Former medical sales rep turned broker John Manciameli talks to the team about why he set up Australia’s first aggregator of investment property research houses.
In this episode, the Hunterwood broker reveals how his dream of changing the way Australians invest led to him launching Slipstream, as well as why it’s important for brokers to consider ethics in their financial decisions.
Tune in to hear more about the relationships he has with brokers and his advice for those new to the industry.
In this episode you will find out:
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Speaker 1: Welcome to the Elite Broker Podcast. This is your host, Annie Kane.
Annie Kane: Hello, and welcome back to The Adviser's Elite Broker podcast. I'm Annie Kane, editor of The Advisor and I am joined by newlywed James Mitchell, fresh back from his honeymoon.
James Mitchell: Glad to see you.
Annie Kane: How are you doing, James?
James Mitchell: Yeah, very good, thank you.
Annie Kane: Did you have a good time?
James Mitchell: I did, yeah, it was good. I got the remnants of a tan but it's fading.
Annie Kane: Tanned, yep, super tanned. And today we're also joined by John Manciameli, broker and founder and CEO of Slipstream, an independent aggregator of investment property research, houses and buyer's agents. We'll be delving into what that actually means in a little minute, but we're also going to be touching on, today, how brokers can mine their databases to get the most out of them, what the investment market looks like at the moment and whether regulatory crackdowns on invest lending are a good or a bad thing. But first, let's hear some more from John and his background. How are you doing, John?
John Manciameli: Good day. Yeah, very good, very good.
Annie Kane: Yeah?
John Manciameli: Thank you for having me.
Annie Kane: No worries. So, I think, obviously I mentioned there a little bit about Slipstream and what it's doing and we'll talk about that in a bit, but I just wondered if you can give us a bit of background into how you got into broking? Is it right that you started out with Mortgage Choice?
John Manciameli: Yeah, it's a bit of serendipity and a bit of love for property. But I was a medical prosthesis medical rep, working with surgeons, and the natural progressive career for a medical rep in orthopaedic and neuro-surgeries is become a mortgage broker.
James Mitchell: Of course, naturally.
John Manciameli: So, yeah, it's quite hilarious. I was in theatres doing investment property deals and yeah, there were some patients on the table, so, yeah, it was just a love affair. Now, I had a ... I was very humble to somehow get a degree, a master's in economics and started doing property and I thought, "Well, let's get into finance." It was an interesting, exciting phase. Good 15 years ago. And I started off with a Mortgage Choice franchise, and in that 10 year tenure I was very humble to have the support of franchisees more than me, to set up a secondary panel, if you like, of these research houses. And what I had was a dream, and that dream was to change the way Australians were investing. Because as you know, the real estate agents represent the vendor and there's just so much variety of quality and inverted commas of investment property information.
And so, with the help of the board at Mortgage Choice and with the help of these great franchisees, we set up the panel of investment property research houses. And so, I'm still a mortgage broker today. Not with Mortgage Choice anymore, I've outgrown that model, and yeah, I was able to specialise as a broker in the investment property space and what I try and do is help every day Australians pay off their home in ten years.
Annie Kane: So, you ... Are you broking with Hunterwood now?
John Manciameli: Yeah, so, Hunterwood is my ... Thank you for raising that, Hunterwood is my ... Well, not new, about three and a half years now brokering business and we still serve moms and dads. And at the same time, Slipstream is my real passion and again, I have a dream to change the industry I love and I want to bring some regulation and some income to the Australian brokering network.
James Mitchell: Nice.
Annie Kane: So, how did you actually sort of, you know, get started? So, you're saying thereabouts of raising the quality or providing some sort of more information on research in this area? How did you actually first get into that? What was it that was wrong that you wanted to fix?
John Manciameli: Like most brokers, I'd been doing the pre-approvals and I'd seen clients go out and I threw them into the lion's den of agents and they were being told anything and I thought, I've got almost a moral responsibility to help clients with their investment property aspirations. So, I sort of said, let's get involved a little bit more and I thought, let me point them to people who have got integrity, a track record. Proper research, we're talking 50 to 80 pages of report on an investment property. Because ultimately, where do moms and dads buy their investment properties? Where they live.
Annie Kane: Yep.
John Manciameli: And that may have been okay in Sydney in the last five years, but if you were in Perth or Adelaide or Darwin or wherever, you've missed out in one of the greatest booms that Australia has seen. And had they been exposed to that research, they would've been, "Hey, it's okay to buy a two bedroom unit in Parramatta." Or, I just love what I do. Because I've seen these people buy properties for 350 grand and they're now sitting on a $700,000 asset and we just keep replicating it around the parts of Australia.
James Mitchell: One thing I think, which is quite interesting, in terms of trying to figure out what's research and what's not. I mean, there's so much marketing material or research ... Marketing material disguised as research, that sort of thing, which is just constantly getting pumped out into the market. And obviously, you were in the game, so you could see what was legit and what wasn't. I mean, what would your advice be to people in this day and age, where there's a lot of building development going on in Sydney particularly with units and that sort of thing, a lot of the sales of that is being marketed towards various people in the community at the moment and they're not necessarily bad investments. Some of them are very good, and that sort of thing. How do you navigate that, when people come to you and they say, "I'm looking to buy an off the plan property," or, "I definitely wouldn't buy in Brisbane." And they think they're informed?
John Manciameli: Yeah. Yeah, look, that's a really good question. I wish we had an hour to answer that. But, look, I think the reality is, you've just got to question the motives behind the person giving that advice. So, at Slipstream or at Hunterwood, what we try and do is say, "Here are the pros and cons of buying a new property and here are the pros and cons of buying an old property to renovate. Which one suits you?" And then, and being completely transparent. And saying, "We get paid by the buyer's agent, a referral fee." And so forth.
Now, my suggestion to moms and dads is to really try and find someone who has a track record in this space and show them, get some testimonials and look for a research report. Because as you said, there's a lot of marketing that's disguised as research, but there's research and there's research. And hence, the desire and the dream for me to create a panel of these research houses that genuinely do provide research.
Annie Kane: So, who is on the panel? Who are the providers that you are testing?
John Manciameli: One of them has been around for 40 years in the investment property space, alright? So, that particular company has an amazing track record of riding through various property cycles and to their credit, they even went to SQM and said, "Here's our research methodology, can you tear it apart and make any suggestions?" And they came out with a four out of five star rating.
Another one on the research panel is used exclusively by Macquarie Bank private client services. And so, Macquarie Bank, they tore apart all these research houses and only one was left standing. Alright? And so, we're talking about really, really good quality research houses that have got the clients' interests at heart and have got an amazing track record of protecting the client first and then making suggestions as to which areas to buy into.
Annie Kane: Can you tell us the name of those companies?
John Manciameli: There's a few. I don't want brokers to be going out there and approaching them direct, because it may not be appropriate for their needs. They're more than welcome to give us a call or email us.
James Mitchell: No worries.
John Manciameli: So, yeah.
Annie Kane: Any times have actually, the research that you're gathering and that you're disseminating out to brokers, how does that system actually work? Sort of, is it that a broker would come to you and be like, "Oh, I need some help and my client needs to know what's good in, let's say, Perth, for example?"
John Manciameli: Yeah.
Annie Kane: How would that actually process that work?
John Manciameli: I think the great thing about being a broker at the moment is that we are so influential in our clients' lives. We don't realise how much influence our ... Particularly those brokers on the eastern seaboard, just about every client's got equity these days. And so, as part of your annual homeland health check, you could go to that mom and dad and say, "Hey, have you thought about using your equity to buy an investment property?" And then show them how to do it for $50 a week. And so, when a broker joins Slipstream, they get four core offerings. And the first one is this expert panel of both old and new, so it's really, really important that it's not just new and off the plan.
My favourite seminar did this year was two weeks ago, where I was showing clients how to buy an old property and renovate it and we got a buyer's agent and a builder in and that builder won three HIA awards just recently. So, we're talking about quality people who we'd expedited who to deal with. The second one is what we call an accreditation process. We're massive on accreditation. So, that accreditation is a three day event. Three days. We make no apologies about really lifting the standards of this industry. It boggles me, to this day, that brokers don't understand market cycles, they don't understand loan structuring. I'm talking about debt recycling loan structuring. Not just setting up a line of credit, I'm talking about understanding how to use your equity investment property to pay down your owner-occupied debt.
James Mitchell: Yep, through-
Annie Kane: Greater economics, as well.
John Manciameli: Yeah. And there's code of ethics. There's a whole bunch of things in that accreditation. The third one is my favourite, core marketing. And we've got this kick-ass technology hex where, for example, bulk voicemail. I record one message and that one message goes into 300 of my voicemail messages. You know? So, it's very much about time efficiency. There's another software as well, where we show clients how to buy a $600,000 property and it'll come out showing them that it'll cost them $30 a week to hold that property if they're on an average income of $80. So, amazing software.
And then the other one is ... So, accreditation, marketing, there's four of them and it'll come back to me in a moment. But that's the four core offerings that they get. So, the idea is that we basically help brokers understand how to get involved in this space in an ethical way and then make more money. I'm absolutely convinced that there is no other diversification programme in Australia right now, that is wanted by their clients, number one, and that can give them the six-figure income that they're looking for.
James Mitchell: I wanted to ask about, just about the mentoring.
John Manciameli: Mentoring, that was the fourth one, thank you.
James Mitchell: Just about mentoring, because earlier in the year we launched the new broker academy, which was one of our events and it was a huge success. We had, we've had hundreds of brokers in their first two years come to this event to try and find out the tips and strategies of those who have made it who are also relatively young in terms of their career. And one of the panels that we have is sort of like a mentor mentee, where you've got a highly experienced broker and someone who's in their first couple of years or maybe in their first five years and they're basically discussing what the relationship is like. What have been some of the relationships you've had with brokers who have just come in to the industry and that you've seen the flourish, I guess? What's the relationship been like, what's the process involved in that relationship?
John Manciameli: So, the fourth core attribute is mentoring. And what we do is we have a half-day business planning event where we set down ... It's like a series of steps, and we go, "Here's some goal setting, here's brand positioning, here's a SWOT analysis, integration of tools, and then a monthly action plan." And-
James Mitchell: So, it's almost like a business plan, sort of?
John Manciameli: Yeah, it really is.
James Mitchell: Yeah.
John Manciameli: So, it's taking my 15 years of many mistakes, and a couple of wins along the way, and saying "Okay, let's set the compass. Otherwise, you're just a ship at the sea and you're going to be blown around by the winds, alright? But let's set our sails. And you might have a small boat, right now, so we've got to make sure that we understand how to navigate those seas. But the other person coming in might be an experienced broker with a serious kick-ass boat, and it's a different mindset.
But the main thing is to protect your brand and your reputation. So, everything we're doing is to protect you and your brand and your reputation and everything is done with a code of conduct. But the end of the day, it's really about saying, with the SWOT analysis, where are you at? So, you might be a young broker coming in and you need leads. Well, James, I'm pleased to say that we're offering Facebook leads. We've cracked how to get leads off Facebook. Now, just the other day I got seven leads off Facebook. Or, you might be an experienced broker where you have time management issues. Well, we can provide virtual assistants at $10 an hour and my virtual assistant does all of my social media marketing. Alright?
So, there's an incredible array of skillsets there, depending on where you sit. So, in terms of mentoring, it's all about tailoring it to where you are in your stage of your career and making sure your brand is absolutely protected.
Annie Kane: So, just talking there about different models for different people, different brokers and different stages, is there anyone that shouldn't be doing this? How do you know when you're ready to step into this sort of property investment ... Not advice, but, you know, work?
John Manciameli: Yeah, great questions. I think, as a mortgage broker, I think everyone can benefit from understanding investment property space, because by definition, we're all going to be seeing clients that invest or are mortgage brokers and you may choose to specialise in it, like me, or you may just have a person ring you to say, "I want to invest." And wouldn't it be great if you could say to your clients, "Look, I don't sell real estate, but I can refer you to a buyer's agent or a builder who can help you buy and renovate in the right part of the country. And here's the data right now. Now, Mr. Client, you're going to Dr Google and you're going to read right now, in Brisbane, that there's too much construction. But did you know that construction is falling off a cliff face in 2019? So there's actually going to be not enough property in 2019 onwards. But having said that, the data suggests that if you buy a townhouse in the middle ring of Brisbane, dah dah dah.
And all of a sudden, you're not just a mortgage broker anymore, because you're here to help them with their property aspirations. And let's face it, guys, no one really wants a mortgage. What have they come to you for? They want a home-
James Mitchell: That's right.
John Manciameli: They want a safe retirement. Mortgage is just a conduit.
James Mitchell: Yeah, to wealth building.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
John Manciameli: That's just a conduit to whatever it is, whether it be a first homeowner getting to get on the ladder, the mortgage is a conduit to paying off their debts. So, they're not really seeing us for the mortgage. If they could get away with not getting a mortgage, they would do it. So, part of our training is to get them to understand, "Hey, it's not really the mortgage they want, it's about getting on the ladder. And the rent investor might be the concept that first homeowner possibly hasn't heard about yet or doesn't really quite understand, and how good is it if you're a mortgage broker, if you could explain it to them?
In answer to your question, Annie, I think every broker needs a bit of training in this space and our industry's sorely lacking in this space.
Annie Kane: And actually I was going to touch back on that as well but I just wanted to ask quickly there, you're sort of talking about you've got all this information that you can use but obviously, what mortgage brokers have to be careful about is not offering advice. How do you toe that line between being informative and knowing on some information and not stepping into advice?
John Manciameli: It's just common sense, it's just saying, "Look, talk to your financial planner, talk to your accountant, but look, here's the latest construction data coming out of Queensland."
Annie Kane: So you can just provide the data on and then sort of ...
John Manciameli: Yeah, look, here's the data, you make up your own mind. People don't want to be sold to, they want to be empowered with that knowledge and if they want to take it another step further, then our role is really to be like a GP. "I've diagnosed you with a heart problem, go and see a cardiologist." I've diagnosed you with a bit of a property investment issue, go and see your accountant and financial planner and a buyer's agent or a research house. That's the next pillar in the evolution of this industry, and we've got a responsibility to clean up that industry and make them step up and stop presenting marketing information as research in inverted commas.
James Mitchell: I had a question and we're ... Annie and I are very fortunate, we get the opportunity to speak to many different brokers and people in the industry through the magazine and also with this podcast and you meet all different types of people, and I guess there's around 14,000 brokers or something like that in the industry.
Annie Kane: Yeah, numbers get bandied around, it sort of ranges. 14,000, 25,000 ...
James Mitchell: I've personally counted 14,000. And so, that's roughly how many there are in the industry. We obviously do lots of reports and rankings about the top 25 brokers in terms of what they've done in the last financial year, for example, and that sort of stuff and we speak to them and you get to hear sort of like, passion and drive and ambition in a lot of the voices. That's not necessarily the entire industry, but there'll be that elite level of brokers who have that inner drive or ambition and it seems like you're very much one of those people.
John Manciameli: Oh, mate, no. I'm just a bogan trying to make a difference.
James Mitchell: Well, what I want to know is, because you've gone above and beyond just being a mortgage broker, you know? You've diversified, you're doing the mentoring, there's a lot more strings to your boat. Was that always part of your strategy when you first became a broker and, say, you were doing the mortgage choice thing, or was it a natural evolution and you saw opportunities and you took them?
John Manciameli: Yeah, a bit of both. And I'm fundamentally lazy, so what happened was, I thought, "What's the path of least resistance and what do I enjoy?" And a good business coach really helped me understand, "Hey, look, what do you enjoy? And outsource everything else."
James Mitchell: Okay.
John Manciameli: And then seeing opportunities. But I think, I've just got a legacy I want to leave behind. I really want to leave this industry and I'll go to my gave knowing that I've changed the industry I love. I know I did that at Mortgage Choice and I left and when I left Mortgage Choice, I had tears running down my face because there was a big party saying, "John, thank you so much." Because every one of those brokers are now making an extra six figures and they've got clients that are absolutely loyal to them because they're making a massive difference. They really are reaching out to them and saying, "Hey, Bob, let's go out and buy an investment property in the next market that's got some growth prospects." Melbourne or Brisbane, or wherever it is at the time.
So, yeah, and I'm lazy, too. So I love doing what I want to do and make money if I can out of it at the same time.
Annie Kane: One of the things I was going to ask you, so you've touched on it a few times, about raising the bar and also just ... When you were talking about the accreditation process, you were saying there's a code of conduct that goes with that and also, making sure people are working in ethical way. Was this a response to something? Had you ... Do you think that there's not enough of this, already, in the industry? I mean, why this focus on ethics and code of conduct?
John Manciameli: Yeah, look, property is the largest asset class, I think you would agree, for Australians. And wouldn't it be great if brokers could be at the centre of it and be a trusted source of advice and be really well trained in understanding how they can help their clients. And so, part of that is getting training and our industry just doesn't provide that training. They'll teach you how to write a home loan and they'll teach you about home loan products, but understanding when interest in advanced loans is really good for debt recycling, or when a market goes down and there's a bit of crisis, that's the best time to be buying, you know?
Having a code of conduct where you can sleep at night, where you can go to your clients and say, "I really want to help you and yes, I'm going to make some money out of it but you're going to make a lot more out of it than I am and I'm one of your trusted advisors." So, there is room for massive improvement in the industry that I love and that is to become an ethical advisor. Make a few dollars out of it, but ultimately, it's about the client and protecting them.
Annie Kane: So, did you find that originally, there were people that you had seen, maybe, that weren't working ethically? I'm just…
John Manciameli: Yeah, yeah, I've ... Like in any industry, there's always going to be outliers and those outliers don't have the best intentions. There's massive profit to be made for a lot of these property sales people. I mean, I had one, I remember, they came in and offered me 6% commission on property in a certain part of the country and I said, "I can't sleep at night. This ... What you're telling me is absolutely rubbish." And because I took the time to train up and understand the four key drivers of capital growth, that particular market didn't show any of them and they were just full of rubbish, so ...
And yet, there were other quality research houses that really were really good. There was that hospital being built and they were showing the quality of that builder and the track record of that builder and all that sort of stuff that we appreciate as consumers of information. And so, all of a sudden, the clients that come to me are getting exposed to this really good information and I just don't want them being exposed to people that are masquerading as research houses and they're not. So.
James Mitchell: Sprookers.
Annie Kane: And I also just want to touch on, you were talking at the very beginning, sorry, I should've asked it then, you were saying that you were at Mortgage Choice for ages and how emotional your send-off was. But you said that you sort of outgrew it, when you went to develop Hunterwood. Can you just explain a little bit more about how that was, and if, for example, if there's any listeners that are already franchisees and thinking about the next step, like, how to identify that?
John Manciameli: This is no ... I don't want to knock Mortgage Choice, they were fantastic.
Annie Kane: Yeah, of course.
John Manciameli: I was a medical sales rep and I knew how to sell but I didn't know how to run a business and Mortgage Choice was great. However, they're very, very focused on making sure they've got a clean brand and only focusing in finance. So, Hunterwood now has got an accounting arm, a financial planning arm and an investment property solution arm. So, I can now talk holistically about clients and say, "Look, Mr. Doctor, I think you should be talking to creating a unit trust instead of a discretionary trust as that asset-holding entity. We can set that up for you. Otherwise, please talk to your accountant. In addition to that, you may need to start thinking about income protection insurance. We can set that up. And whilst I don't sell property, I get a referral fee if I refer you to XYZ Research House and they've got all the data to help you understand why Melbourne or Brisbane is the place to be."
So, Mortgage Choice were very, very good in finance, but they didn't allow me to start talking like that. And so there was all these other things I wanted to do that was holding me back.
Annie Kane: So, you wanted a more sort of holistic financial offering?
John Manciameli: Yeah, yeah. And it's just great now, because I can talk with peace of mind, knowing that I'm not tarnishing any brand, but I am being of service. And people are so time poor, they need that now. They need to be able to go, "Well, what do you think?" And I go, "Look, take this to your accountant and tell you tell me what you want in the end."
Annie Kane: Yeah. And then, obviously, with investment at the moment, there's been so much media attention, regulatory attention on the investment market. We had APRA bring in the 10% speed growth speed limit and then the 30% new lending limit earlier this year. How has that affected the market, if at all? Have you seen it directly impacting your clients?
John Manciameli: Oh, yeah. Big time. What a great success that's been, by the way. I think they've done a great job, a really great job. But from a humble broker's point of view, I must kiss goodbye 40 million dollars in total worth of lending that I just couldn't help, that I would've done in the past. So, it was just a sign of the times.
Annie Kane: Because of tighter credit policies?
John Manciameli: Yeah, just they weren't able to borrow as much or-
James Mitchell: Because of serviceability, probably.
John Manciameli: Yeah, it's just, like every other broker. But the good news is that's changing and we've got a more robust and more solid financial services environment, we've got a very robust Australian property market. I mean, this is one of the greatest ... If not the greatest country in the world and to be working as a broker in this time, I just cannot believe my luck. We've got record low unemployment, we've got serious infrastructure being spent around the country that's going to help us propel forward when this construction boom slows down, we've got low inflation, everyone's got equity. And those first homeowners are on the march again as well, so, as a broker, it's just fantastic.
James Mitchell: Nice.
John Manciameli: Yeah.
Annie Kane: And so, if ... Just to round up, I think we're going to run out of time soon, but just to round up, looking at the average mortgage broker who's not yet stepped into this space but they maybe want to look at their database or look at their client book and see where they can maybe do some more sort of digging and find these clients that potentially might be interested in investment, what would your advice be for starting that road? How do you actually find these clients in the first place?
John Manciameli: Well, the first thing is, is the mindset. Just assume that every one of your client and prospects has got some investment property as an aspiration. As Aussies, we love property, alright? Just assume that. So, everyone in your database wants to buy an investment property. Just assume that. And so, it's very easy to either reach out to them and say, "Hey, look, I want to help you with your investment property aspirations. I've got a couple of ideas of where to invest and how to structure it so it costs you $50 a week."
And then, secondly, is anniversary home loan health checks. It gobbles my mind that people don't do this, but reach out to that client that settled in this month last year and the year before, and as part of the review of the home loan, why not ask them, "Hey, how about using your equity to buy an investment property?" It's that simple. And the great thing is, if you do the right thing, when they buy that property, you're going to get between 5 to 10 thousand dollars each time. So, if you can just find one investment property customer a month for 10 months of the year, you're arguably looking at six figures.
And, more important, it's stuff that your client wants to know about.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
John Manciameli: It's not like it's financial planning.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
John Manciameli: You know, where they may need income protection insurance but they just don't want to. But if you talk to them about investing, they want to hear from you.
James Mitchell: And they're probably reading stuff which may not necessarily be the best stuff to be reading.
John Manciameli: Yeah. And the great thing about the media is it does two things. It scares the hell out of you-
James Mitchell: Thank you.
John Manciameli: Or it makes you miss out, makes you feel like you've missed out. And so, our role as brokers is to bring the conservative voice and rationale and balance back into it and yeah, what a great time to be looking at property investing.
James Mitchell: Awesome.
Annie Kane: Great. Well, that's all the time we have for you, John, so thank you so much for your thoughts and coming in today
John Manciameli: Thank you.
Annie Kane: And thank you, James, for being here with me.
James Mitchell: No worries, thank you.
Annie Kane: That's all we have, as I said, and next week we'll be talking to another insert name here. Insert name here. So, thank you so much for tuning in and for all the news, features and more information on mortgage broking, please visit TheAdviser.com.au.
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