A triple-award winning regional broker has revealed how financial planning, working hour flexibility and technology has led to success for her Western Australian-based mortgage brokerage.
Tamara Virgo, director of TV Financial Services in Esperance, Western Australia, recently won the coveted titles of Broker of the Year and Best Regional Broker at the Better Business Awards 2017, while the office as a whole was awarded Best Regional Office for the second year in a row.
Speaking to The Adviser following the hat-trick, Ms Virgo said that she was thrilled with the awards, highlighting the team’s “fantastic work”, and adding that as a regional broker, she was particularly thrilled to be awarded Broker of the Year ahead of her metropolitan counterparts.
She said: “It was one of those moments where I thought 'Wow' — to me, it's recognition not just in my regional space but across the strength of all the brokers that are out there. Winning all of those awards was fantastic but Broker of the Year was probably something that I never really believed or considered that I would be up there to win, so I am thrilled.”
According to Ms Virgo, being a regional broker in Western Australia is a “double whammy” and means she has to work harder to gain and keep business.
She said: “Regional areas, especially those in Western Australia, have somewhat greater restrictions from a lender point of view. The other thing is that we're probably affected a lot more by downturns and/or seasons [such as] farming or agricultural seasons, business downturn or construction growth… we can see a large shift in population just due to a change in one of those seasons. What might be a booming industry now might not be sustainable in 12 months’ time.
“Plus, you need to be able to adjust your business to try and be a part of all the training and events without physically being there. We also don’t necessarily get the same level of engagement from our network partners and BDMs can’t just pop out and visit you — their organisations have budgets.”
She added that the business therefore requires a lot more attention to client and BDM relationships. “A lot of our relationships are borne from our ability to communicate, which in think is one of our strongest assets, because we don’t get a lot of chance to get in front of a lot of people from a face-to-face point of view,” she said.
“We're building physical relationships by our actions rather than by meeting people because we don’t have that luxury. Technology is therefore massive for us, and a massive investment. That technology is particularly important because people's drivers [are] usually face-to-face service, so how do you then deliver that when you are 700 kilometres from your next capital city?
“Without that technology and flexibility (from a staffing and client point of view) I don’t think we'd be as successful.”
She continued: “We certainly don’t run a 9-5 business here, we're very mindful of the seasons and timing for people so we’re very flexible around the needs of our clients surely because you need to be. If you don’t show flexibility in a region you’re not going to survive.”
The TV Financial Services director noted that the business had undergone “massive strategic review” recently to ensure the future growth of the company.
82 per cent conversion rate
She noted: “We understand that we’re geographically located in a regional area but we also understand that the strength of our business growth needs to be diversified.”
As part of this diversification, the mortgage broker also offers financial planning services.
Ms Virgo explained: “You can assist clients in obtaining finance, and that is a great need, but I wanted to be a holistic service provider – so I can be someone who is able to give knowledge and education to my clients [so they] understand that they’re making a decision that is based on their long-term plan, not just a reactive type business to something that needs financing.
She continued: “For us it is about building sustainable long-term relationships with our clients, and one that is also a sustainable return for our business, so it was almost not even a second thought to decide to leverage financial services to be more than just a broker. We wanted to be that advice house where people go to hear advice — not just for finance transactions but their total finance needs and business. That’s been something that has been highly successful in our retention and our growth because we’re more than just a mortgage brokerage.”
The Western Australian-based broker and financial planner said that letting clients know they offer financial services as well as mortgage broking has boosted conversion rates to around 82 per cent. “It’s a high uptake when you position your service offering to your clients and can show them exactly what you can assist them with that is a bit deeper than just that reactive call to finance,” she said.
“We have a very strict plan in place along the lines of marketing, tools and implementation, as well as staffing, not only to deliver regionally but also to be diverse in our business across all of Western Australia.”
Ms Virgo concluded: “I'm very excited. I think we work in a fabulous industry and have some outstanding people in our industry. At the end of the day, even despite the industry changes and challenges, I think we need to focus on what our vision and goals are, because I think we still work in one of the best industries you could ask for.”
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