Settling a billion dollar of mortgages was never a goal that Mark Polatkesen set out to achieve, but he hit the milestone number last year, after 17 years of broking. Annie Kane finds out what he attributes to his success
In this Billion Dollar Broker profile, we're catching up with the Victoria-based broker Mark Polatkesen to find out how he achieved the $1 billion milestone.
Why did you become a broker?
I started as a mortgage broker since I was 19 (and I’m now about to turn 38). Funnily enough, I went to a broker when I went to purchase a property and when he was talking about loan documents, I asked him for a job. And that’s how I got into the industry!
What kind of loans are you writing?
Our business focuses heavily on working with clients looking to build their new homes. We are mainly a residential brokerage and about 55 per cent of the business we do is first home buyers looking at building homes.
How long did it take you to get to $1 billion in settled loans?
It took me just over 17 years to reach $1 billion in settled loans. I’ve now settled over $1.1 billion in loans, and last year I settled 279 loans for a value of $125,349,000.
I never really thought about the billion-dollar goal; it just [seems] like something that you would never be able to hit when you first start broking. So, I’ve always set goals and review them every six months to ensure continuous improvement, but the billion-dollar milestone wasn’t actually one [of] them!
How do you ensure a good customer experience while writing large volumes?
We understand that, for most of our clients, it may be the first time they are looking to build. We spend a lot of time educating them and nurturing them and ensuring we have the right strategy in place. Construction deals can be a bit of a drawn-out process – with settlements often six or 12 months after the initial conversation.
So, we have to have the right processes in place to ensure we are always front of mind and make sure that clients know what they need to do to be finance-ready.
This includes having a strong team of support staff – including people to help with progress payment and home owner grants – to ensure clients aren’t sort of stuck in limbo and not really knowing what they need to do next.
What processes/techniques have you put in place that has enabled you to write such a large volume of business?
In our business, it is very important to be process-driven, as we deal with so many clients. We have a documented process that is followed for every client. We also used workflow management software such as BrokerEngine and customised our own CRM [using Salesforce] to help keep on top of the lead flow. We wanted to be able to track the amount of leads that we were getting, how many calls and emails [were] being made to each client, how many appointments were being completed, how many applications etc, just to make sure we were measuring it and able to identify if we needed to follow up anything or provide more development support to any of the staff.
We place a high emphasis on delivering high standards of customer service, so support is particularly important for us. I personally have two credit analysts, and they each have a support staff.
Having the right support behind you makes all of the difference. It’s important that you have the right people, behind you or alongside you, in order to help with your efficiency. These days, you’re spending much more time vetting a deal, verification, compliance involved. So I spent a lot of my time in the interview process with the customers and building the finance proposal strategy, and we have support staff to do the way that goes into the job after the fact.
I have daily WIP [work in progress] meetings with my support staff.
What do you attribute to your success as a broker?
Always being available and delivering on your [clients’] expectations.
Consistency is also very important. It is important that our clients have the same level of service irrespective of who may be assisting them in our office.
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