Elite Business Writers 2011 - Who is leading the way in a new era of broking?
Broking comes of age
Neither a flat market nor the introduction of licensing could stop Australia’s Elite Business Writers from settling record volumes
THE BROKERS who made this year’s Elite Business Writers list should be exceptionally proud, as the market has not been kind to them.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data confirm the property market is incredibly flat, with mortgage growth falling to five per cent from 12 per cent this time last year.
But a flat market is not the only thing brokers have had to contend with; regulation under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act (NCCP) has also created more than a few headaches.
By all accounts, the new regulations have created additional paperwork for brokers.
Not to be deterred, Australia’s mortgage brokers have emerged, following the introduction of licensing, as more resilient, more professional and more optimistic about the future.
They have also emerged having written impressive volumes of business.
In fact, for the first time, all 50 of The Adviser’s Elite Business Writers managed to write more than $50 million worth.
Not all of this business was residential volumes; this year, the importance of diversification became very clear.
A vast majority of Australia’s top brokers diversify their core offerings away from residential mortgages to include insurance, commercial mortgages, personal loans and even car financing.
Mortgage brokers who can continue to deliver a full banking experience to customers – as well as personalised service – will be well placed to succeed as trusted advisers in the newly licensed environment.
I’d like to congratulate every one of this year’s Elite Business Writers as well as all those brokers who fell just short. I wish you all a very prosperous 2012.
Jim Hall, Publisher, The Adviser
Forging ahead together
Relationships remain a core focus for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and this year’s ranking shows brokers with sound bank partnerships can do well
THIS YEAR we have continued to be challenged by our environment with the introduction of new compliance regulations and a market where lending is at a 30-year low. Uncertainty over interest rates has had a significant negative impact on home buyer confidence.
Throughout the year, we saw the removal of exit fees and we experienced increased competition between lenders, providing brokers with plenty of reasons to talk to their clients.
The increased competition has also provided plenty of reasons for brokers to build strong relationships with lenders. In fact, in this current environment, a broker’s relationship with their lender has become more important than ever. Through these relationships the broker and lender can facilitate a positive lending experience for the customer.
Brokers who made this year’s Elite Business Writer’s Ranking have been successful in developing positive personal relationships with their lending associates.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia is proud to support the Elite Business Writers ranking, and this year’s results are a testament to our nation’s best brokers. The brokers who have made it into the ranking should be applauded for their efforts and skills.
At Commonwealth Bank we are committed to making it simple and easy to do business with us. Our relationship managers and credit assessors are always on hand to provide help and advice to our broker partners and to support them in delivering quality customer service.
Congratulations to everyone that made this year’s list – you are a testament to the ongoing strength of this industry.
Kathy Cummings, Executive General Manager, Third Party and Mobile Banking, Commonwealth Bank of Australia
50 over 50
While some brokers have struggled under flat market conditions, others have prospered by adopting innovative marketing and communication techniques
THE INTRODUCTION of NCCP licensing and regulation has, by all accounts, slowed productivity, as brokers are now required to keep accurate and detailed client records.
In March this year, 76.4 per cent of brokers said NCCP had had a negative impact on their business.
Of 478 brokers polled in a survey by The Adviser, 14.6 per cent said regulation had had no impact on their business, while just nine per cent said licensing was having a positive impact both on them and their bottom line.
But brokers have not just had increased compliance requirements under NCCP to contend with; the third party distribution channel has also had to deal with lacklustre buying activity.
According to recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of first home buyers entering the market has fallen by approximately 40,000 in the past 12 months.
In addition, the number of investors and upgraders getting into the market has also fallen off in recent months.
Today, annual growth in the mortgage market sits at approximately five per cent – that’s a far cry from the 12 per cent growth achieved previously.
But Australia’s top brokers have still been able to knuckle down and produce results in the face of these considerable challenges.
In this year’s Elite Business Writers ranking, every broker managed to record volumes above $50 million, a feat not previously achieved.
So, what is helping the industry’s best to write more business?
DIVERSIFYING FOR GROWTH
In the 2010/2011 financial year, many brokers focused on diversifying their revenue stream to drive their business forward.
In addition, the introduction of NCCP regulation required brokers to have a conversation with their clients about insurance, opening the door for them to generate an additional revenue stream.
Based on this year’s Elite Business Writers’ results, it is clear that diversification in insurance is a key driver for business in broking’s new era.
Intelligent Finance’s Justin Doobov, who this year claimed the coveted number one position, wrote a massive $160.85 million in insurance.
He is not alone. The report reveals that a majority of the business writers who have come out on top invested significantly in non-mortgage areas.
In fact, on average, the brokers included in this year’s ranking cross sell additional products to their clients almost 50 per cent of the time.
Niche Lending’s Moshe Moses says cross selling helps him improve the value of his client service proposition.
“I like to provide all of my clients with a complete banking experience,” he says.
“Almost 60 per cent of home buyers prefer to go to a bank for their mortgage. Why? Because they know they can get all of their financial needs sorted in the one place. I know that to win business and secure a client for life, I need to go above and beyond what a bank offers – and I endeavour to do just that.”
NEW YEAR, NEW ENTRANTS
This year’s report from The Adviser revealed plenty of business writers who obviously saw value in offering their clients additional services. Some offered commercial loans – and even car financing.
Diversification helped propel them onto the list for the very first time.
In fact, the 2011 Elite Business Writers has seen a surge of new entrants joining the ranks.
This flood of new faces instils confidence within the industry that mortgage volumes are being achieved despite the flat market.
There were six new additions to this year’s top 10: Maxine Farmer, Mardee Thomas, Warren Dworcan, Steve Matsoukas, Mark Davis and Richard Pusey.
Meanwhile, many of last year’s top performers managed to hold their ground.
Intelligence Finance’s Justin Doobov and 1st Street Home Loans’ Jeremy Fisher were once again the top two brokers, writing over $100 million in both residential and other business.
And once again Australia’s largest brokerage Aussie showed its strength and depth with a solid share of its top brokers in this year’s ranking.
Best of the best
Going above and beyond for a client has helped Justin Doobov secure The Adviser’s Elite Business Writers’ number one ranking
FOR THE past two years, Intelligent Finance’s Justin Doobov has been in the top two of The Adviser’s Elite Business Writers’ ranking.
In 2009, he beat more than 100 hopefuls to secure himself the coveted first place; last year, he was pipped at the post by 1st Street Home Loans’ Jeremy Fisher.
This year, Mr Doobov returns to the number one spot, an achievement he attributes to good service and a team of reliable support staff.
“We offer the best service in the industry, I don’t doubt that,” Mr Doobov says.
So, what does he do to separate himself from the pack? “Personalised service” is his answer.
According to Mr Doobov, good brokers don’t just put their clients in the right home loan, ensure all their financial needs are met and give them sound advice for the future, they also develop a rapport with them based on trust and friendship.
“Everyone likes to feel loved, so I make sure I am in constant touch with every client,” he says. “This not only keeps the clients up to date, but helps them establish a relationship with the company – one that hopefully lasts for the rest of their financial life.”
Mr Doobov says he or one of his four support staff contacts each client via phone calls, emails, newsletters or annual reviews.
“I love my job, I love helping people into their dream home and I love meeting people. The majority of my clients are more than a commission cheque – they are my friends,” he says.
Mr Doobov also offers his clients an array of services that includes not only insurance but also commercial lending, car finance and credit cards. Diversification, he believes, is essential to any broker who wants to be successful in this market.
“While the residential mortgage market is still growing, it is growing at a slower rate, so it becomes important for brokers to diversify their core offering away from residential mortgages,” he says.
“Of course, NCCP has helped many brokers diversify their core offering, because we are now required under legislation to have a conversation with our clients about insurance.”
But while Mr Doobov commends the NCCP provisions for encouraging diversification, he believes that the additional paperwork which comes with the legislation has proven to be a burden.
A cut above
If you are looking for business opportunities, says Jeremy Fisher, the best place to start is your own backyard
THE BATTLE for first place in the 2011 Elite Business Writers’ ranking was hard fought by Intelligent Finance’s Justin Doobov and 1st Street Home Loans’ Jeremy Fisher.
While Mr Fisher was pipped at the post, his efforts are nothing short of outstanding.
Over the past financial year, the broker managed to settle more than $131 million in residential mortgages.
In addition, he wrote more than $105 million in insurance and over $8 million in commercial mortgages.
So, what is his secret to success and how can he continue to write such huge volumes in a flat market?
“Having a loyal, extensive and diverse client base has certainly helped me through this flat period in the market,” he says. “Moreover, having a lot of repeat business has minimised any downturns.”
Of course, not every broker is lucky enough to be able to call on an “extensive and diverse client database”, so how does Mr Fisher ensure his clients keep using his services time and time again?
For those looking to build a powerful client database, the best place to look is in your own backyard, according to Mr Fisher.
His company, 1st Street Home Loans, is actively involved in several community projects as well as community clubs. This not only lets him keep his name out there in the public domain, but also helps him push new business through the front door.
“1st Street has a strong community focus and regularly seeks out opportunities to give back to the local community by way of donations and sponsorships,” he says.
When new clients enter the 1st Street office, they are treated to premium service, he continues.
“I always go above and beyond what is required to ensure my clients feel important, comfortable with the loan process and that they encounter the least amount of stress or hassle during the home loan process.”
Doing it for the girls
Mardee Thomas and Maxine Farmer have shown that women are just as competent as men in the broking arena, with both recording stellar volumes and securing themselves a place in The Adviser’s top 10 Elite Business Writers
The Adviser’s top performing female Elite Business Writer, Mardee Thomas, hasn’t let the flat market or a business transition slow her down.
Last financial year, the broker settled an impressive $52 million in residential mortgages.
Ms Thomas also wrote more than $90 million in insurance, all while she was switching from franchise to independent brokerage.
“There is a lot of work involved in swapping aggregators,” she says. “Also, because I came from a franchise model, I had to work hard to ensure all my clients knew about the change.”
Leaving behind the franchise model Ms Thomas was, of course, forced to leave her database with her aggregator.
“I hoped my clients would come back to me,” she says. “I wanted to believe they wanted me for my services and skills rather than for the brand.”
Ms Thomas need not have worried. Her sound service, excellent advice and friendly personality ensure her clients continue to use her and her services.
“I make sure I touch base with my clients every step of the way, conduct face-to-face meetings and then continue to speak to my clients long after settlement,” she says.
Mardee Thomas is not the only broker who believes in consistent client interaction.
Maxon Finance’s Maxine Farmer is also an advocate of keeping closely in contact and it has paid dividends for the broker.
Ms Farmer says her commitment to her clients and her service proposition brings in new work, rather than creating repeat business opportunities.
“The majority of my business is first home buyers and construction loans,” she says. “When I first launched the company, a construction company got me to do all their business. They were so happy with my service that they passed my name onto other construction companies.
At her busiest, Ms Farmer had 80 interviews scheduled for one month.
“I almost lost my brain, but we got through it and ended up settling a record amount of loans,” she says.
Today, Ms Farmer has relationships with a majority of the local construction companies.
“If I had not delivered on service, I would never have received referral business from my clients. I live in a small community, so positive word of mouth is crucial to my success.”
The Young and Successful
Two newcomers have shown that being a rookie is no barrier to being successful in business
In just three short years, Mr Dworcan has managed to launch his own business and create a solid database of clients.
Last financial year, Mr Dworcan settled more than $93 million in residential mortgages and $35 million in insurance products.
Unlike many brokers, Mr Dworcan comes not from a banking background but from a legal one.
Despite having studied to be a lawyer, he soon realised the profession wasn’t for him and so he switched to another passion – property.
In his early 20s, Mr Dworcan purchased an investment property through a mortgage broker. From there, he took a shine to the profession and decided to pursue broking as a full-time career.
He started working for House & Home Loans. Then, with the help of the company’s chief executive Rael Bricker, Mr Dworcan launched Rate Detective Home Loans.
Today, Mr Dworcan employs six support staff, working very closely with four of them.
“I’d like to grow the business further still,” he says. “My volumes have grown exponentially since I first started in the business and I would like to see that continue. This financial year, I would like to grow my volumes by 100 per cent.”
Warren Dworcan is not the only young gun challenging the broking industry’s stalwarts.
Switch Now Home Loans’ Richard Pusey is another broker who has shown that being new to the game does not necessarily hold you back.
Like Mr Dworcan, Mr Pusey did not have a background in finance – or even professional services – when he became a broker. Previously, he was a practising nurse.
His experience in the healthcare sector, however, has proved very beneficial to his current role. “I know how to deal with all sorts of people, which has definitely helped me write more volumes” he says.
Last financial year, in fact, Mr Pusey settled $65 million in residential mortgages and wrote an additional $60 million in commercial mortgages and personal loans.
He says that having sound referral relationships in place also helps keep his book turning over.
“Any non-conforming loans or commercial mortgages I receive I pass along to other experienced brokers under the FAST network. Not only do I get a split of the commission but they, in turn, send me some of their ‘problem’ clients,” he says.
“If I don’t think I can write a loan quickly and easily, I believe it is better for the client that I pass it on to someone that can.”
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