Compiling The Adviser's annual Top 25 brokerages is no mean feat. Here we explain how the ranking works and how we anointed the number one broking house for 2015...
It's that time of the year again where The Adviser presents the best of the best – the Top 25 Brokerages in the country. This year’s Top 25 Brokerages are an impressive bunch.
Consider the raw statistics: together, as at the end of the 2014 financial year these organisations employed 2,569 brokers and had a combined loan book which totalled a staggering $176.8 billion.
In the 2014 financial year, the number of residential loans settled by this elite group of 25 brokerages grew by 21.7 per cent on the 2013 calendar year to 143,344. Volumes for 2014 outshone 2013 as well, increasing 30 per cent to $47 billion.
Historically low interest rates and generally good economic conditions have played their part in these numbers. But that’s not the entire story – what’s also clear is how efficient and productive these companies are. While each broker generated an average of $18.3 million in settled loans, some managed to settle upwards of $80 million in the 12 months to 30 June.
Furthermore, what’s apparent in this year’s Top 25 Brokerages is the spread of their revenue, with an increasing percentage coming from non-residential sources such as commercial mortgages, personal loans and insurance policies.
Aussie’s brokers, for example, wrote more than 4,700 personal loans worth over $153 million, while Smartline booked in excess of 800 commercial and asset finance deals valued at almost $600 million for the financial year.
Competition, too, is driving the Top 25 Brokerages forward, with the six new entries in this year’s list helping to drive numbers higher.
So how exactly does The Adviser compile its list of the Top 25 Brokerages and how are they ultimately ranked against one another?
How the ranking is compiled:
How the ranking was scored:
25. Switch Now Home Loans (franchise)
The Melbourne-based brokerage has made an impressive entrance into the Top 25. Switch Now Home Loans currently has six brokers who settled 462 loans over the last 12 months. The franchise group ranked 23rd in both business growth (years in business over loan book size) and total volumes for 2014 at $227,000,000. With their goal set firmly on delivering a positive experience to their clients, Switch Now Home Loans’ figures are set to increase even further.
24. Assured Home Loans (non-franchise)
With 25 years under their belt, non-franchise firm Assured Home Loans makes its debut into the Top 25 Brokerages at number 24. The group finished the 2014 financial year ranked 11th for total loan book size at $1,350,195,556. Across the other categories, Assured Home Loans ranked quite consistently. They took out the number 22 spot for broker productivity (volume per broker) with each broker turning over $14,698,842 on average, and the number 18 spot for loans settled at 881.
23. Easy Loans Pty Ltd (non-franchise)
Now in its 18th year of business, Northern Territory-based brokerage Easy Loans came in at number 23. The group ranked 11th place for broker productivity with each broker writing $28,452,503 on average over the 12 months. Lending manager, Michelle Goody, says the key to being a successful brokerage is covering all the clients’ needs. “We try to tick those boxes,” she says. “I think we need to, to keep up with what other people are doing in the market and some of the bigger guys.”
22. Home Loan Experts (non-franchise)
During its eight and a half years in the industry, Home Loan Experts has acquired 19 brokers, 42 staff and a loan book valued at $769,042,271. The non-franchise ranked 19th in broker productivity over the 2014 financial year and 17th in total volumes. Home Loan Experts says 15 is the average number of years of financial services experience each of their brokers have, while 98 per cent of the group’s residential mortgage applications are now submitted online.
21. Finance Detective (non-franchise)
With just five years in the business, Finance Detective has carved out an impressive start, sporting a loan book of $624,780,100, while their business growth (years in business over loan book size) ranked 12th on our list. Finance Detective highlights its success to the team’s ability to form key relationships and follow trends. St George was the group’s number one lender in volume terms, where it enjoyed a 98 per cent conversion rate. 100 per cent of Finance Detective’s residential mortgage applications are now submitted online.
20. Acceptance Finance (non-franchise)
Based in Victoria, Acceptance Finance has been in the broking business for 13 years. The brokerage has experienced 10.7 per cent growth from the 2013 financial year and currently has a loan book worth $1,074,000,000. The brokerage ranked 19th in both total volumes and business growth (years in business over loan book size). NAB Broker was Acceptance Finance’s top lender in volume terms over 2014, where it enjoyed a 94 per cent conversion rate.
19. Century 21 Home Loans (franchise)
Century 21 has been in the business for eight years and boasts a loan book worth $1,004,000,000, up from $801 million as at the end of 2013. The firm added an additional eight brokers over the last 12 months, bringing the total number up to 34. The franchise recorded 25.3 per cent growth when compared to the 2013 calendar year and ranked 14th in total volumes. Century 21 says 100 per cent of its residential mortgage applications are now submitted online and Commonwealth Bank was its number one lender in volume terms over the financial year.
18. Trilogy Funding (non-franchise)
Canberra-based brokerage, Trilogy Finance dropped down a peg but recorded 24.2 per cent growth in its loan book size from the 2013 calendar year. It has just entered its 11th year in the mortgage broking business and holds a loan book worth $873,873,772. The group added another broker to the mix in 2014, which meant on average, the five brokers wrote just shy of $48 million each. Commonwealth Bank was Trilogy’s top lender in volume terms, where it enjoyed a 96 per cent conversion rate.
17. The Loan Arranger (non-franchise)
The South Australian brokerage has entered its 19th year in the business, with a loan book worth $1,321,964,139. On average, the firm’s 11 brokers wrote $24,059,687. The group highlights its people as the reason for the success. “It’s all about picking the right talent. You can teach them all the products and processes but unless they’ve got the right personality, a lot of them will struggle.” On average, each of The Loan Arranger brokers has 15 years’ worth of financial services experience under their belt.
16. Iconic Home Loans (non-franchise)
Iconic Home Loans has entered its seventh year of operation and boasts a loan book worth $792,989,875. Based in Western Australia, Iconic settled 1,003 loans over the 2014 financial year and ranked 14th in that category overall. On average, its 12 brokers wrote $27,521,667, with total volumes at $330,259,999. In volume terms, Iconic’s number one lender was Keystart where it enjoyed a 98.9 per cent conversion rate. The average life of a loan written by the brokerage is 5 years and 8 months.
15. Alliance Mortgage Solutions (non-franchise)
Alliance Mortgage Solutions is only two and a half years into the broking industry and already claims a loan book worth $486,594,000. To ensure its success continues, the group has added five brokers over the last 12 months, bringing its total number up to 13. In terms of business growth (years in business over loan book size), Alliance placed 7th overall on our list. They continue to recruit fairly new brokers to their firm, with the average employee having 18 months of financial services experience.
14. Smartmove Professional Mortgage Advisors (non-franchise)
Smartmove Professional Mortgage Advisors has been in business for 12 years and has a loan book worth $1,236,000,000. General manager, Darren Little, accredits their success to three main things: “The number one thing is customer experience and how we deal with the banks. The second thing surrounds process. You’ve got to have support measures in place. And the third one is making sure you’ve got a structure that allows individual growth but also enables you to move as a business to have your collective goals achieved.” Over the last 12 months, the group settled 925 loans, ranking them 15th on our list in this category. In terms of broker productivity, Smartmove ranked 10th overall, with each broker writing $29,235,730 on average. Mr Little says business will continue as usual over the next 12 months. “Last year we presented a five-year business plan to all our major bank partners and we’re in the year two of that now and that’s progressing really well. It’s really business as usual for next year.”
13. ACA Mortgage Solution (non-franchise)
ACA Mortgage Solution is based in New South Wales and has been in business for seven years. It has 10 brokers, seven staff and a loan book worth $867,824,748. ACA’s broker productivity was a standout over the last 12 months, with the average broker taking in $44,390,441. In terms of business growth (years in business over loan book size), the group took out the number 11 position overall. ACA believes education is the key to ensure success and it offers regular broker training every Tuesday.
12. Mortgage Solutions Australia (non-franchise)
Making its mark at number 12 is Mortgage Solutions Australia. This Western-Australia firm has been in the broking business for 14 years now, employing five brokers and six staff. When compared to the 2013 calendar year, the group grew its loan book by 2.6 per cent to $1,147,687,862. Its broker productivity was the standout in this year’s Top 25, ranking at number one with each broker tallying up an average of $89,395,350 worth of loans over 12 months.
11. KeyInvest Lending Services (non-franchise)
KeyInvest Lending Services, based in South Australia, made for a worthy competitor this year, performing strongly across the majority of categories. They claimed the eighth spot for both the amount of loans settled – 1,713 – and business growth. They also claimed the 10th spot for total volumes at $475,613,950. Commonwealth Bank was KeyInvest’s number one lender over the financial year, where they enjoyed a 99 per cent conversion rate.
10. 1st Street Home Loans (non-franchise)
1st Street Home Loans has been in the industry for 13 years and, as at 30 June 2014, had a loan book worth $1,311,265,000 – this was 19.2 per cent higher when compared to the end of 2013. The company recorded strong broker productivity levels, coming in third on $58 million per broker. The group settled 1,178 loans in the 2014 financial year, with total volumes coming to $465,917,615. The brokerage says 100 per cent of their residential mortgage applications are now submitted online.
09. Oxygen Home Loans (non-franchise)
McGrath Estate Agents owned, Oxygen Home Loans has been in the broking business for 11 years. It currently employs 22 brokers across NSW, VIC and the ACT and has a loan book worth $1,648,305,044. General manager Alan Hemmings says lead generation is the key benefit of being attached to a real estate group (McGrath Estate Agents). “As property and finance go hand in hand, it is only natural to have a broker as part of the business to make the transaction process for a buyer as seamless and as easy as possible.”
08. Resolve Finance (non-franchise)
Resolve Finance has been in business for 18 years, with a loan book worth $2,219,792,000 – which is the seventh largest in Australia. It has increased its broker numbers by seven and now employs 40 brokers in total. The firm also has 24 staff and is based in Western Australia and Victoria. The group settled 2,381 loans over the 2014 financial year, the seventh highest in the Top 25. Resolve ranks 15th overall for broker productivity with the average broker pulling in $21,151,225. Resolve brokers have, on average, 11 years financial services experience.
07. Tiffen & Co (non-franchise)
This iconic Canberra-based brokerage has managed to consistently improve, claiming the number seven spot on the Top 25 for the fourth year in a row. The non-franchise group wrote 1,600 loans in 2014, with total volumes for the year at $493.5 million. Tiffen & Co increased its loan book size by 8.6 per cent from the end of 2013, taking its total loan book as at 30 June 2014 to $1,822,754,036. Experience could be the key to the firm’s success with the average broker having 19 years’ of financial services experience. Tiffen & Co director, Gerard Tiffen says this year’s results are pleasing, given the current Canberra market. “We’re still growing a little bit which is good, especially considering Canberra has been hit pretty hard by election after election, but we’re still on the upswing which is good.” Mr Tiffen says the key ingredient to the firm’s success is customer satisfaction and one of his main goals moving forward is recruiting more brokers. “I have a good, loyal bunch of guys and everything is going great for us at the moment so I haven’t bothered recruiting - but I need to and I 100 per cent will work on that over the next 12 months.”
06. LJ Hooker Home Loans (franchise)
This brand is synonymous with real estate and comes in at number six on our list for the second year running. The national firm boasts 85 brokers, nine staff and an impressive loan book worth $5,069,514,762. LJ Hooker says they hold its brokers to the highest levels of professionalism, which perhaps pinpoints the reason behind their consistent success. The company says it requires all relevant loan writers and support teams to hold MFAA or FBAA accreditation and a Cert IV diploma of finance/mortgage broking. Additionally, fully accredited loan writers must hold minimum two years’ loan writing experience. Loan writers without two years’ experience must come under their mentor program.
05. Loan Market (franchise)
One of Australia’s biggest franchise firms had an impressive year, writing 21,060 loans and reporting total volumes of $6,434,251,309. Loan Market has now been in the broking business for 21 years and has a loan book worth $23,278,000,000. In terms of broker productivity (volume per broker) Loan Market was ranked 23rd in the Top 25, with its brokers writing an average of $13,777,840 in business. In the remaining four categories, Loan Market was ranked no lower than fourth positon. In volume terms, Commonwealth Bank was its number one lender.
04. The Australian Lending & Investment Centre (non-franchise)
This Melbourne-based powerhouse sports a loan book worth $1,688,390,900 and has only been in business for five and a half years. The firm successfully settled 2,746 loans over the 2014 financial year, resulting in total volumes worth $538,620,749. On average, each broker there wrote $44,885,062, earning them the number five rank for broker productivity. The Australian Lending & Investment Centre says 99 per cent of its residential mortgage applications are now submitted online.
03. Smartline Personal Mortgage Advisers (franchise)
Making a show stopping entrance into The Adviser’s Top 25 is Smartline Personal Mortgage Advisers. This national firm has been in the business for 16 years and has the fourth biggest loan book in the nation, worth $21,933,967,461. Smartline Personal Mortgage Advisers settled 20,291 loans in the 2014 financial year, with total volumes worth $5,500,038,649. The group took out the 18th spot for broker productivity with each broker, on average, accounting for $20,295,346 in business.
02. Mortgage Choice (franchise)
One of the pioneering brands in mortgage broking, Mortgage Choice has 534 brokers, 105 staff and a loan book worth a whopping $47,058,400,000. Now in its 23rd year of business, the group increased its loans settled to 38,319, up from 35,671 in the 2013 calendar year. It also took out the 2nd rank for total volumes and business growth (years in business over loan book size). In terms of broker productivity, Mortgage Choice ranked 17th in the Top 25, with each broker writing $20,892,897 on average. Mortgage Choice CEO, John Flavell says over the last 12 months, the group has gone from strength to strength. “The business has added more than 70 loan writers, growing its broker network by more than 15 per cent. At the same time, Mortgage Choice has managed to significantly grow its diversified offering and financial planning footprint. Today, the company’s diversified services account for 11.5 per cent of its gross revenue – up from just 1.4 per cent in 2009.” Mr Flavell says he expects the firm to experience more growth over the next 12 months. “Moving forward, Mortgage Choice is confident that it can continue to grow its core mortgage and diversified businesses, as it completes its transition into a fully-fledged financial services company.”
01. Aussie Home Loans (franchise and non-franchise)
Q&A WITH JAMES SYMOND
Taking out the number one spot for the Top 25 Brokerages is Aussie Home Loans. Chief executive, James Symond speaks to The Adviser about the key ingredients for success and some strategies for even more growth moving forward…
Q. Congratulations on being ranked as the number one brokerage in The Adviser’s Top 25 for the third time. What do you owe to your success?
When you are in the business and have been in the business from the very beginning, you are supposed to decipher what makes you great.
We know that the brand has been an absolute juggernaut. [Aussie Home Loans founder and executive chairman] John Symond has done a marvellous job of being intertwined within the brand. Having not only this coloured logo, but a trusted face alongside the brand has made all the difference in the world. That has to be a key pillar obviously.
Q. Aussie Home Loans is well known for having a significant amount of franchises and retail stores. How difficult is it to manage?
Having this diversified distribution strategy has really made all the difference in the world for us. Having a clear stream of franchises and retail stores – which we have 170 in total today – and each of them are settling $6 million a month, with our top one settling $30 million in April.
Q. What is your main key point of difference?
Having this diversified distribution strategy, We can take a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker and turn them into a broker most of the time, put them successfully into our mobile channel and then have them move successfully, if they choose, to the retail channel, which is a complimentary channel, or, if they choose ultimately to go into the third channel, which is gaining traction – wholesale aggregation channel called nMB. We are the only brokerage out there on any national basis that has a significant, diversified distribution model. That is a key part – the brand, the diversified distribution model.
Q. Aussie Home Loans is a very recognisable brand. What do you think that ultimately is a result of?
To have a founder like John who was okay with putting himself front and centre with the brand, that’s a really cool thing. John hasn’t backed off from his duties of being the brand ambassador or industry statesman.
While John hasn’t worked in the business for a very long time, he has been very much across it, front and centre in terms of the brand.
Q. What is perhaps the most important thing to have in a brokerage?
You’ve got the strategy, great; you’ve got the brand, great; but if you don’t have the culture right or the culture isn’t made up of the right people, you will never turn a business into a good business. To me, culture eats strategy for breakfast. It’s a really important thing.
Q. Earlier this year you took over the reins from Ian Corfield as Aussie Home Loans’ new chief executive. How are you enjoying your new role in helping to lead the charge of such a notable company?
The journey for us has been amazing. John and I always pinch ourselves. I was 19 when we started this. John was new to this industry but he was a big man with a big vision and lots of passion and that hasn’t changed. It has been an amazing journey.
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