Queensland-based broker Matt Punter joins Annie Kane and James Mitchell in the studio to share his thoughts on residential and commercial property investment in Queensland and the broader Australian market.
The Savings Centre chief executive talks about his background in banking, how he got into broking and the challenges of writing insurance and other types of business.
He also discusses his experience competing in an ultramarathon and how life coaching provided a rigorous form of personal growth.
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Announcer: Welcome to the Elite Broker podcast. This is your host Annie Kane.
Annie Kane: Hello and welcome back to the Adviser's Elite Broker podcast. I'm Annie Kane, editor of the Adviser and I'm joined once again by James Mitchell, managing editor of Mortgages. Today we're speaking to Queensland-based broker, Matt Punter, who is CEO and Director of The Savings Centre. We're going to learn a little bit more about his background in banking and how he got into broking, his thoughts on residential and commercial property investment in Queensland and the wider Australia market, and the hurdles of insurance and writing other types of business. We're also going to hear a little bit about running a hundred kilometres for charity that Matt is doing, a very admirable achievement. All right. Well, for those listeners who might not know you, can you just give us a little bit of background to how you first got started as a mortgage broker.
Matt Punter: Okay, so I was a banker, worked for Bank of Queensland until I was 17, and I became a branch manager at the age of about 24, I think. I left the bank and did a little bit of work overseas in Japan for a little while, then came back and an opportunity really presented with a former colleague from the bank who'd started a law firm. And it was a specialist conveyancing practice, but he wanted to develop the mortgage business. So we set that up inside the conveyancing business. We set up our first mortgage business called Mortgage Works. We sold that in about 2005, and then we just focused on growing the conveyancing business for probably the next six or seven years. And we sold that to Slater and Gordon, and then I did a little bit of work with them and then transitioned back into finance, which I'm really pleased I did. I think was three years ago now that I left there and started the business up.
Annie Kane: So, now you've got The Savings Centre up in Queensland. How many brokers do you have working there?
Matt Punter: We've got about five brokers, and just negotiating with a couple more at the moment. So, there's 10 of us total on the team, including my wife and myself. So, we have a bit of a mixture there of admin people and mortgage brokers who are processing the deals.
Annie Kane: Okay. And just looking at your sort of background, we know that quite a few brokers that we've spoken to in the past have come from a banking background, but you also have a degree in commerce as well. And as you've said, you've sort of done the conveyancing. What has given you the sort of most experience for mortgage brokering specifically? Like I know some people sort of argue that cert fourisn't quite enough and others say, "Oh no, it's more than enough. It's the sort of on-the-job experience that really sets you up." But for you, what has been the most useful preparation for your brokering career?
Matt Punter: I think brokering is such a broad job, as we all know. It's really diverse, so I guess it's been in business it's probably ... I did a lot of study ... I didn't actually quite complete my studies, but the study was good. It was really the rigour of having to do that whilst working, I found was a ... you know to try to balance things and be organised. So that taught me a lot about that. So, it was a really useful ... But I really think just being in business for a long time now, that prepares you for the diversity of what we're doing in mortgage brokering, at least that's in just the breath of the role. So, it's an interesting job. We help people move forward in life. I like that aspect. I did a little bit of life coaching type work for some personal growth studies that I was doing years ago. And I just wanted to combine ... You know, no two deals are the same, so you got to try to work out how do we help this person get from where they are now to where they want to be.
James Mitchell: I'm quite interested in maybe going a bit more into that sort of life coaching stuff, 'cause obviously in terms of how that has a bearing on your career as a mortgage broker, or just in your day-to-day living, take us through the life coaching stuff and what it involved. 'Cause I think it's something which maybe is an area of confusion for a lot of people that are not quite sure what a life coach is, or what it-
Matt Punter: The life coaching, I guess, it was a really rigorous form of personal growth. In learning how to help other people, you have to go through a really intense self-discovery journey, I guess. My wife and I, it was before we had kids, so we had a lot of free time. You don't realise that until later, of course. But it was just interesting to learn about how conditioning versus genetics ... we did a lot of study around that sort of thought of it, conditioning thing, and a fairly huge part of our makeup, and who we become as adults.
So, it was born out of fascination to me, James, to be honest. I just found it really interesting, and I use those skills, I guess, in negotiating with lenders, in negotiating with clients, in negotiating with staff. It's been really positive for me just to learn about how to try and cut through to get the outcomes. I guess we're all in the business of getting outcomes. If we don't get those outcomes, we don't get paid. So yeah, I've drawn on it probably subconsciously on more of an organic sort of approach. And we try to systemize whatever we can, but I just try to make the call that's appropriate in the situation by ... how we need to move things forward.
Annie Kane: That's interesting that you're saying you sort of use your life-coaching experience to negotiate with lenders. Have you got anything that you can ... maybe like provide a sort of a scenario or a tip there for other people or is that going to be revealing your trade secrets?
Matt Punter: Yeah. Oh look, I'm just recalling some discussions with assessors and with some of the larger banks. Obviously, we get offshored sometimes. I think we'd all kind of agree that a little experience sometime is ... first-line assessor, not talking about senior assessors, but as a first-line assessor they ... some of them aren't very experienced and just to be able to take them through a process. Often, we put in detailed broker notes that don't always get read. I think that would be surely a well-agreed point of the industry that is a bit of a bone of contention sometimes. We put all these notes together and try to paint the scenario.
So, I guess I remember this one particular one that was done with a chap, and he clearly just hadn't read the notes. So, I just ... and then started to get a little bit bombastic about his position. And that was tricky because if you fight them, then they're going to fight you all the way. So, I had to try and just get him to acknowledge that there were a couple things that he actually overlooked. So, it was a tricky process, but I just felt myself going into coaching mode and you know okay, I need to get through this. Because if he puts the roadblock up and we don't get through that, then how's the deal going to get approved or the timeframes at the very least. So, yeah, I remember just going into coaching mode at that mode, because we got a roadblock and I need to get around it somehow. So, we got that one through, which was nice.
James Mitchell: I guess it comes down to just dealing with personalities and that sort of thing.
Matt Punter: Oh very much. Yeah, very much. And just identifying, you know, we all come from different perspectives and have slightly different personalities. So just understanding what is the challenge that you need to get over, I think, or around. That's the hardest bit, just working out what's the most efficient way to progress it. I guess I just sort of kick in. I mean you've a big experience dealing with them then you know to ... let's go back to step one. You do have a look at this, yes, no. It's almost like a work exercise, I guess.
James Mitchell: I remember the last time we caught up, Matt, we were talking about insurance. And you were sort of just ... I think it had been about three months. You had just started on the insurance journey. Tell us how that's going.
Matt Punter: Yeah, that's actually interesting, guys. Since we discussed that, I've ... I made a strategic decision to actually move away from doing it myself. I just found it requires a lot ... there's a lot that's happened on that. So, I guess I've pulled back. But, listen, I've learned from my conveyancing and mortgage generally is, that when we're focused on one thing, we do it really well. We built a really large business in the conveyancing sector, and I think it was because we moved and just focused on one delivery.
James Mitchell: Yeah, just specialised.
Matt Punter: So, I've actually gone back to that philosophy, and I'm actually working with a financial planner who's just set his own business, and he comes into the office two days a week at the moment. So, we're just trying that. But the initial stages, I feel really comfortable that he's ... he a hell of a lot more experienced than I am. I just figure, you pick something that you want to be good at and just focus on it. I think that's kind of where we're at the moment. And the first six weeks of that, it's gone really well. So, we're ... yeah, everything's a test or measure I guess. Test, measure, refine. So, we're just refining some things in that space before we really start to make it a big part of the system that we follow each time we talk to a client, is to just have that discussion and outsource it for the purposes of working out if there are any gaps in there, in their personal insurance position.
Annie Kane: Interesting. And just looking at actually your clients. So, you're sort of saying that you want to focus more on the actual, the stuff that you're doing day-in day-out rather than sort of providing other stuff and leaving that to specialists. But, what are you actually focusing on? Is it mainly ressies, is it mainly sort of commercial? What's the sort of breakdown of your business?
Matt Punter: We're very heavily investor focused. So, we've got a strategic sponsorship that we do with an education-based property group. They don't ... they're not into selling of properties or anything like that. It's more about educating people that are going to start their property investment journey slash development. So, we do a lot of smaller subdivision, it's little blocks and ... That's probably, I would guess that would make up around about 80% of our business, I think. It's a difficult sector at the moment. I think we all acknowledge that there's a lot of challenges there with the housing market and APRA’s tightening. And we've got the rationale for it.
The changes that are happening so regularly around policies and just how they're enforced even, we're finding a huge challenge at the moment. But it's effective that people are really trying to ... I guess that's how they see themselves getting ahead in life is to do more active developing in property investing. So, we're learning a lot in that space, and trying to work out how we work with lenders and private lending as well. We're doing a bit more of that, introductions to other providers when we can't set it through, through the normal channels.
Annie Kane: Are you finding that it's more difficult than finding it through either banks or non-banks? Are you having to go through private lenders, because you can't find the appetite for investment loans from the lenders?
Matt Punter: Yeah, sorry Annie yes, it's really a case of if it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. And at the moment I think, depending on the different challenges they are facing from their own APRA fore card, depending if they have an appetite for it or not. So we're using some commercial lenders. We're doing a lot with Westpac particularly at the moment. They seem to have a reasonable appetite, but where it doesn't fit that year, we're making introductions to private funding type arrangements to see if there's a way that they can set the deals through there. And sometimes it's naturally fit there as well, they're very commercial in nature, you know, the subdivisions doing one in fives, and we had a one in two sixteen that we were trying to set. And that ended up, we just couldn't set that anywhere but with a private lender.
James Mitchell: I just wanted to get your take on the lending changes that have come about. 'Cause on our mortgage business podcast, I think we were chatting recently about how it's been interesting that, say, in the last five years it's been pretty phenomenal growth in places like Sydney and Melbourne. And there's been some decent growth in Brisbane as well. And over that time, there's been some lending curbs introduced. But obviously, the people who got into the market just before it rose, when there wasn't these lending restrictions, have obviously benefited 'cause they've got their loans, they've got their financing. They're in the market, they're getting the growth. Now, looks like some markets are starting to cool off. And at the same time, you've got these lending restrictions. So people who have got their deposits saved, and they're looking to invest, are facing a much more challenging environment than those who have already benefited. What would you have to say to that?
Matt Punter: Yeah, look, I think there is definitely a lot of equity growth. Particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, we've seen a number of clients in those areas that have seen really, really good growth. So, we're starting to see a bit of transition of Sydney and Melbourne people starting to look into Southeast Queensland. We've had quite a few looking in Toowoomba recently with a lot of big, structured spending that's happening there at the moment. So, I think we're well placed up with the buffer, I guess. There's a lot of buffer that's been created through the growth in those two key markets. And we're starting to see that transition into some areas in Southeast Queensland as well. So, I think we all would acknowledge that this huge growth has been driven out of those two key areas. And they probably house, I'm going to guess, about 50% or 60% of our population in Australia. I think it does hurt us a little bit more up north that we get the same lending restrictions based around the growth in those areas, 'cause we haven't seen that equity growth. But I certainly think it's happening currently.
We've seen some good valuations come back, so it's going to be interesting to see which way it goes moving forward. If there is more tightening, I think they're probably going to achieve the outcome of slowing the housing market, particularly the investment sector where they're, APRA, are targeting. It will happen one way or another. Just depends what we have to go through to get that outcome.
Annie Kane: Yeah, and we know that, for example, ANZ had a sort of post code crackdown in Brisbane, for example, with the apartments. Are you finding that apartments are still a source of appetite for commercial investors or are they pulling back from that with the crackdowns?
Matt Punter: Yeah, we haven't seen much. In terms of the apartments, we're probably not the space that we're in, particularly. We just tried to set one last month actually. It was a challenge, very much so. LBR's were down. I think banks or lenders generally make a decision pretty early on whether they want the deal or they don't. And then they make it harder if they don't want it, obviously. And they make sure that all their policies are strictly adhered to. I think it's the interpretation that we're seeing from the lenders that they really find we don't want any more in those areas, which is understandable. They're protecting their book as well. But yeah, we really don't plan that you're going to see apartment space, we're more in the small subdivisions that are happening around outskirts, in the mortgage belt area.
Annie Kane: And just touching on ... obviously now that you're CEO of the company, how much loan writing do you do if any now? Are you still writing loans, or are you just doing the management side of things?
Matt Punter: Yeah, it's a bit of a transition right now. The idea was always to build a team of people that would actually write the loans. So more and more so, on having to just spend time to manage the business. There are just so many moving parts to it now. And we're trying to systemize just so that we get that consistency of flow. It's a challenge, it really is. But I think it's a good challenge to have that you would go good business-wise. Yeah, pipeline's quite strong, so we're just ... I'm really managing that pipeline with my personal assistant who is just critical to helping me leverage my time. So, I'm still seeing clients in the usual case, and then I'll work out whether they need more of my time, whether I can hand them off to one of my senior people. But we got a good mix, we've got a really strong team with good skills, and we're looking to build that. So, we're bringing on a few external brokers to work with, and so we can continue to grow each other's businesses, I guess, in a cooperative kind of way.
Annie Kane: I think that's one of the interesting aspects is when a broker becomes that sort of senior level and takes a step back from actually writing loans and having to rediscover a role and learn something new as well in terms of actually management rather than loan writing. Have you got any tips for brokers that might be looking to do that transition as well? Is there anything that you've learnt along the way, that you wish you'd known when you first started the management process and stepping away from brokering? Is there anything that's useful that might help others out there?
Matt Punter: Yeah, okay. I think someone mentioned to me once when I was a young banker, you know patience, slowly. I think that is the case. And look, I'm as guilty as anyone to trying to do too much too soon. I think have one project at a time. And you got to keep steering the vehicle with one hand, and with the other one you're trying to build your processes. So, I think one project at a time, that would be my big tip. And it's a tip to myself as well, just to remind myself that there's lots of things to do, and it's a good area to be in.
People are always going to need funding, whether it's through financing or whether it's through a new acquisition or renovation. We're in a good space right now. We've got a healthy industry. And I think people looking to grow their business in that way, key staff is really important. We couldn't be running the numbers we're running now without just having really good people. And it's always a challenge just to try and meet their needs and the needs of, you know, commercially for the business as well. So, it's a constant challenge and one that we enjoy.
James Mitchell: I just wanted to ask you, Matt, about this ... actually it's got nothing to do with brokering, but it's about this ultra-marathon that you're running.
Annie Kane: Yeah, the Blackall 100
James Mitchell: Yeah, so is this 100-kilometer marathon?
Matt Punter: It is, yeah. It's a-
Annie Kane: How do even begin to train for that?
Matt Punter: I do a lot of trail running so it's a bit of balance after a day of facts and figures and reading lots of A & R's and things, it's just a nice release. We do that as a hobby. We raise some funds for charity on the way. We did Sunshine Coast Marathon last year. We raised about $3,000 for the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation. So, I'm a type 1 diabetic, so I find that running also helps with maintaining my sugar levels. And just physiologically, it's a healthy thing to get off the track, you know. We run a lot of the time through the bush. So, the Blackall 100 we're running that on Saturday the 21st, so next week. So, that will take us about ... We did it last year, it took us about 18 1/2 hours. So, we're hoping to-
Annie Kane: What? Oh my goodness.
James Mitchell: That's a long run. Well, what are your sugar levels like after 100 kilometers?
Matt Punter: It sounds a bit unreal when you say that.
Annie Kane: Oh my gosh.
Matt Punter: Running for 18 hours.
Annie Kane: I couldn't even run 10 kilometers in 18 hours.
James Mitchell: Yeah, that's full on. Last year I did the Oxfam trail walker, and so I walked 100 kilometers. And that's probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I couldn't imagine running it, but we were a team that ran it. I think we did it in 14 hours.
Matt Punter: Yeah, well done. That's a great organisation.
Annie Kane: But yeah, with Type 1, you must have to self-inject for your insulin.
Matt Punter: Yes.
Annie Kane: How do you do that when you're running?
Matt Punter: Sorry, you were saying, Annie?
Annie Kane: Do you have to carry all of your needles with you when you're running? How do you manage running that, running a hundred kilometers and keeping your blood sugar in check?
Matt Punter: Yeah, yeah. I've got a pack, so I'll run with a specially ... well, it's not a specially-designed pack as such, but it's just an ultra-pack, so there's pockets in there. And I keep a lot of jellybeans and snakes, and so I've just got to maintain my sugar levels. You know, when you're running, you're not actually generally injecting as such, because that's actually bringing your blood sugar down. But it's more about keeping it higher when you're running, 'cause you're using so much.
James Mitchell: So, you've got like an ammo belt of various lollies.
Matt Punter: Sorry, James, I missed that.
James Mitchell: I said so you've got an ammo belt, like sort of webbing, with various lollies and sweets in it.
Annie Kane: Jelly sweets, yeah.
Matt Punter: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah, we carry a lot of protein.
Annie Kane: I just want to wear that day to day. That sounds amazing.
James Mitchell: That's awesome.
Annie Kane: Walk around with little jelly sweets in my pockets.
Matt Punter: Yeah.
Annie Kane: And are running it for-
Matt Punter: …keep your sugars down.
Annie Kane: Yeah. Are you running for charity for the Blackall 100 as well?
Matt Punter: Yeah, we're really ... actually I just signed up for it, or developed a campaign that we're running, called Injecting Hope. So, we're fundraising for an organisation, a fantastic organisation that's actually called Insulin for Life. So, they provide insulin that's still within date to countries where they just can't afford to pay for insulin and testing strips and all the gear that you need to stay alive basically. So, we're signed up for a ... we're going to run 5,000 kilometres in the next 12 months, and that's as a team. So, that would be my wife and I and then we're encouraging our staff to get their running shoes out as well. And so, we're hoping to raise about $10,000 over the next 12 months. That will go directly to Insulin for Life to help out third-world countries who really can't afford to acquire insulin.
Annie Kane: That's a great initiative.
James Mitchell: Yeah, that's fantastic.
Annie Kane: I like the idea of getting the whole office into it as well, just sort of encouraging people to work as a team, but also then run together as well. It's quite a bonding experience. Although having said that, if somebody asked me to run 5,000 kilometres, I'd be like, uh, no.
James Mitchell: I'll have the jellybean pack.
Annie Kane: Maybe I'll just give you the money for charity, and I'll cheer you guys.
Matt Punter: Oh, look, it's a great team. We were hoping that that part of the campaign will actually bring the team together, and we will get some shirts printed and stuff and it's just a ... acknowledging that we all work hard, and we all have our roles to play. But there's also a bigger game that we're all playing. And if we can help out a little in some way, just to help people that are less fortunate than ourselves ... And it just reminds me too, that while we do what we do, we work hard and have long hours, and it's sort of have that balancing act, and just remember that we're part of a bigger society.
Annie Kane: Well, I think that's pretty much all the time we have for Matt. So, thank you so much for chatting to us, and best of luck with the run.
James Mitchell: Yeah, good luck with it.
Matt Punter: Yeah, thank you very much both of you for having me on.
Annie Kane: Thanks.
James Mitchell: All right. Cheers.
Annie Kane: Well, that's all we've got time for, so thank you so much for tuning in. Thank you, James, for spending time with us today. And we look forward to hearing more about how Matt's run goes in future. For all the other news and features, please visit theadviser.com/au, and also tune into our sister podcast Mortgage Business Uncut if you want to hear more about what's happening in the mortgage market generally. Thanks so much, see you next week.
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