The Adviser reveals the Elite Business Writers for 2013
THE CHANGING FACE OF BROKERS
This year's ranking reveals the changing face of the modern broker, writes The Adviser's editor, Stacey Moseley
THIS YEAR, we have shaken things up a bit.
The 2013 Elite Business Writers list shows the true intensity of broker competition. The list rewards those brokers who manage to successfully settle the largest number of loans, as well as taking into consideration the diversified broker of today.
Here at The Adviser, we believe this list represents what it means to be a post-GFC, post-NCCP broker – a key professional in the contemporary financial services landscape.
While many familiar names appear on the list, there are a number of newcomers. In fact, just over half of this year’s Top 50 were not on the list last year.
Analysing the extensive amount of data collected in the survey this year, we also saw clear evidence that brokers are increasingly diversifying their services.
More brokers are writing more insurance and financial services products at higher volumes than ever before.
The broker proposition continues to show strength, with our Top 50 brokers writing over $5.3 billion in residential mortgages, insurance and other financial services products. And if the property market continues to trend upwards – as seems most likely – we can expect even bigger numbers next year.
I would like to congratulate all those brokers named in our Elite Business Writers ranking, and also commend those who participated in this year’s survey.
I’d also like to express my gratitude to our industry sponsor ING DIRECT – without their support the ranking would not be the success that it is.
In the following pages you will meet some of the key achievers.
Editor, The Adviser
A WORD FROM THE PARTNER
The Adviser's Elite Business Writers 2013 represent the peak of an industry that is increasingly relevant to consumers, writes ING DIRET's Lisa Claes
OVER THE past 12 months, we’ve seen yet again the growing strength and relevance of the broker channel to customers as people continue to choose to buy their home with the help of a broker.
Last year, 43 per cent of business industry-wide came through this channel and, of course, for ING DIRECT more than 90 per cent of our home loan business came in via our broker partners.
As the broker industry becomes increasingly relevant to customers, it likewise becomes increasingly relevant to all financial institutions. There’s a trend emerging whereby banks are investing more time and energy into building sustainable relationships with their partners, to make it easier for brokers to work with them.
We’ve seen from our own Broker Partner Program how important flexibility is to brokers – in being able to choose how and when they interact with us. There’s no question that we will continue to invest in this area and evolve our relationship with brokers.
We’re also seeing a lot of focus within the industry on ensuring the sustainability of the broker channel irrespective of macro-economic business trends. It’s encouraging to see the increasing number of brokers who are offering customers a holistic approach to financial planning, broadening their offering to include not only mortgage advice, but also advice around savings and transaction accounts.
Convergence, between brokers and other advisers, will be a real point of difference in creating a sustainable future for the industry.
The broker channel will continue to thrive as long as the focus remains on delivering value to customers. Like any business, bank or broker, success comes from a customer focus rather than a product focus.
Executive director, distribution ING DIRECT
Australia's third-party distribution channel has seen continued growth over the past year, proving that Australians are actively seeking financial advice from an expert
THIS YEAR’S Elite Business Writers have written more than three per cent of loans for the entire nation. According to RP Data, 328,903 houses were purchased in the 2012/2013 financial year, with our Top 50 brokers writing loans for 12,225 of them.
These figures give a nod to the work ethic of those brokers who strive to be the best. On average, this year’s brokers settled 245 loans each – this is up by 65 settlements on last year’s list.
However, it is interesting to note that last year’s list cumulatively wrote more than $6 billion, whilst this year the figure was just $5.3 billion.
We are also seeing that more of the top brokers are embracing an ‘effective business unit’, with more than half of them having more than two support staff.
Self-managed super fund loans are playing an increasingly important role in the diversified broker market, with the Top 50 elite writers claiming that this type of loan is the most used additional business offering.
Real estate agents were the best source of referral business, according to the top brokers, while a majority of brokers said referrals accounted for between 11 per cent and 25 per cent of their business.
To be considered an Elite Business Writer, a broker needed to have written a minimum of $30 million in residential mortgages in 2012/2013.
The Elite Business Writers ranking was based on three metrics, namely residential sales volume, number of deals settled, and sales generated from other business sources, such as insurance.
A mortgage broker’s sales volume and number of transactions were each worth 40 per cent of their ranking’s weighting, while sales generated from other sources made up the final 20 per cent of their ranking.
The Adviser took into account that some brokers utilise support staff in their businesses.
In the ranking, brokers were allowed to include any work that their administration staff does as their own.
However, brokers who have additional loan writers on their team were not allowed to claim those volumes as their own.
This year, The Adviser decided to find out exactly what it takes to be an Elite Business Writer, and the results were enlightening
TOP IN NSW
Ranked fifth overall, Justin is no stranger to the Top 50 Elite Business Writers ranking, securing first place for the past two years.
Despite dropping in the overall rankings (due to this year’s revised metrics), Mr Doobov has managed to retain the title of best broker in NSW.
He also managed to settle the highest number of commercial loans of the top brokers on this year’s list.
“The only way I keep on top of everything is thanks to my support team and the way we’ve built up our clients and our processes – it allows us to write a lot more than most other brokers in the country,” Mr Doobov says.
“We’re constantly looking at how we can improve how we’re processing loans. I believe we could potentially double the amount of loans we’re currently doing, with the same resources – just by creating more efficiency in the business.”
Mr Doobov wrote more than $154 million in loans this financial year and settled 235 transactions. His average loan size was $655,368.
TOP IN WA
Ranked second overall this year, Rael is another name featured regularly in the Top 50 Elite Business Writers listings.
With a staggering 534 settlements in 12 months, Mr Bricker believes he would not be able to handle the business without his years of experience – and five support staff.
“I think I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 10 years putting in the right systems and training confident staff,” he says. “I’ve been out of the office lately, but the world hasn’t collapsed because I know my team have got it covered.”
Mr Bricker believes it comes down to trust when hiring staff and training them to handle the responsibility of helping run one of the most successful brokerages in the country.
“Clients don’t phone me to find out where their loan’s at; they phone one of our team. But if they want to know strategically how to structure their loans, then they come to me.”
So, with the back-office team looking after day-to-day loan management, Mr Bricker is free to generate leads and drive referrals.
TOP IN THE ACT
After just making it into the top 10 last year, under the new metrics Gerard was ranked fourth overall in 2013. But the real jaw-dropper is his amazing feat of settling 368 loans in 12 months – with just two support staff.
For those keeping score, that’s more than one per day on average. With 18 years’ experience behind him, Mr Tiffen relies solely on repeat business and his professional client referrals.
“We don’t advertise at all so I’d say 100 per cent of my business would be from referrals or word of mouth or from old clients,” he says.
Despite sealing a deal a day, Gerard claims he still manages to meet with referral partners every week.
“I lunch, I have coffee, I breakfast even – I just do a lot of networking with professional partners like accountants, financial planners, solicitors and family lawyers at least once or twice a week,” he says.
“We’re big into settlement gifts too. We want to give clients the best experience so that they turn from one into three or four more [clients].”
TOP IN SA
Falling just outside the top 10, the Lone Arranger, Scott Marshall, was ranked first overall in South Australia.
With 431 settlements at an average of $217,862, Mr Marshall has had to strictly adhere to his back-end processes to keep on top of everything.
“I’ve sort of created a streamlined process in terms of how the back end operates; and we’ve improved on that over the last year,” he says.
With the help of his support staff, Scott manages to maintain the workflow while keeping client relations in check.
“It actually provides a better experience for the client as well.
“You’re not at risk of having things fall apart because you’ve got too many things happening and not getting back to people.
“That’s something we’re very conscious about managing,” he says.
“It’s one thing to say that more things are coming in that we can handle and we’re busy, but if you’re not getting back to people on the same day or you’re not delivering a fast service, then you’re going to fall flat either way.”
NUMBER 1 ROOKIE
Josh Bartlett, VIC
CHANGING FROM personal training to mortgage broking may seem like an odd move to some, but to this year’s Elite Business Writers top-ranked rookie, Josh Bartlett of Loan Market in Victoria, it made perfect sense.
“I wanted to be a part of the real estate industry without being an agent,” he laughs. “Mortgage broking offered me a challenge, but I don’t see it being too different to personal training – you deal with clients all day.
“Both industries are about building a relationship and selling a product.”
With just two years’ experience in the industry as of the 2012/2013 financial year, Mr Bartlett has managed to write $90,283,049 in residential and other loans, securing him 16th place on the Elite Business Writers list.
But he admits his career to date hasn’t been without its challenges.
“The first year or so was difficult and I really had to work hard to learn all the different credit policies,” he says.
“I also had a branded office so I had to work out the industry quick smart and start creating contacts.”
And the advice he offers other young brokers? “Seek out someone else that is doing the same thing and writing big volumes and learn from them,” he says.
“Also, if you are in this business to have an easy lifestyle, well you are probably in the wrong industry.
“You have to commit to putting your head down to work on your referrals for the first three to five years. I am not there yet.”
BIGGEST JUMP - Top in QLD
James Hasselle, QLD
WITH THE property market still lacking real momentum, it is often proving difficult for mortgage brokers to grow their volumes significantly, but that is exactly what Mortgage Choice’s James Hasselle has done.
The Queensland-based broker managed to grow his settlement volumes – as well as his position in the Elite Business Writers ranking, jumping from 41st in 2012 to 9th in 2013.
So, how did he do it?
According to Mr Hasselle, working ‘on the business’ rather than ‘in it’ helped him take his volumes and his loan book to a new level.
“I started to take a more holistic view of my business,” he says. “Instead of just worrying about the loans that were in the system, I took a proactive step to work on the business and really start thinking about the best ways to generate more leads.
“I looked at my current referral relationships and worked on building these further. In addition, I implemented a consistent marketing strategy, which included regular home loan health checks for my customers and enhanced online marketing activities.
“I also increased my social media footprint and started sponsoring my local animal hospital. These activities helped me to build my brand in the local community.”
In addition to his Miami shop, he recently opened a second retail premises in a prominent strip in Burleigh Heads. This gives his business more coverage in the local area and is already proving to be a success, according to Mr Hasselle.
He plans to spend the next 12 months doing much of the same – strengthening relationships with referral partners, clients and the local community.
Fortunately, he won’t have to do it alone, having just recruited a new marketing manager to ensure his marketing campaign remains strong and consistent.
Mr Hasselle is also on the lookout for more loan consultants and plans to spend the next 12 months building up this side of the business.
TOP FEMALE BROKER
Leeanne Scott, NSW
THIS YEAR’S top female broker is NSW-based Mortgage Choice principal, Leeanne Scott. With more than 16 years’ experience, Ms Scott says that being a female in a mostly male-dominated industry has meant only good things.
“I actually think I’ve had the best of everything being a female in this industry,” she says. “Normally the woman in the relationship makes the decisions. While the husband is looking at the dollars, the wife is looking at the new kitchen and bathroom.
“That is where the decision-making is coming from and I think that I have the ability to tap into both of those aspects.”
Ms Scott placed eighth overall by writing $134,659,304 in total volume over the 2012/2013 financial year.
There were five female brokers on this year’s Elite Business Writers list.
“Being named the top female on the list is a testament to the amount of work that we put into this business – it’s just a reflection of all the hard work,” she says.
With a farming area in North Sydney, Ms Scott says she deals with business people and those who are making purchases at the higher end of the property market and thus, they demand a certain level of service.
“They’re extremely time-poor; they want to be able to put the loan on your desk or give you the problem and then you take care of it,” she says.
“It can be a challenge just getting the right amount of documentation out of them.”
And according to Ms Scott, this means communicating clearly and through e-mail.
“I sit down face-to-face with my clients at least twice, but with the people I am dealing with they really just want to communicate via email,” she says.
“I need to be able to clearly and concisely communicate to them what I need and I can only ask once.”
TOP GENERATOR OF NEW BUSINESS
Anthony Alabakov, VIC
ANTHONY ALABAKOV, CEO of My Mortgage Freedom, stood out in this year’s ranking for the amount of new client-generated business he receives, and while he won’t give away all his secrets, he advises mortgage brokers to “think outside the box”.
“There are a lot of businesses offering clients different services and so you have to prove you are doing something a little bit different,” he says.
“Our business is designed to make it easier for mum and dad investors. There are no physical appointments, and they can work with us from home or do it without leaving the office.”
According to Mr Alabakov, more than 76 per cent of all his business during the 2012/2013 financial year was generated as new business.
Much of this can be attributed to the growth of his new business My Mortgage Freedom, which has been in operation for only two years.
“We came into the market about two years ago, so we really had to work hard to think outside the box to ensure we were gathering new clients,” he explains. Mr Albakov was ranked 14th in this year’s Elite Business Writers ranking and wrote $85,000,000 worth of loans.
NUMBER 1 RANKED BROKER - Top in Victoria
Mark Davis, VIC
IN 2012, Mark blitzed the Top 50 Elite Business Writers list in terms of residential mortgages, with $30 million more than anyone else ranked in the top ten.
However, with a slightly lower volume of other business, he was placed fourth overall.
This year, he has once again blown the competition away.
Settling 585 loans – 50 more than the broker in second place – and individually writing just shy of $162 million,
Mr Davis has shown what it takes to be a good broker in just three and a half years.
“Once you build up a business that runs like a machine, it’s a matter of keeping it up or you’ll lose your reputation,” he says.
“Also, if you do something you love, and it’s a passion to look after clients and to educate and progress clients, then you don’t see it as work. I have people ask me all the time how I keep up with 75- to 80 hour weeks…
Well, I don’t think that staying up until 2am replying to emails is a big chore.”
But after six months straight, even Mr Davis agrees that he sometimes hits a wall and needs a break.
“Maintaining a work-life balance is incredibly important. If you go for too long and start having doubts, you know it’s time for a holiday,” he says.
“When you have time to freshen up, and get your competitive juices flowing, that’s when you can jump back on that horse and feel great about it all over again.”
Mr Davis claims he’s lucky that his clients are generally high-net worth investors, which allows him to generate repeat business multiple times each year.
“That 585 is the amount of loans I’ve done, but if you work out the amount of customers [involved], it’s not that number… the average client of mine had 2.3 loans, so that’s only 254 clients.”
Mr Davis is no stranger to ambition; in just three and a half years, he’s taken his company to the top of the non-franchise brokerages, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
“We’ve got a target of getting our business to a billion dollars a year by 2017,” he says.
With the company writing just $400 million last year, he has a long way to go, but Mr Davis is confident that it’s achievable.
“Staffing issues and managing the red tape from the banking system alone [are] going to be a real challenge,” he says.
“So for the next year or two, we’re setting up such a base that we can handle the workload.”
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