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Jeff Schembri: ‘Commercial broking, an opportunity to be creative’

by Francesca Krakue6 minute read

Seasoned commercial broker Jeff Schembri, who featured in the Commercial Business Writers ranking last year, talks about why he enjoys his work and shares insightful and practical tips on succeeding in this space.

Tell me about your background in the broking industry and how you got into commercial lending?

I was a long-term banker with NAB for nearly 38 years. In the last 20 to 25 years my career was more focused on corporate, commercial and business lending, senior credit and business leadership roles.

When NAB went through a restructure in 2013, I negotiated an opportunity to move out of the bank and start doing something different. After I left, I had one of my old clients catch up with me and we discussed quite a significant transaction that they were looking at doing, for which I asked if I could co-ordinate the finance and do the broking.

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I was able to obtain all of my broking accreditation, Certificate IV, business broker qualifications and certifications quite quickly due to my background and experience.

Afterwards, my client engaged me to manage the procurement of the finance for the transaction for them. That transaction ended up being a funding approval of $202 million and took two and a half years to settle. I started it in November 2013 and I settled it in April 2016.

Presently, broking probably generates about 60 per cent of my business. I leveraged off my networks and background in commercial and business circles together with my credit background and have managed to find myself a niche within the broking market.

What are your top tips for other brokers who might be looking to get into this space?

If you're a residential broker and you're getting opportunities to look at some commercial, I'd strongly suggest that you try to link up with a commercial broker that has experience and is prepared to provide some type of mentoring to you.

I have a couple of brokers whom I do that with, and I don't ask for anything in return, it's all about giving them some guidance as to how to progress a transaction.

Also, if you want to get into this space, and you've got a commercial transaction, try to talk to your BDM and ask them if they can introduce you to one of their brokers who has a really good background in the commercial space. Go have a coffee and a chat. As long as you're learning from it, you're going to benefit from it, because you're going to be more capable.

From my experience in this industry, most people are very happy and prepared to share their knowledge and experience with others.

Reach out and people will help you. It's better than muddling your way through, potentially failing and then getting a disgruntled client and losing the transaction.

When it comes to the relationship you have with your broker peers and also with your banker partners, it's really important to be transparent with all of them, build up a reputation that shows that you're someone that they can trust and that the quality of your work is high and they will have confidence in looking at it and supporting it. You need to build up that capability and a reputation of being competent.

What do you enjoy most about working in this space?

There's a certain level of expertise required and a specialised skill to work in this space. It doesn't mean that it's outside of anyone's capability, because anybody can, through experience, develop a capability to do this type of work and financing. Everyone had to start somewhere and the more you do this work, the more comfortable you get, the more expertise you develop and you start to build up a reputation.

What I really love about it is the fact that you can be creative, and you can stamp your own personal brand on the transactions and how you want to structure them.

While you might get a generic type of product, you may not get a generic type of structure; you still have the ability to design facilities that suit your clients' needs, be it security structure, loan structure, pricing or repayments. That's the part that I love about this business. It provides the opportunity to be creative and do a lot of things differently.

[Related: Glen Barnes: Top tips on thriving as a commercial broker]

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