In the latest episode of Elite Broker, Annie Kane and James Mitchell are joined by broker and founder of Copper Finance Vinay Gehi, who shares why he became a broker after 18 years in the food industry.
This Melbourne-based broker reveals his advice on building a database from scratch, why he believes in making his time with clients “feel like an experience”, and how he has grown his business while still maintaining the ever important balance that his family life demands.
Tune in to find out what this broker has learnt so far, the importance of having a mentor throughout the process and why he isn’t planning on growing his business just yet.
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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, as always, by James Mitchell, managing editor of Mortgages. How you doing, James?
James Mitchell: Very good, thanks Annie.
Annie Kane: Great! And, today we're speaking to Melbourne-based restaurateur turned broker, Vinay Gehi, founder and broker at Copper Finance. To reveal how his change of career was a piece of cake, why he decided brokering was the best way to bring home the bacon, and how he insures that his customer service is la crème de la crème.
James Mitchell: Oh boy.
Annie Kane: Did you like that?
James Mitchell: That was brilliant.
Annie Kane: Thank you very much. In this episode of Elite Broker, we learn how this broker set up his own brokerage from scratch, the challenges he overcame along the way and his tips for new brokers. Just completely forgot my words there.
James Mitchell: I thought you were going to say bacon again.
Annie Kane: How you doing Vinay?
Vinay Gehi: Good, thank you. Good morning, Annie. Good morning,
James Mitchell: That was brilliant. Annie managed to get piece of cake and bacon in.
Annie Kane: And crème de la crème.
James Mitchell: And crème de la crème.
Vinay Gehi: It's probably the best introduction I've ever received.
Annie Kane: Oh, there we go, thanks.
Vinay Gehi: Oh, God.
Annie Kane: Well, I mean, seeing as we've talked food now, I just want to go back, obviously, to the beginning of your career. So you've been a restaurant manager and in the hospitality sector for most of your career, is that right?
Vinay Gehi: Yes, 18 years to be precise. So, I started working in restaurants when I was 21 years old. I actually ... I'm from India, I'm from Mumbai. Bombay, I like to call it still. I left India in '98 to go to Paris, where my uncle and my aunt owned successful restaurants, they still do. They're very successful restaurateurs ... To work with them. That's how it began. I worked there, worked with them for six years and then moved restaurants. Started managing some small French restaurants. Met my wife in Paris, who's from Gippsland.
James Mitchell: Of all places.
Annie Kane: Small world.
Vinay Gehi: And, yeah, moved to London. Worked there in hospitality. Worked for a very big contract catering company called Deliver North, as well as Compass Group, where I was managing the football stadiums. We were managing catering in football stadiums, which is a soccer.
Annie Kane: I know what you mean by football.
Vinay Gehi: Cricket grounds, like at Lords, the Oval. Yes, that's what I've been doing. We came to Melbourne in 2012, late 2012. Yeah, managed a restaurant here and yes, that's ... Now, started my own brokering business about two years ago. Completed two years just, as of, at the end of this month. And, that's it.
Annie Kane: I mean, it's a really different career change, going from all of this experience you had in the hospitality sector, to moving into brokering. What ... I mean, obviously, you come back to Australia, you were in hospitality for a while, but ... What actually was the trigger to sort of thinking, "Maybe, I want to do something else," and how did you land on brokering?
Vinay Gehi: I actually didn't even know what mortgage broker was, to be honest, never actually thought about it. I actually met a client of mine who had come to the restaurant and I knew his friend, who used to frequently visit us. So, I just went up to say, "Good day." I just started talking to them and the gentleman said, "Oh, you can be a good broker." And, I was like, "What is that?" He said, well, he was a mortgage broker and that's what he did.
I was just interested in what he said about brokering, about getting people loans et cetera. And, that evening I went home and ... I took his number though, I took his number. And I said would it be possible to have a chat with him? That evening I went home and I just looked up at mortgage brokering and ... I guess, also, the fact that my son was just about three months old and the fact that I would never be able to see him if I worked in hospitality. Because, obviously, we work weekends. And-
Annie Kane: Long hours.
Vinay Gehi: That’s the time where you make the most amount of money in hospitality. I was worried to also starting my own restaurant, as well. All the business plans were already in place. I was looking for a place. All the appliances were in place. But, then I chickened out. Well, I pulled out. I didn't chicken out, I just think that I just had to make a decision where ... If I start my own hospitality business, I would be there 24/7. So, I would not only be the restaurant manager, I would also be everything. I would be doing HR, recruiting payroll et cetera. And, it is a quite ... I come from that industry, so I know how long hours you have to work. It is not a ... I don't have a problem with working long hours, it's just that ... I just thought that it would be better off if I would see something which I could do, which would provide me with spending some quality time with my family.
James Mitchell: So, that broker who came to the restaurant and you had a chat with him, he said you'd make a good broker. What was the quality he saw in you, which led him to say that?
Vinay Gehi: I just guess because I remember the client, and he saw me sitting in the main dining area and he saw me mingle with lot of clients. And, that's what I did. That's what I was taught to do when working for my uncle and my aunt. Because, they had small restaurants, and at that time there was no Facebook, no Google Reviews, et cetera. So, it was ... The way I was trained was look after the clients. Give them an experience. It's not just about the food. It's about the entire experience, it's what they come out for. That's what I was trained to do, so I just knew my clients and clients who came, I just took an interest. Because, I personally think, that even if a client came in and just had a one course meal, they were still supporting our business. And, that business supported ... And because of them supporting the business, it meant that I was in a job, and so were the others. I just felt that it could be a nice thing to get to know them and thank them for coming to our restaurant.
James Mitchell: Nice.
Vinay Gehi: I guess that's what he must have seen. He must have seen that I was very customer focused and I knew many of the clients. I remembered their names. I remembered what they had had last time. And yes, so I think maybe because of that he said, "You'll be a good broker." Because, he thought it's more about ... I think it was more about the personality, I believe. I think so.
James Mitchell: And great customer service as well.
Annie Kane: Yeah. Which really is key to being a broker at the moment, especially as we always hear about technology making our lives easier and making processes more efficient. It's actually customer service that it comes down to really being the real linchpin for what brokering is and what it needs to be. I just want to ask a little bit about making the step then. So, you decide ... You researched what being a broker was about, you knew this man, who was a friend of a friend, who'd said you'd be good at it. How did you then go about actually deciding to make this step into brokering and to also not join a big group, to sort of start out on your own?
Vinay Gehi: I had a really big ... I had a lot of support from my wife. And, my wife is a project manager. So-She's got ... Yes. So when I go and ... We both started looking into it, and we just started talking to each other. She was like, "Yeah, you know, how about" ... And what ... The bank ... She actually works for a bank called Bank First. It was called Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank, but now they've rebranded and it's called Bank First. So, her boss ... me and ... He was a good friend of a broker who actually used to work at Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank, and he actually is a very renowned broker, his name is Josh Gilbert. He works with Loan Market. He's with Loan Market. So, while we were doing the research, I actually thought that it would be good to go and speak to a mortgage broker. I spoke to ... I went and I spoke to Josh and just told him about ... Look, this is what I was planning to do. I'd done some research and I thought it was doable, something which was doable.
You need to do research full in mortgage broking. And then you find yourself a good mentor and then you start. I also looked at the startup cost. The startup cost compared to the startup cost for a restaurant, is considerably less in mortgage brokering. Because, all you have to worry about in the first few years is to make sure that you make enough money to pay yourself and the expenses around. Which is the governing body expenses, et cetera.
James Mitchell: And you all had the ... You already finances set aside for your restaurant venture, is that correct?
Vinay Gehi: Yeah. I have already kept some money aside, which was our savings. So, we were going to use most of it. Well, I then eventually ... When I did the maths and I did the sums, I realised that setting up mortgage brokering business was far less ... You needed far less money to set it up. We also ... And, also the fact that my wife was working and the fact that the restaurant where I was working in ... I had told them that I will now go part-time and I was able to choose the hours of work which I could work. Which was pretty work, I think it ... I was blessed that I worked with a restaurant which allowed me to have that flexibility of choosing my hours.
That's how I ... I did that research and I thought ... I went and I spoke to Josh, as I said to you, who told me what to expect, and the truth, and what I would need to do. That's how I said to my wife, "Look, I think it's ... Yeah, I am ready now all I need to do is find a course to do."
Many people said to me, "Look, do an online course." Searched for and I wasn't really keen on an online course, because I like people. I like to be taught. I like one-on-one courses. I find them much easier to grasp, much quicker, instead of doing an online, where, I personally thought, that you can't ask questions to the computer if you are confused.
So, I looked at a face-to-face course, which was run by TNA. I joined it and that's where I met my mentor. So, that's how I started ... That made my decision much easier to get into brokering.
Annie Kane: So, I mean, obviously, now we have to ask who was your mentor and why did you choose them?
Vinay Gehi: My mentor is Andrew Tan of Master's Brokers Group. So, Andrew Tan and Mario Borg, they run a group called Masters Brokers Group. I met Andrew because he was my tutor. And I just like the way he taught the course. The course was good and I just liked his mannerism. I guess, I found he was very honest, ethical guy. I really liked him. No question was too stupid for him, you could ask him anything and he would not ... he would be like okay. He would always be there to help you.
After that happened, I was like, "Okay, what am I going to do?" Then I spoke to him and he said, "Look, we also offer mentoring." In the beginning, I was considering of maybe joining an organisation, but then the fact was that, look ... I was changing careers anyway, so how to do scratch from ... I had to start from scratch. So, whether it be a big firm or do it yourself. You have to do it. So, I just said it makes more sense to just start your own and Copper Finance was created. I took on Andrew and Mario as my mentors and joined Connective. So, I then given .. It was ... I think it ... Because, I trusted him so much, I just had faith in him and I just followed what he said. The best decision I've ever made.
James Mitchell: So, once you set up the business, Copper Finance, and start brokering, where did you get your initial leads from? Did you have to, sort of, go to friends and family. Or were you heading back to the hospitality industry?
Annie Kane: Restaurants?
James Mitchell: Yeah.
Vinay Gehi: I wish it was friends and family. Well, there was a friend, one friend, who really helped me. A couple of friends. But, James, I was very new to Australia and my wife was also away for quite a long time. So, most of our friends didn't have a mortgage, whom we knew. And the one whom we knew did kind of help and that was one gentleman by the name of Steve and Heather. They gave me the first ... They gave me an opportunity to do a refinance for their property. So, that was the first loan I wrote. And then afterwards, was basically just going out and talking to everyone.
I knew a lot of business owners in the area where I live, especially cafe owners. Because, I used to work in a café and I kind of knew them on a personal level, as well. Yes, they started giving me out some few names of their friends of whom I could help. They introduced me to some of their friends. Just networking, you know, James. Everyday go and speak to people. Speak to people in cafes. Ask them what they are doing and then later on, later in the conversation, slip in what I did. Give them my card, took down their details as well, in case if they wanted to chat with me. Yeah, that's how I generated my leads.
I met an accountant as well in my early stages where ... I just, I was just very upfront and honest with him. And I said, "Look, I don't have much experience in the financial background, but what I can offer is I'll be ... I'm a hard working guy. And give me an opportunity, if you can, with one of your clients." And he did. I guess, he got a really good feedback from my client, from his client who referred to me another two of his friends. And that's how it started.
Annie Kane: It snowballs from there.
Vinay Gehi: Started referring me and yeah ... Just talking to people. Like I've spoken to people on the phone, I've ... The leads just come through just talking to even people over the phone. Just creating ... You have to become personable, I guess.
James Mitchell: I was going to ask if you, sort of, if you've branched out to more than home loans? Because, it would seem to me that with your experience in hospitality and running restaurants and cafes, that-
Annie Kane: You understand that.
James Mitchell: You'd understand that sector so well. So, there'd be a great specialisation in helping small business owners who work in the hospitality industry and their staff obtain financing for a number of things.
Vinay Gehi: Yes, so what I did was ... The restaurant which I used to work in ... I spoke to the ... How do you call it? The big general managers there and I said, "Look, I understand how hospitality works, obviously. And the fact that most of the chefs, et cetera, who were on a decent wage, they won't ever get the opportunity to ... They are working for such long hours. So how about, because I've started my own business, I can probably go and meet them and see if they're looking to buy a house or something, help them." And they kind of put that particular ... My services on a newsletter, which was emailed to members of staff. So that way, I got a couple of members to help me, help them with their loans. Because, our restaurant, it's a big group called Seagrass Boutique Hospitality. So, they have restaurants in Sydney, all over Melbourne, et cetera.
And, also I had one, I have worked for one client, whom I had ... He is from India. And I'm Indian as well, so I understand where they're coming form. When I helped him, he didn't know anything about the buying process. So, I basically told him everything from start to finish, helped him get a good conveyancer, get a good building and pest inspector, rejig the loan. Even went with him for auctions, to just give him some moral support. And he's one of my biggest referrals. He's referred to me at least 12 bids already.
James Mitchell: Wow, nice.
Annie Kane: But aside-
Vinay Gehi: Yeah, so-
Annie Kane: Aside from home loans, have you done any of the equipment that's in the restaurants?
Vinay Gehi: No. Not really.
Annie Kane: Would you consider doing that.
Vinay Gehi: No. No. See the problem is that even though I worked in the hospitality industry, the restaurant which I worked for is a pretty big group. So I really, really ... And most of the time where café owners are concerned, I've noticed that in Melbourne, especially in Melbourne, café owners who own cafes, small independent cafes ... They don't have any security. And most of the time, it's difficult to do their loans, even though it might sound easy. Because, they don't have any security.
And, most of the time I've noticed as well, that the owners who start their own restaurants, they actually do it with their own team. It's very difficult to get a loan towards a restaurant, because the banks, they don't look at it as a very profitable business. And, especially if they don't have security it becomes very difficult.
So, I do provide short term solutions, which I have. I've got a client who owns eight cafes and then his sister also owns three cafes, and sometimes when they need money for fit-outs, et cetera, we do use, I do use Spotcap and ... and Prosper, Moolah. Those kinds of services. But, they're just for quick ... Because they're expecting cash to come, it's just that it's not there yet. So, it's a service where they can use that cash for three months and then pay it off.
Annie Kane: I want to ask a little bit about ... You were saying in the beginning, that part of the reason for the career change was that you'd had a little boy and that you wanted to spend some more time with him and not work the crazy hours. Did that actually eventuate? Did you ... Were you able to spend time with him?
Vinay Gehi: Yes. Yeah. I actually spend a lot of time with him. What I've done is, in the beginning, I have understood how to mange my time really well. Prioritising is the key to any business, I think, running any business. So, I do ... Obviously, in the beginning, you had to go out and meet people, et cetera. Which you can do at some ... But yeah, I do spend a lot of weekends with them. I still have client meetings, et cetera, but I try and do the appointments around my family time.
I think clients as well they understand that you have a family and you have to ... And if you're providing them with really sound advice, they don't really mind. They are not ... Everyone is not like, "Yeah, I want to meet you at this particular time." Otherwise they get disappointed. People are very understanding. It's all about providing them with the expert advice and when you can do that, you can work around schedules of clients, as well. I actually spend more time with them now.
And also, look, I don't go and see all my clients as soon as I get a lead. I don't. I talk to them over the phone, get to know them a bit over the phone. Get to understand their financial position over the phone more than sitting in front of them and doing a fact-find. That can save you at least two to three hours. Because, the travel time, then you go their house, then it's the chat after around it. So, I came to qualify the clients over the phone first. And then meet them. So, it kind of saves time, I believe. The client, too, they don't have ... They don't want to ... Like some of the clients, if they want you to come to their house, you have to also realise that they have to tidy their house as well, and then offer me a cup of tea or coffee, yeah? And if they can avoid that, they are happy too.
Annie Kane: They're like, "Don't come in, my house is tip." Just do it over the phone.
James Mitchell: I'm interested in the ... Your decision to name your business. Copper Finance. Where did that come from?
Vinay Gehi: Copper Finance. Well, it's interesting because ... If you see the dollar coin, right? You will ... The Australian dollar is made of copper. And 92% is copper. And the other is, I think it's iron and something, something else.
James Mitchell: Nickel.
Vinay Gehi: Nickel. Yes. Eight percent. So, most of my deals are ... If we're going first home deals, people already had 10% deposit, so we give them 90% copper. But, they still have to pay lenders mortgage insurance, so then the deal goes up to 92%. So, I always tell my clients if you got 10% copper saved up, we give you ... you getting 90% to buy your house.
James Mitchell: Okay.
Vinay Gehi: And, I also think was ... I actually ... So, it wasn't because of that, I actually found out afterwards I named Cooper Finance, I'll be honest with you.
Annie Kane: It's a nice story anyway.
James Mitchell: It is a cool story.
Annie Kane: You should just start telling people that's why.
James Mitchell: I like that. You should just say with your clients, say, "You provided me 8% nickel and I'll give you 93% copper." You could get into commodities trading.
Vinay Gehi: Thank you, that's a good one. I'm going to use that now.
Also, the name is pretty clean. It's a clean name, it's easy to remember. Because, one day when I was brokering... Just started brokering, and I thought, Pepper Loans. What is Pepper? And I was just like how can a home loan ... an institution providing loans be Pepper. But it's very catchy. Every time ... So, it's a catchy name, Copper Finance, I reckon. It's easy to remember. It's clean.
Annie Kane: And, going back just again to the sort of setting up your brokerage and getting to really hit the ground running, how did you ... How long did it take you before you were sort of in a situation where you were thinking, "Okay, I'm comfortable with what I'm doing and I can keep going?"
Vinay Gehi: Cash flow is very important. So, it's all about cashflow. And I think once the cashflow came in after, maybe six months, six to seven months, it's then when I decided that I was no longer required to work those additional hours in the restaurant. Because, I was still doing evenings in the restaurant, as well. So once the money started coming in, then I was like look it's good, there is enough cashflow coming in, I don't have to now take a lot of money from my savings. Which was good, because I had my own savings to put into the business, but I wanted to use as little as possible. I wanted to make money very ....
Annie Kane: Of course.
Vinay Gehi: I wanted to get some cash coming into the business as well. After six months I reckon, six or maybe seven, six seven months, then I said ... My wife told me, "Look, you know, you should think of quitting." And I said, "Yeah." I actually spoke ... Then I stop working in the restaurant and started concentrating more on going out and getting more business.
Annie Kane: And so now you've been broking for a few years, what have you learnt along the way? Is there anything that you wish you'd known when you first started that you know now?
Vinay Gehi: Many things. First ... Things which I've learnt is, look, you just have to be persistent. You have to be very grounded. You have to be down to earth, as well. You have to be humble. When you meet people, you just have to understand their story. And try and help them as much as you can. If you get confused, there's no shame in asking for help. So, ask help from your mentor or ... I speak to other brokers, as well. I keep in contact with a lot of other brokers and I get really inspired by them too.
Things which I could have done better? Probably ... I think, could have done my website a bit earlier than when I started. So in hindsight, I always say, look ... Also, I think what could I have done better was organise a list of database, which I could have connected more. But, in all fairness, I didn't have that advantage, because I didn't know a lot of people. The people whom I knew, were young people who worked in the restaurants.
My advice, I always say to any new to the industry broker, like my friend, I speak to them as like, "Look, if you know that you're going to become a broker, and you've been here for quite a while, start writing down names and numbers and emails of people whom you can contact as soon as you get all your accreditation done." Even prior to that. So build that database up. Build it, build it, build it. Because, the more people you have in your database, the less you have to run, the less you have to go out and find more. So collect that. Collect that. That's very important.
Annie Kane: And do you have any sort of tips on now what kind of systems you use to try and collect that information and get those databases together? I mean, I know that you said that you aggregate through Connectives, so I'm guessing that you use that CRM system ... I've completely blanked on the name of it now.
James Mitchell: Mercury.
Vinay Gehi: Mercury.
Annie Kane: Mercury. Thank you. I wondered if you had any other sort of software or applications or anything that you use to try and keep on top of all that sort of CRM and customer relations?
Vinay Gehi: The CRM in Mercury is pretty good. It's one of the best I've used, because I haven't used any other. So I wouldn't know.
Annie Kane: It's the best I've used.
James Mitchell: The best one out there.
Vinay Gehi: So, what I do is ... Look my website, I did it ... My wife did my website. And what ... There's a CRM on my website, as well. And I write my own blogs. So this is what I started doing when I wasn't ... there was not much business to write. Because you can only speak to 100 people, right? And then out of the 100 people, maybe 10 might come to you or maybe five. I used to write a lot of blogs.
My mentor always told me look the more you write about blogs, you research about blogs, you will be getting to understand the industry, as well. Because, if you read you understand it, then you write it in your own words, you understand it even better.
James Mitchell: Yeah, very good point.
Vinay Gehi: So, I ... What I do is I email my newsletters once fortnightly to all my database. They are ... Newsletters are basically blogs. Educational blogs. I also run first home buyers information sessions once every month where we provide ... It's a one hour session, where I talk about what a first home buyer needs to do when entering to the property market, and everything that ... We talk about the borrowing capacity, how much money they can actually afford towards the value of a property, how much money they should borrow. Just because the bank is giving you a million dollars, doesn't mean you need to borrow a million dollars, et cetera.
And also the process. How does it work after you look at a property? We talk about Section 32. What are the questions you need to ask the real estate agent when you're visiting open for inspections. What is the difference between a private sale or an auction? What happens after you've ... your offer has been accepted? Et cetera, et cetera. So we ... I provide that information. And I do that once a month.
So, through that as well you get a lot of database. Because, people are coming for those information sessions, so they are keen. They might not be ready now, but they might be ready in the future. So once you get those people's name and numbers and emails, they go straight into the database on my website. And then they start receiving the newsletters, as well.
And we make contact as well. I have a spreadsheet, which I know when to contact them, et cetera. Even on Mercury you can put in ... you can create the person's profile and then set reminders of when you can contact them. So, it automatically reminds you. It's pretty good.
Annie Kane: So looking forward now, you've been brokering a few years, you've got that experience under your belt. What are you planning on doing, if anything, that might expand the business? Or are you looking to expand it? Or are you keeping it just going as it is?
Vinay Gehi: Slow and steady wins the race. That's what I believe. So you ... I just ... Look, I ... What I did in my first year compared to what I am this year, the business has grown. I did the maths the other day, it's around 25% growth, which is pretty good.
You don't wan to grow too fast. The thing is, look, my mantra is pretty simple. I've always been very people ... I like to be with people. And I do want to take my business to another level, but slowly, because I'm still learning. I'm still very new to this industry. I didn't have any banking background, as such. So I'm still trying to learn as much as I can. There are still some scenarios, which sometimes go over my head a little bit. But they don't come that often. But, if and when they do, it's a bit ... They are challenging and one has to be honest, as I said. So ... I do want to grow my business ... Now I got an office space, as well. So, which is good.
Yeah, but, it's not ... I don't pressurise myself, like, look next year I have to write X amount of dollars. I have a goal and I work with a more realistic goal than something, which is ... Because, it's no point of me then ... Because, then I'd rather spend time with my family as well. You know, you can't have both sides of the coin. And you can't write $100 million dollars a year and go on a short weekend trip. So, you have to understand what are your goals and the balance ... It's good to have balance. It's no point of making all that money when you don't have time to spend. That's what I feel.
Annie Kane: Well, that's I think commendable and I thank you for being honest, as well. I think a lot of people they'd be like, "Yeah, I'm going to go do this and do that!" But, I mean as you say, you can ... There is such a thing as growing too quickly. Slow and steady wins the race, as you said.
I just want to wish you the best of luck with your future Vinay. And thank you so much for your time today and sharing your story on Elite Broker. Do get in touch with us if you've got any news or anything that you want to tell us. We'd be always keen to hear how you're going.
James Mitchell: Yeah, thanks Vinay. Go well.
Vinay Gehi: Yeah sure. Thank you so much, thank you guys.
Annie Kane: Thank you, enjoy the rest of your day.
Vinay Gehi: Yeah you too.
Annie Kane: Well, thanks so much to Vinay and for you for tuning in. And if you've got any more news and insights that you want to get to grips with, then please visit The Advisor dot com dot AU for more information. And, obviously, tune in on this podcast on our sister podcast, Mortgage Business Uncut for everything mortgage business related. Thank you.
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