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BONUS EPISODE: James Symond on digital disruption, new brokers and remaining relevant

by Tamikah Bretzke9 minute read

Aussie chief executive James Symond talks to The Adviser about how the business has maintained its position as the country’s leading mortgage brokerage since 2013, as reflected once again in this year's Top 25 Brokerages ranking.

In this bonus episode of Elite Broker, Mr Symond explains why working with new-to-industry brokers has been critical to the business’s overarching success, and how Aussie plans to remain at the forefront of the broking industry for years to come.

In this episode, find out:

  • How Aussie services its dual customer base
  • The key differences between franchise and non-franchise groups
  • Why Aussie will continue to grow in the face of online disruption



Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to us now on iTunes!

Full transcript

James Mitchell: Alright, so we're here with James Symond, CEO of Aussie Home Loans, and they've made the number one position in the Top 25 Brokerages ranking once again. It’s been a number of years where Aussie has held the mantle here ... Held the number one place James. Tell us a little bit about what's been happening with the business over the last twelve months. So I guess for FY16 is the figures we've gone off here wrote Aussie brokers as a brokerage combined wrote just over 55,000 loans were settled over that year. It is a huge amount of traffic going through the business.

James Symond: Yes it certainly is James. I mean we are very proud to be the number one broker. In The Adviser’s Top 25 again, it’s something that ... To have the numbers to get us to this point is always exciting and having that industry recognition. You know, James, Aussie is always evolving and changing and if you look at our business today versus our business five years ago and twenty five years ago it certainly has changed rapidly.

Only twelve years ago we didn't have a single retail store. Today we are just to open our 215th retail store. And for us it's about evolving and changing and always staying one step ahead of probably where we should be.

James Mitchell: It’s interesting, there are a few newcomers on this year's ranking – iSelect was one – and I was having a chat with Scott Wilson, the CEO of iSelect, and it’s funny. There is sort of emergence of this new, I guess, technology-driven players where they don't necessary have a background in finance on broking but they are extremely good at regeneration, customer fulfilment and they’re bolting in the home loan piece. How is Aussie placed, I guess, in terms of you know holding its position as the biggest brokerage in the country, when you have got this I guess nimble online players. Do you see them as competitor disruptors?

James Symond: Yeah I mean we look at people like Scott and the iSelect team, we have much respect for the business and Scott and the team there. There are a number of new players entering the market place that are certainly using technology to be the entry into the market place. And we are keeping a keen eye on that but our business is one that is still growing very strongly, the industry is still growing very strongly by being belly to belly, face to face. As the industry gets more complicated, as the industry gets more competitive, consumers are needing more hand holding and today in the Australian market place that is something that is done belly to belly, face to face. We don't see that changing material any time real soon.

Certainly you know change is the one constant in life and ultimately you would think technology will play a far more material piece within the industry but I think that is some way off.

James Mitchell: Yeah for sure.

In the ranking this year it seems like you know there is a bit of a key difference between the franchise groups such as Aussie, Smartline – more obvious choice – and the non-franchise groups. Broker productivity generally a little bit higher with some of the non-franchise groups but then you have got the scale and you have got the huge loan books and the big volumes coming through with franchise groups such as yourselves. What do you think are some of the challenges for franchise groups in terms of broker productivity? I mean is there a lot of training and education that goes on with new to industry brokers for example, which you guys are doing.

James Symond: Sure, I mean new-to-industry brokers is really what we have built our business on Aussie arguably has been the largest trainer of mortgage brokers in Australia full stop of all time. Which is also good and bad there is a cost that is involved there, but we are very proud of that. But in any one time we have got over a thousand Aussie-branded brokers obviously in excess of over 200 stores ... And we are bringing in new to industry brokers all the time, which means that also lowers our average productivity across the group. Because we never stop growing, we never stop training.

We have a training programme that is phenomenal, and it's not only a multi-week upfront training co-program, it goes on for a year or two through mentorship, through smart bars, through smart webinars and smart coaching and smart labs and a whole training structure that we put together over the many years to reduce a professional mortgage broker according to Aussie.

James Mitchell: And I know we've had you know many chats and I have caught up with you quite a few times over the years and with the big anniversary that Aussie has just had I remember we’re talking about the different divisions of the Aussie business you know, you got the mobile, you got the retail, obviously you've got your aggregation businesses as well and be ... And it seems like you know, from where Aussie comes from as a brokerage its ... There seems to be different factions of the business where regardless of where you are in your journey as a broker you can sort of stay with the group in terms of you know if you wants to graduate out of the mobile earning to a store or if you want to set up your own single and do the aggression thing. Is that correct?

James Symond: Sure. I mean, James, it’s all about choice. Not only choice for consumers, I mean ultimately I have got two customers one, which is the customer on the street and the other customer is the mortgage broker within the business, and the mortgage broker that is usually in the business that stays in their mobile broking channel, a mortgage broker that has you know got some straps on their shoulders after two or three years and becomes a senior mortgage broker, someone who potentially wants setup a store and run their own sales team within the store or someone who truly just wants to go on their own within a hostile aggregation business but have the support of the ownership of Aussie. So for us it’s making sure not only do the consumers have the choice of how to deal with the Aussie brand but that our brokers have the choice as well.

James Mitchell: And just before we let you go I just want to sort of read some of this figures, total volume so FY16, just over $18 billion dollars and that’s just in the retail business?

James Symond: That’s just on the Aussie brand of business, that’s not NNB that’s not the wholesale aggregation business at all.

James Mitchell: What would be a sort of ball point figure for the entire organisation, and in terms of volumes, do you think?

James Symond: So, it's probably about $20, $23, $24 billion dollars for the year all up.

James Mitchell: That’s huge.

James Symond: So in terms of settlement. So it’s a big number, it’s great, I mean we settle on averages as a group, a couple of billion dollars in new home loans each and every month, but for us it’s really, it’s just the beginning, you know we are in a market place that is more difficult, we are in a market place that, you know there is more regulations than ever before, more focus on the mortgage brokers than ever before, but for us in a complicated market, it just presents more opportunity than ever before.

James Mitchell: Fantastic, well thanks very much for taking the time James and catch up with you soon.

James Symond: Thank you James and thanks for the awards it’s always exciting.

James Mitchell: No worries. I’ve been your host, James Mitchell. Join us again next week for another episode of Elite Broker. Catch you then.



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