In the latest episode of Elite Broker, Annie Kane is joined by broker and director of Eventus Financial Alex Veljancevski, who was recently crowned NSW’s Best Newcomer and Broker of the Year.
Although relatively new to broking, Alex has been forging a path for himself in the profession — coming in at 11th place in our 30 Under Thirty ranking in 2017, and clinching not one but two awards at the Better Business Awards 2018 earlier this year.
Owning his first property at 19 and starting his business by 24, this young broker outlines how he ensured his age was not a barrier to business, what drove his desire to start his own brokerage and what he accredits to the rapid growth of his business.
Tune in to find out:
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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 flying solo today as my colleague, James Mitchell, is away today. But don't dismay as this week we have a wonderful guest. New South Wales' newly crowned Broker of the Year, Alex Veljancevski, from Eventus Financial. How you doing, Alex?
Alex V.: I'm great. Thank you.
Annie Kane: Good. Thanks for coming in. Now, for those of you who don't know Alex, he's broker and director of Eventus Financial. A boutique brokerage based in Sydney CBD with another branch in the Inner West now. He's a relatively new broker. Alex began broking a couple of years ago after leaving the wealth management side of banking, but since then he's been forging a path in broking, coming in at 11th place in our 30 under 30 ranking in 2017, and taking home not only the Best Newcomer Award at the New South Wales Better Business Awards this year, but also clinching the title of Broker of the Year too.
In this episode of Elite Broker, we find out how Alex went from new broker to writing more than 150 mortgages last year, what he believes makes him broker of the year, and what he believes is in store for the industry going forward. So, thank you so much for coming in for the podcast, Alex, and congratulations on your wins as we said.
Alex V.: Thank you.
Annie Kane: Best Newcomer of the Year, Broker of the Year for New South Wales, and it's an amazing achievement, especially considering how new you are to the industry. How did it feel, first off, when your name was announced for those awards?
Alex V.: Oh, it was amazing, and an incredible honour as well, especially because I wasn't expecting it. I've worked really hard over the last three years being in business, and especially working towards getting an award. I've been a finalist over the course of the last couple of years but I hadn't won an award yet. So, to win that newcomer award was incredible but last award of Broker of Year was something I didn't imagine to win, and, yeah, it's just an incredible honour. I'm really honoured.
Annie Kane: Well, congratulations. It was well deserved, and let me just actually read one of the judge's comments that was on your submission. It said, "Alex is a very motivated individual who has applied himself fully to becoming a premium quality broker. His ethical and diligent approach has paid off handsomely and is obviously greatly appreciated by his clients and the credit providers." Now, I'm curious, that's a great comment to have but what strategies have you put in place to help you succeed, and what do you believe is sort of helping you bed down that ethical approach that the judges have mentioned there?
Alex V.: Yeah. Great words. I started three years ago. So, I started my business with no clients. I had no existing referral partners. I was very fresh and very new. I still recall the day when I started my business. There was no emails coming through. There was no phone calls coming through-
Annie Kane: Panic.
Alex V.: ... I can sort of remember the days. There was not one day that would go past that I wasn't busy. I knew that the only way I was gonna get business is if I went out there to meet like-minded referrers. I started meeting with real estate agents, accountants, financial planners, and formed those relationships with them. The leads that I started getting first came from family and friends, and I was fortunate enough to get their trust early on, especially being new to the industry.
The one thing that I felt was a big headwind for me was my age. I was quite young when I started, so I knew my product knowledge had to be exceptional. I invested a lot of time with a lot of my BDMs, making sure that I knew credit policy. I invested a lot of time of one-on-one catch ups with credit to make sure that I'm structuring deals correctly. Whenever I met with a client, that competence shone out, I guess. That age factor, I guess, wasn't a massive thing. From day one, I wanted my business to be based on trust, so when I dealt with clients, I was very open, transparent. They could see that I knew what I was doing and I knew what I was talking about, which really helped in getting more referral from them in the future.
Annie Kane: Yeah, and I think that's the biggest hurdle, isn't it? Is actually coming out there when you're brand new and being like, "I actually do know what I was talking about," because, as you say, it takes time to actually ... and effort ... to learn all the different products out there, to learn what the lenders are offering, what they specialise in. What's right for someone might not be right for the next person and having all that knowledge can take a long time. I think it ... yeah, it's a great tip there about sort of really leaning on your BDMs as well to make sure that you're sort of utilising the knowledge that they have as specialists in their area to make sure that you're coming across as a kind of professional and well versed broker, despite your age. So, how old are you know? Are you about 27, 28?
Alex V.: I'm 28.
Annie Kane: 28.
Alex V.: Yeah, actually, I'm turning 28 next month.
Annie Kane: Oh, well. Happy birthday for next month.
Alex V.: Thank you.
Annie Kane: You must have been, what, 25 when you started?
Alex V.: I started my business when I was 24.
Annie Kane: Wow.
Alex V.: It was March 2015. I turned 25 in April. So, the next month. Yeah, I was quite young. Prior to starting the business, I was working for a mortgage manager before that. So, I had great mentors there, which helped a lot when I started the business. I had a great base there.
Annie Kane: And before that, were you working for Macquarie, was it?
Alex V.: I was working for a mortgage manager.
Annie Kane: Yep. Okay. Sorry.
Alex V.: Yeah.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
Alex V.: I was there for a year and a half, and then, prior to the mortgage manager, I was at Macquarie.
Annie Kane: Yeah. Okay.
Alex V.: Yeah.
Annie Kane: I mean, what made you firstly jump ship from the bank to mortgage management, and then from mortgage to broking. What was the actual trigger in the first place for doing that?
Alex V.: Yeah, it's a great question. I graduated uni in 2011. I did a commerce degree at the University of New South Wales. My dream was to work at a financial institution like Macquarie. I always wanted to be in the corporate world. I was fortunate enough to get a great job straight away at Macquarie Bank, which was a great place to work at, especially as a graduate. They work you hard, so they instil good work ethic. I'm very fortunate I went through that, but after two years, I felt like I wanted to do something different. I'm really passionate about helping clients. I really love serving people. That's my big why. I'm good at finance, I'm good at making relationships, and I'm really passionate about helping people. I wanted to find an industry that would allow me to combine those things, and I could see broking had those certain qualities. So, yeah, I thought, "Let's give this a crack. See how it goes."
Annie Kane: I mean, it's interesting as well that you made the decision to go independent rather than join a big brand. I mean, I know that a lot of people when they first start out, they kind of want that handholding that a brand offers. That security. What was your sort of decision for thinking, "No, I'm gonna start my own brokerage. I'm gonna do it on my own," and how did you actually go about doing that? Because it's quite a big step to set up your own business and start from scratch in a new industry. What was the decision and how did you go about sort of setting up Eventus?
Alex V.: Yeah, that was a massive decision. I went through so many models before I finally decided to go down the independent way of creating Eventus Financial. I did explore options of franchises, of going through a brand, which I guess would've helped me in the early stages of my career. I spoke to a lot of people. My biggest dream from when I was younger was to open up a business. It was a great dream of mine and I remember talking to an old colleague at Macquarie and he knew that that was my dream, and when I explained to him the reasons why I left Macquarie that was part of what I mentioned to him. And what he said, when I caught up with him, was, "You've always wanted to start your own business, so start something that you've always envisioned," and I always envisioned having a brand of my own.
I was confident at that stage that I was in it for the right reasons. As I said, I'm really passionate about helping people, so I had hoped that that passion and that energy that I had early on would translate into good consumer outcomes, and from there, it all spiralled into the right direction. I'm so glad that I made that choice because, yeah, I'm really happy with where it's come today.
Annie Kane: Good. And before we go a little bit further into talking about Eventus Financial, the brand and what you've been doing there, I just wanna know a little bit more about ... you were saying that you really wanted to create your own business. I mean, what was it, particularly, that you wanted? I mean, what was the drive there?
Alex V.: Being in control of helping people. You can always want to help people but I felt as though if you work at a bigger organisation, your impact potentially could be a bit less if you had your own business. For like ... you're a master of your destiny, and I always had the vision of doing the right thing, especially assisting clients, making sure they achieve their hopes and dreams. That's a big reason why I wanted to start a business. I wanted to see that and I wanted my business to stand for that. I felt that that could only potentially be created by doing it this way. So, yeah.
Annie Kane: And I guess as well, it sort of keeps you on your toes a little bit. You have to hold yourself accountable because you're the only person in the business, or at least you were at the time, to sort of be like, "Right, if I don't do this, it's just not gonna happen."
Alex V.: That's right.
Annie Kane: Whereas maybe the flip side of having the security of the brand is maybe it's too secure.
Alex V.: That's right. Yeah. I've always been afraid of being complacent, and that's why by going down this way, I am putting myself in a situation where I've got no one to hold me accountable. I can only hold myself accountable. I think I do a pretty good at it, and I'm very harsh on myself.
Annie Kane: A harsh critic.
Alex V.: But at the end of the day, I'm harsh on myself because I know that clients deserve better, as in deserve great service. I can't slow that down, and I feel as though standards can always go up and that's a thing with growing. We've grown so fast in the last three years, I've never wanted that standard of service to ever fall and it's always been on my mind, and the faster you grow, you potentially can't uphold that service. But I'm so proud to say today that our level of service hasn't fallen, and, yeah, it's been as a result of holding myself accountable in certain phases. So, yeah.
Annie Kane: And in terms as well with the sort of support package that you get, I guess although you didn't have brand behind you, you did have your aggregator. How did you go about choosing your aggregator? You're with Choice, is that right?
Alex V.: That's right. Choice. I spoke to a few aggregators before I started. I spoke to Choice first. I was referred to them by a friend of mine that was in the industry. So, I was referred to Glenn Williams, who's my BDM at the moment at Choice.
Annie Kane: He's a great.
Alex V.: Yeah. Glenn's amazing. From when I first met him, I knew that he was someone that I wanted to deal with. He was very open. He took a very keen interest in me, and I was only 24 at that stage, and I didn't know how serious I would get taken by a lot of people. He took me very serious. He, as I said, was very open from the start. I felt as though he was someone that would always back me, especially in the early stages of my career, and that was extremely important for me. More than anything else. That was a big reason why I choose Choice was ... yeah, Glenn.
Annie Kane: Because of Glenn.
Alex V.: Yeah.
Annie Kane: Shout out to Glenn. Well done.
Alex V.: Yeah. He's amazing. Yeah, he's been amazing for the last three years.
Annie Kane: Oh, good.
Alex V.: Yeah, I couldn't have expected anything better from him.
Annie Kane: And in terms of actually what the aggregators provide you ... so, I mean, if we've got new brokers listening to the podcast, I mean, what is it for you that, aside from the relationship you have with your BDM, but what else is it that you really value in your aggregation partner, and what should other new brokers be looking for that have been a benefit to you?
Alex V.: Good question. I feel like your aggregate has to back you in certain cases, and Choice does that. Obviously, their SCRM is very important. Having a good SRCM. Choice is quite advanced with the technology side of things. That has worked really well. They obviously support your business early on by ... I remember having regular catch ups with my BDM. He tried to look at the business growth side of things a bit more than I did at that stage. I was very focused on meeting more clients and I could potentially ... didn't focus on-
Annie Kane: The business strategy.
Alex V.: That's right. What's gonna happen in three years time?
Annie Kane: Yeah.
Alex V.: Whereas he'd bring me back and remind me that, "You need to think about these things."
Annie Kane: Even though you're like, "Leave me alone. I need to get some leads."
Alex V.: Yeah, that's right. Exactly right. Yeah, I was just going 100 miles an hour making sure I was helping clients, doing the right thing, and sometimes you ... you're a one-man band, so it's a bit hard looking at all aspects, especially when you're trying to run a business and I felt he was great in that. Yeah, I feel as though those things are very important and Choice has always delivered. So, yeah, I'm extremely happy with them and I wouldn't be looking at any aggregator. That's for sure.
Annie Kane: Aw.
Alex V.: Yeah.
Annie Kane: Well, they'll be glad to hear that. And just looking back at, again, your referral. So, you said at the beginning that most of your sort of leads came from your friends and family at first, and I think that's generally quite a standard sort of way. Is that when you first start, you obviously tell everyone you know, like, "Let me do your mortgage. Let me have a look at your mortgage." But in terms of actually then setting up relationships with referral partners ... so, lawyers and solicitors, real estate agents, what have you ... how did you go about doing that? How did you find them? And what's your sort of system now? Do you meet up with them sort of day-to-day? Do you have someone in the office? What's your sort of referral partner structure look like?
Alex V.: Yeah, I remember when I started the business and I knew that I needed to approach professionals in the industry to establish referral arrangements. A lot of people used to say to me, "Well, all the accounts are taken. They all have relationships. All the real estate agents are taken. They've got existing relationships." But what I've found is once I met up with a lot of these professionals, there was always an opportunity to do business. I approached my referral partners quite fresh ... being quite fresh in the industry. So, that, again, was a bit of a concern. How will they take me? I don't have any runs on the board.
As soon as I met up with them, as soon as we spoke, they could see I was competent in my field. I am really passionate about real estate as well. So, whenever I spoke to real estate agents, I knew everything about that area. I knew everything about the Sydney market and they could see that my knowledge about their industry was quite high. They knew that when I dealt with their clients that they're dealing with someone that knows what's going on from a real estate perspective, and also is a great broker as well.
I think those professionals also saw my energy and we connected in, obviously, having that high level of energy, and, yeah, we formed those relationships quite early on in my business and they've obviously strengthened. I keep in contact with them on a regular basis. We meet up potentially every fortnight to go through recent changes. I wanna know what's happening in their industry and they wanna know what's happening in mine. I run through scenarios. So, yeah, it's extremely important being in front of them on a regular basis.
Annie Kane: And staying front of mind as well.
Alex V.: For sure. For sure. Yeah. I make sure that that happens.
Annie Kane: So, you said that you had quite a lot of knowledge about the real estate industry. Is it right that you're an investor yourself? You already know sort of from a personal side, I guess, the investment market here in Sydney. What else do you know about real estate? What else is that sort of driving that passion for information?
Alex V.: Yeah, I started investing in property quite young. I was 19 when I bought my first property.
Annie Kane: 19? That's insulting.
Alex V.: Yeah. I obviously had a loan quite early on as well. I had that experience, and then from that, I create a bit of equity from my investments early on and I've-
Annie Kane: Got the bug.
Alex V.: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. I think property is a great form of longterm investment and I'm passionate about that, and I'm passionate about helping clients, especially investors achieve ... wealth through property. Obviously through facilitating the transaction from a mortgage perspective, from a finance perspective. But, yeah, I'm really passionate about that. I love real estate and being able to combine that passion in real estate with also the passion in finance is great.
Annie Kane: Yeah. And in terms ... I mean, you said you bought your first property at 19. Do you have like a portfolio now or are you still just sort of keeping it small?
Alex V.: Yeah, I bought a property when I was 19 in Sydney. It was a unit in Liverpool because that was all could afford at the time, and then I bought another unit in Liverpool as well a year later, and I just kept that for a few years. Sydney market obviously grew. That was 2010. In 2015, I realised a bit of that equity and started purchasing some property interstate. Felt that as though there was a bit more value there.
Annie Kane: Can I ask which states?
Alex V.: Big believer in Brisbane.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
Alex V.: In established housing there, in established dwellings. So, yeah. That's been the majority of my investments. Yeah, in the last few years.
Annie Kane: I guess as well that gives you a bit more knowledge when you're actually talking to clients as well. You can do that firsthand conversation and say, "I know what the market's like up there. I know what the market's like down here because I actually have property here," or, "I'm looking at property there." I think that's really interesting.
I wanna talk a little bit now about Eventus Financial. We've covered a little bit of your past. Let's go to the present. In your submission for your Better Business Award for Best Newcomer, we noted obviously you've got a huge sort of growth in the last year. I think 100% in volume growth year on year. Obviously, you've only been in the business for a few years but really that's incredible. And not only that, but now you've opened a second office in Bardwell Park in the Inner West. How have you done that? I mean, what actually led to you increasing volumes by so much, do you think? And why open an office in Bardwell Park?
Alex V.: That last question is very easy. I live in Bardwell Park.
Annie Kane: Okay. Less commute time.
Alex V.: And also a lot of my clients are based in the Inner West. So, that obviously went hand in hand, having something close to home, and something close to my growing clientele base. The growth has been as a result of ... was referrals from my existing clients, really. 80% of our referrals come from existing clients. They've been huge advocates of our business. I always call them my number one fans because they're very passionate about referring clients to me. I have some clients that have referred five, six clients to us.
Annie Kane: That's great.
Alex V.: Yeah. It's just amazing. That's really fueled our growth, and really long hours as well from working hard. I knew that when I started the business, the first few years are gonna be tough from a working perspective but, yeah, I feel now that I'm putting systems in place to help me out with that as well. So, hiring support staff, increasing efficiencies in the business, have kind of eased a bit of that pressure. But in the first three years, it was really long hours, but I managed to really go through that because I had a lot of energy. Yeah. So, that was-
Annie Kane: I think it's interesting in your business partner that you've chosen, Shamil Samji, in that he's not got a broking background. You're a relatively new broker yourself. You've got now someone else in the company who doesn't as well have a broking experience. You've sort of really ... it's a big undertaking. You've bitten off quite a lot there. How do you go about actually sort of finding the time to mentor someone who's new to the business, and also find the time to work on your clients as well? I mean, how are you balancing that? Just not sleeping?
Alex V.: Yeah. Pretty much. No. Shamil actually has an accounting background, which helps. He's obviously good with numbers, but when I took him onboard, the biggest things I looked at was integrity, energy, and competence. I could teach the last part but if they didn't have the first two qualities, it was never gonna work. I was fortunate enough to know Shamil from a mutual friend perspective. I knew he had the first two and I knew that I can instil a lot of the mortgage knowledge. That I felt was a great recipe to grow Eventus. Yeah. I didn't always want it to be just me.
Annie Kane: Yeah, and so now how do you split your time between the two offices? Are you one in each or are you both together? How do you sort of manage both businesses?
Alex V.: Yeah, it's probably about three days at Bardwell Park, two in the city. I go to and from. It works really well. We obviously go out and see clients as well, so we're not always in the office. But the city office still comes in a lot of use. We have a lot of professionals that we see in the city during work hours. That works great, and also Bardwell Park comes in play for more out of business hour meetings, Saturdays as well. I work on Saturdays. So, that's-
Annie Kane: So, there is no sleeping? That's right. That's pretty much it.
Alex V.: Yeah, pretty much.
Annie Kane: I mean, do your clients ... I mean, you said that the CBD clients are mainly sort of professionals. Do they actually ... are they looking for different things? For example, are the CBD clients sort of looking for investment properties, whereas the Bardwell Park are more owner-occupier? Is there a split in the client type?
Alex V.: I wouldn't say that there's a split in that perspective. There's probably more of a split from ... I find they're a bit more time poor. So, having that office in the city really helps, where they can duck out during lunch hours to see me. Whereas, yeah, once we go in the Inner West, we can cater for clients after hours and so on.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
Alex V.: Yeah.
Annie Kane: And, again, so you said it's three days in Bardwell Park and sort of two or three in Sydney CBD. With Shamil, are you sort of working both ... are you both working the same days or are you working separately? I'm just wondering how that works.
Alex V.: Pretty much at the moment we're together. Just because he's still going through his mentoring. He started with me July last year, so there's a lot of scenarios we go through every day. He bounces a lot of things off me on a regular basis. I think it's important that we stick tight at the start before he kinda can go-
Annie Kane: Independent.
Alex V.: Independent. Yeah.
Annie Kane: And how have you found that mentoring process? It must be quite strange going from mentee to mentor. How have you found it?
Alex V.: Yeah, it has been quite strange. I mean, I had great mentors when I started. So, I had big shoes to fill.
Annie Kane: Can I ask who your mentors were?
Alex V.: Obviously, my old boss and my mortgage manager, and a few other people there. They were really supportive of me when I started. I was very eager to learn and they were really willing to share. That was the best type of learning that I could ever have. Yeah, I really want to instil that in Shamil because I really want him to become a premium broker, which I know he will. So, yeah, really excited about that.
Annie Kane: When you say premium broker, do you mean like with the banks in terms of premium level or do you mean a premium broker as in just generally?
Alex V.: Generally.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
Alex V.: Yeah, generally. Yeah. Yep.
Annie Kane: Okay. Or both?
Alex V.: Both.
Annie Kane: Now you're sort of doing the mentoring. How does that actually look in practise? I mean, you said you're sort of working side by side, but do you have sort of times where you think, "Okay, right. Well, I'm gonna set aside ..." I don't know. Like, "A couple of hours a week to sort of sit down with him and go over stuff." What's your process?
Alex V.: Yeah. We sit down every day to go through something new. I think that you need to learn something new every day. That's really important to stay on top of everything. On top of that, he runs constant scenarios with me. So, yeah, it's pretty much sitting down every day for an hour, whether it's in the morning or in the arvo, just depending on how our schedules look. It's on a daily basis. For sure.
Annie Kane: Okay. That's good. Keep him sort of keen and engaged, and I guess answer any questions quickly before they can sort of turn into any bigger problems.
Alex V.: That's right.
Annie Kane: It's also good to get on top of that.
Alex V.: Yeah.
Annie Kane: I also wanna ask, because, obviously, now you've got someone working with you ... you say July 17, he came onboard, Shamil, with you?
Alex V.: Yes.
Annie Kane: Yeah. So, you've had someone working with you for just under a year now and we've had a lot of changes in the industry since 2017, really. With all these hearings and commissions and things, obviously, that's kept us at The Adviser very busy. We've been listening to all the public hearings for the commissions. How much do you, as a broker, listen to them and how much are you sort of trying to filter out the noise from sort of negative headlines, positive headlines? Especially for someone who's new in broking, it can be quite sort of disheartening, I think, seeing what people say about brokers, but obviously we, at The Adviser, have to write it because we wanna sort of showcase what your clients are reading. But how much does that sort of impact and how much do you sort of talk about that, if at all, when you're dealing with someone new?
Alex V.: As brokers, I believe it's really important to be aware of what's going on. Our clients are aware, so it's important that we're aware. From a business perspective, I try to shield a lot of that negative news out. We obviously can't control the outcome of the royal commission. I feel as though we're fortunate enough to have great industry bodies, such as the MFAA, the FBAA, and aggregators that are fighting on our behalf, and I think they're doing an excellent job, by the way. But we need to focus on what we do from a daily basis, and that's helping our clients and deliver great consumer outcomes. From a daily basis, that's where my focus goes. How do I become better? How do I increase my standards? How do we stay on top of our compliance to make sure we're doing the right thing?
We can control that as business owners and as brokers in the industry. We can't control what the royal commission outcome will be, and, as I said, the industry bodies are doing a great job, and I'm more than happy to leave that responsibility to them.
Annie Kane: Yeah. It's an interesting task they have ahead of them and I think we at The Adviser constantly try and showcase the best brokers in the industry and what people are doing. So, and obviously having you come on to the Elite Broker Podcast is part of that. It's the Best Broker of the Year, New South Wales, 2018.
Alex V.: Thank you.
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