you see your clients down the street, you run into them all the time. You have to give good advice and you have to look after them and care about them.”

Finalists:

Karen Bashford, South Coast Business & Financial Solutions Brett Compton, Oxygen Home Loans Andrew Drummond, Yellow Brick Road Ballarat George Farmer, Aussie Bundaberg Phil Gallagher, Aussie Belmont Steve Milligan, Launch Finance

RESIDENTIAL BROKER OF THE YEAR

Presented by Commonwealth Bank

Winner: Justin Doobov, Intelligent Finance

“Skill diversification is paramount. It’s all about training our staff in all different areas of the business so that any of my staff could touch any part of the transaction,” Mr Doobov says.

“We don’t sell on price. We’re selling on service, the advice, the lender, the product, the whole box and dice. So we’re selling on time in all different areas of the business so we can improve on each of our client’s transactions.”

Finalists:

Josh Bartlett, Loan Market Bayside Jason Basseal, Loan Market Burwood Theo Chambers, Shore Financial James Chatfield, Chatfield Consulting Mark Davis, The Australian Lending & Investment Centre Alex Lambros, LJ Hooker Home Loans Eastern Suburbs Andrew Mirams, Intuitive Finance

CUSTOMER SERVICE OF THE YEAR – OFFICE

Presented by NAB Broker

Winner: Cornerstone Home Loans

For Cornerstone Home Loans, customer service is all about maintaining close relations with clients.

“It’s the personal touch we do, definitely. We just want to be there for our customers, constant contact with them, but just keeping it personal… providing an extra level of service and going the extra mile every time,” says Tracie Palmer.

“Every client that we do business with, we ask for feedback and we just use that to improve and make changes where necessary and also just to see that we are on track with our service propositions.”

Finalists:

1st Street Home Loans Capital Home Loans Empower Wealth Advisory Home Loan Experts LJ Hooker Eastern Suburbs Loan Market Bendigo PFS Financial Solutions

NEW OFFICE OF THE YEAR

Presented by BOQ

Winner: Shore Financial

Traditionally can be difficult to establish among existing players.

“With modern technology these days, it’s probably not as hard as some people think,” suggests Theo Chambers.

“If you’re dedicated yourself, you can give it a crack. Existing players are set in their ways and might be a bit primitive in their habits.”

The office focuses on not just recruiting good people, but engaging all staff across all business areas.

“We let them share their ideas and right from the start we actually encourage them, and learn ways off the new entrants,” he says.

Finalists:

Aussie Prospect Capital Home Loans Finance 365 Launch Finance Lend Me Madd Loans Mortgage Choice South Yarra

CONSUMER MARKETING OF THE YEAR

Presented by ING Direct

Winner: Lend Me

“We're trying to get out and about everywhere actually. Right into the community, everybody at every level, right from sports groups to commercial levels,” says Bruno Da Prato, a director with Lend Me.

“I think there’s a huge distrust with banks these days and I think brokers are achieving more and more importance in the community. And I think they’re actually starting to show results nowadays, so people are swerving more towards brokers.

“We heard it tonight: 52 per cent of mortgage loans are… not at banks, they’re going through brokers and I think that number is only going to increase.”

Finalists:

1800Approved 1st Street Madd Loans N1 finance Positive Lending Solutions

OFFICE OF THE YEAR – FRANCHISE

Presented by Bankwest

Winner: Aussie Moonah

“We average about 40 loans a month, so our loan size is a lot smaller than a lot of the other national cities. [But] we’ve got a team that’s been there for seven years, and none of my guys have left,” says Corey Brennan.

Mr Brennan says as well as dedication, the team has benefited greatly from the support they receive as part of a franchise.

“The brand gives us a bit of respect in the market. A lot of customers come to us because of the brand and our job is to make sure we represent the brand and keep them coming back basically, so Aussie is amazing.”

Finalists:

Aussie Bundaberg Choice Home Loans Blue Mountains Choice Home Loans Concord LJ Hooker Eastern Suburbs

OFFICE OF THE YEAR – NON-FRANCHISE (FIVE BROKERS OR LESS)

Presented by Pepper

Winner: Momentum Wealth

Size isnt necessarily everything when it comes to the strength of a team and its service offering.

“It’s not that difficult to compete at all. If your selling proposition’s right, then it’s all about the one-on-one communication with the customer, not so much your size or scale,” Arin Di Camillo says.

“So we’ve got pretty aggressive growth plans, but we want to make sure we’re still keeping that one-on-one thing local places have with our clients. I don’t think that’ll change as we get bigger, and that’s why our names have beaten the bigger players.”

Finalists:

Intuitive Finance Positive Lending Solutions South Coast Business & Financial Solutions TAG Financial Group

SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE PROGRAM OF THE YEAR

Presented by ME

Winner: 1st Street Home Loans

“We kind of got together as a group and decided upon which charities mean something to us, and we made a conscious effort to support that charity, whether it be financially as well as activities,” Jeremy Fisher explains.

“We wanted it to have a bit of meaning to those in the office so we adopt a charity each month.

“It does feel good to be supporting charities, not necessarily to get anything back, but obviously there’s you know, exposure in doing it, but really ultimately it’s just wanting to give back.”

Finalists:

Capital Home Loans Home Loan Experts TAG Financial Group Yellow Brick Road Robina

OFFICE OF THE YEAR – NON-FRANCHISE (MORE THAN FIVE BROKERS)

Presented by Teachers Mutual Bank

Winner: Iconic Home Loans

James Pibworth admits it’s been “very, very hard” to establish Iconic when competing against more well-known franchise brokerages. “[However] we tend to aim for younger players, so younger inexperienced brokers that we like to train our own way,” he explains.

“Volume is obviously going to be a big thing – we do big volume. Quality – we have good systems, good processes. For a small company with the resources that we have, compared to the larger franchises, we are hitting all those KPIs, so we’re doing well in every aspect.”

Finalists:

1st Street Alliance Mortgage Solutions Finance 365 Finance Detective Shore Financial The Australian Lending & Investment Centre

REGIONAL OFFICE OF THE YEAR

Presented by BOQ

Winner: Aussie Mackay

Max Direeen says distance and travel is a key challenge for regional brokerages.

“We probably have to do a lot more online; we rely on people coming to see us. But generally it’s really not much different [than in metropolitan areas]. There’s a lot of pluses as well,” he says.

One of those is the profile his office enjoys from being part of a national franchise, which he labels as “paramount”.

“It’s what we’ve built our business off the back of. Branding, to me, is very important,” Mr Direen says.

Finalists:

Aussie Bundaberg Loan Market Bendigo South Coast Business & Financial Solutions Yellow Brick Road Wealth Management Ballarat

AGGREGATOR OF THE YEAR

Presented by Commonwealth Bank

Winner: Connective

Having won the Aggregator of the Year award back in 2013 and being a finalist in the category again last year, Connective is clearly a force to be reckoned with in the aggregation space.

“I think one of the big things that is making us a more relevant aggregator is the effort that our team, our broker support managers, our sales managers and all the people behind the scenes, are putting in to supporting our brokers,” Mark Haron says.

“We run a lot of professional development events, but I think it’s the online stuff that we do [that is key]. Being online and running web pages is a very important part to what we do.”

Finalists:

AFG FAST Finsure Vow Financial

BOUTIQUE AGGREGATOR OF THE YEAR

Presented by NAB Broker

Winner: Astute

“I think at the end of the day, we offer a very personalised touch to our members and are very in tune with what they require and are able to deliver those services to them, so it’s very much a personalised service. It’s fantastic,” Brad Wood says of being a boutique aggregator.

“Our business has been going for 16 years. We have very deep relationships with our members and our partners, and I think we’re able to provide them with the solutions they need to help them grow their businesses.”

Finalists:

eChoice KeyInvest Lending Services National Mortgage Brokers Vision Aggregation

BROKER MARKETING PLATFORM OF THE YEAR

Presented by Bank of Sydney

Winner: AFG

Having taken out the same award in 2013, Mark Hewitt says AFG is focused on keeping brokers fully informed of rate movements and other happenings in the mortgage market.

“At the moment we’re sending 300,000 communications out a month,” he says, adding that by providing this vital information, brokers face less time pressures and enjoy more face-to-face time with clients.

“The benefits articulated by the brokers who use the system and tools showed the great value AFG provides,” one judge says.

Finalists:

Choice Home Loans Connective eChoice Finsure Liberty Network Services Mortgage Choice Vow Financial

DIVERSIFICATION PROGRAM OF THE YEAR

Presented by FBAA

Winner: Mortgage Choice

This year made it two in a row for Mortgage Choice in diversification.

“Mortgage Choice retains a focus on diversification, not just for franchisees but also to what customers are asking for. And as we roll out more products to our customers, we get more traction,” Neill Rose-Innes says.

“Diversification is important for the broking industry because we are providing financial solutions for customers, which is beyond just mortgages. So we [help] them into … their mortgages, but we do need to serve the remaining financial needs that they may have.”

Finalists:

1st Street Connective Diversifi Lend Me Momentum Wealth N1 Finance Positive Lending Solutions

INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR

Presented by Rundl

Winner: Home Loan Experts

“If we don’t innovate, we die,” says Otto Dargan.

“We’ve had a lot of big innovations, but probably the biggest ones for our business would be the offshoring business in Nepal.

“Before, there was no such thing as business process outsourcing and we actually set up a whole business there. We’ve now got 40 staff and we’re the first ones in the country.

“As well, we’ve put a lot of systems in place for our brokers – so how they assess a loan, how do they recommend which loan is best. I feel like a lot of brokers don’t have that in place.”

Finalists:

Axton Finance Byblos Finance Connective Finance 365

MAJOR BROKERAGE OF THE YEAR – FRANCHISE

Presented by ME

Winner: Aussie

For Vanghan Fowler, winning this award for the second year running recognises Aussie’s focus on “growing our business through quality rather than quantity” when opening new stores.

“We opened 15 new stores last year, all great locations, all fantastic franchisees; we have got a very rigorous process to go through to qualify to represent our brand and we’ll continue to do that going forward,” he states.

“I think in terms of market share, we’ve got about five per cent… to date and we want to grow that significantly over the next few years. And awards like this make it that much easier to do that.”

Finalists:

Century 21 Home Loans Loan Market Mortgage Choice Smartline

MAJOR BROKERAGE OF THE YEAR – NON-FRANCHISE

Presented by ANZ

Winner: Home Loan Experts

“I think we’ve got a very different offering to franchised brokerages. Theirs are more about brands, we’re more about having an individual level of service and having a public point of difference,” Otto Dargan says.

“A lot of our brokers are ex-credit, so they have this higher level of experience.

“Success is not a spring. It’s something you do again and again and again, doing the right thing every time over a long time. We didn’t have huge resources when we started; we started as a home business when I was 23 and we don’t have any venture capital or anything like that.”

Finalists:

Connexion KeyInvest Lending Services Oxygen Home Loans RateOne Resolve Finance

TECHNOLOGY PLATFORM OF THE YEAR

Presented by FBAA

Winner: AFG

This marked the second time in three years that AFG took out this award, and The Adviser was keen to know what AFG has done since 2013 to maintain its status as a technology leader.

“I think we’re seeing fantastic innovations… bringing mobile technologies to our brokers to give them a new form to be able to perform their role,” says Mark Hewitt.

“Technology is going to be the way we interact. You look at people of [younger] generations: their whole method of communicating is via technology, so we’ve got to make sure that our brokers are on that path.”

Finalists:

Connective Liberty Network Services PLAN Australia Positive Lending Solutions

TRAINING AND EDUCATION PROGRAM OF THE YEAR

Presented by Pepper

Winner: Alliance Mortgage Solutions

Training and development is everything to enhancing the customer experience, according to Eric Cui, director of Alliance Mortgage Solutions.

“We try and establish a [tailored] program, essentially drawing on one month intensive training. I will do the training and also… invite lenders [and enable staff to] meet people in different areas.”

As one judge says, “to see the pathway to success and to map that against the team of achievers makes the Alliance Mortgage Solution approach ‘stand out’.”

Finalists:

Connective eChoice Home Loan Experts PLAN Australia

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