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Q&A with Joanna James

Reporter 5 minute read

We uncover the secret weapon of Mortgage Ezy co-founder Joanna James.

Tell us of your achievements, experiences and the qualities you bring to Mortgage Ezy?

In a nutshell, it would definitely be having the resilience to grow and to maintain my identity in a rather male-dominated profession. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of times my sex has engendered the presumption that I was the token female, merely a new assistant or BDM.

I vividly recall the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, one-liners passed over my way at industry events and functions.

Fifteen years ago when I co-founded Mortgage Ezy, I was still in my 20s and looked even younger, so being taken seriously was a real challenge - adding to the spin that my original training was as an architect and builder would also raise eyebrows. 

In hindsight, kicking around construction sites with teams of many men who sometimes did not appreciate instructions from a woman has held me in good stead. Prejudice can be masked in a myriad of different ways and forms.

One that comes to mind was a time during an MFAA event many years ago when a sexist, vocal critic assumed that the beautiful women on our stand must have been paid models. I’m sure it came as quite a surprise to him to find that in reality, every one of them were indeed our full-time staff members blessed with both brains and good looks.

Luckily, for every naysayer there are ten others who have encouraged us to stick by our principles. I have been told my detailed project planning mind has been a tremendous benefit to brokers and staff of Mortgage Ezy over the years.

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I love the nitty gritty and enjoy working on rolling out new projects. I am somehow blessed with the ability to project into the future to see a finished product, so whether that is a beautiful home or a new lending platform, it’s simply different building materials to me.

To create in life is really important and I feel that my design background has helped bring a fresh new look and feel to how we at Mortgage Ezy do things.

Fifteen years ago, some saw my apparent lack of experience as a disadvantage. Now those same people tell me they realise it’s actually an asset, because having had no preconceptions, I simply set about to combine both logic and imagination to create the best result possible and then applied the icing on the cake, so to speak, in making it look and feel top class.

What have been some of the biggest changes you have seen in the mortgage industry?

Where does one begin? I remember lots of fat lending files full of papers and standing at the fax machine hoping that all the pages would go through.

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These days we are working in a digital world where the rule book is a shifting landscape. There has been so much transformation over the years in so many different areas of the industry, but the greatest has been the speed with which the seemingly constant change now occurs.

In the world of lending, people now expect information in an instant. The basic essence is still the same, but the tools we use change daily. Similarly the service that mortgage brokers require from us remains best in class but the delivery expectations are far more sophisticated and timely.

How has the last 12 months been for you?

We thought it was tough to be a competitive player in the non-bank sector 12 months ago; well times that by a factor of a 10 and add some burning petrol to the fire… and you get the picture.

This past year has seen more out-ofcycle bank rate increases, funder and LMI policy changes, APRA investment limitations, further regulations, industry consolidation and price squeezing than we can remember at any time over the past 20 years.

To compete in the non-bank space has always meant an uneven playing field at best, and yet in the past 12 months, we have consistently offered a premium product at a very sharp rate, resulting in our settlement volumes going through the roof as we have attracted more new brokers than ever before.

What makes Mortgage Ezy stand out from not only the big four but other non-banks?

Mortgage Ezy is one of the last few remaining, truly independent and innovative lenders and we continue to thrive by giving the big four plenty of curry.

We are one of the very few lenders offering consumers a genuine alternative to bank home loans. We have always run our own race and while most people comment on our marketing, it only is reflective of who we are and what we stand for: Individualistic, innovative and idealistic.

What has been your most challenging time at Mortgage Ezy?

Most people might expect me to answer that it was in our early days or during the GFC. However, 2015 has by far been the most challenging of all my time at Mortgage Ezy.

Our executive director, Peter, has set lofty targets for the business and the Ezy Programme he initiated just one year ago has propelled us into the spotlight with some of the lowest rates and highest commissions available in the industry.

To provide the necessary back office support, we have turned each piece of our service offering on its head, questioning every single process we’ve had.

Today we deliver faster turnaround times, better conversions and a service proposition second to none, while we’ve had a ton of loans thrown at us.

With technology changing so rapidly and consumers now having so many options available to source their own home loans, how do you believe brokers can stay in the game?

Partner with a genuine alternative. If borrowers can access the same product from their local branch with cheaper rates online, brokers that just have more of the same no longer have a strong value proposition.

You won’t find our product on every street corner, as we prefer to support and provide differentiation for the broker who wants a unique solution available to meet their client’s individual needs.

Flexible enough to approve more loans and nimble enough when racing the clock for a much-needed loan approval, we are a genuine partner to support our brokers write more business. 

What is the secret to your continued success while others in the space struggle to compete?

We seek an equal relationship of the three elements of the triangle: client, broker, us.

As a commitment to the relationship, we have no channel conflict. We offer no clawback options, and brokers have a direct line to our assessors. We also continue paying trail for variations or increases, even if done without their broker.

Best of all, our partners love that their commissions are paid at settlement.    

 

Q&A with Joanna James
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