Mark Williams, the director of newly launched The Brokerage, took home the awards for Broker of the Year and Best Newcomer at the Better Business Awards in Queensland earlier this year. Charbel Kadib sits down with the broker to learn more about what he believes has been his key to success, why he became a broker and the challenges he has overcome along the way.
Q. How did you feel when you received the awards?
I was very humbled to receive the award for Best Newcomer and Broker of the Year, which was a massive surprise. [It] was very overwhelming. I thought I may have an opportunity as Best Newcomer, but not to receive Broker of the Year, and also not to receive it in the same year, which I hear is pretty unheard of. As I talk to more people, I find out how unbelievable it is to receive it in one year.
Q. What do you think gave you that winning edge?
I do a lot of networking with people, fellow brokers who I’ve looked up to in the past, working out how they actually operate. I hang around the successful brokers and trying to pick their brains on what they do well and what they don’t, so I learn from their mistakes, I guess.
A lot of mentoring helped me, too, and just having a positive attitude at all times towards my clients and their referral partners. No matter what’s happening in the market, I remain positive, [keep my] head down and [find] solutions for my clients.
Q. What attracted you to the broking industry in the first place?
There’s a lot of growth in the industry. [I] have a banking background. I worked for Westpac, but basically, I saw a bit of a limit there. I couldn’t provide clients with the full options in the market that they deserved (by reviewing all the lenders). To give you an analogy, it’s like working at a tyre shop and just selling Yokohama tires. It’s a very limited market [in banking], but as a broker, you’ve got the full range of [options] for your clients.
To help your clients properly, you [need to] do a full review among all the lenders, not only their rate but also their policy.
Q. How did you break into the industry?
It wasn’t easy. There were a lot of steps coming out of the banking world to actually becoming a broker, so I had to try and find out where to go, and I found out that [my] prior learning within a bank wasn’t really recognised in the broker world.
So, I went to the National Finance Institute and got my Certificate IV in Finance and Mortgage Broking, and from there I had to find an aggregator and ended up with FASTLend.
I joined with a group [Right Angle Home Loans] who did commercial loans only, so I came in and created the residential arm. I built it into something that is quite a profitable business and a very important piece, which complements their commercial area.
Q. What’s your daily routine?
Every morning, I get out of bed and go to the gym at around 5am. It’s a good way to start the day and get your endorphins running for a stressful day ahead. From there, I head to the city. We then have a team meeting every morning. We run through our work and progress, or our pipeline, to discuss what’s on for the day, what we’re having problems approving or settling, [and] what applications we’ve taken in. We spend an hour doing this in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, so it’s like a start-up and a wrap-up of the day. It’s really important to keep that going because when you get a high volume of loans per day, per week, per month, if you’re not on top of it, things start to slip away and then your service to your clients deteriorates.
Q. What do you do in your spare time?
I like to keep fit. I train at F45. It’s a functional, high-intensity training program. Other than that, I’m a real outdoors person. I’ve got a boat, and I love nothing more than just turning my phone off on the weekend, preferably on a Sunday when it all quiets down, and going out, putting a fishing rod in my hand and just having a few laughs with my partner or my mates. You can’t beat it — and obviously family. Family’s very important to me.
Q. What do you do to foster a positive team environment?
We’ve got a really fun office, and a really good dynamic. But our policy is to wait for the right person to come along before we hire. I’d rather be struggling and run off my feet than put someone in the chair that I don’t think is going to be suitable for the team. It’s mainly personalities and work ethic that I look at. I can teach anyone the business, but I need a good person with a good work ethic and a bit of sense of humour. We seem to have a really good, fun team.
Q. How do you attract business?
Our volumes are growing at the back of our service. If you’re not giving clients a service and you’re not giving back to the clients within the same day, you’ll lose that client. There’s a lot of competition out there. We’re hungry for business; if we don’t get a loan, we don’t eat. If you’re not servicing your client, you won’t have anyone referred to you. Pick up the phone all the time, answer emails. Do what you say you’re going to do and you’ll get heaps of business.
Q. Have there been any changes in your market recently?
The first home buyer [market] is a tough market, and I do feel sorry for people who are not in that market at the moment. It’s getting harder and harder. So, we try and support them as much as possible. There are some lenders out there with some really good policy and products to make their dream a reality, but we’re seeing a lot more pledges, guarantor loans from family members to get first home buyers in the door. And that’s a good opportunity for us, to look at mum and dad’s loans, do a refinance there and help their children along the way. So, it’s pretty powerful when you can help the younger generation.
Q. What’s your take on recent industry probes by the government and regulators?
I think it’s good for the industry. I think it’s what we’ve lacked. I’m only new to the industry, but from what I’m hearing, it’s probably what the industry needed. I hear that there’s a lot of stale brokers out there who are just collecting trail and not actually doing anything for their clients.
Q. Do you think calls to remove trail commission are justified?
I don’t think that would be fair. The good brokers out there have earned their trail, and we look after our clients for that trail. I don’t just get trail every month and [just] say “thanks for that”. I make sure I’ve done something for the client, whether it’s picking up the phone to talk to them, reviewing them, shaving off a couple of basis points from their home loan, taking them to an event, etc. I look at trail income as a privilege and would like to give that back to the client in some sort of way.
Q. What are your plans going forward?
We’ve got big plans. This is our year of growth. I aim to hire two more brokers this year, and then 12 brokers over the next three years.