This week, Annie Kane and James Mitchell are joined by a new broker, Loan Market’s Bernard Desmond, to find out how he has written $20 million in his first six months of business.
The Melbourne-based broker, who is up for Best Customer Service and Rising Star at the Better Business Awards (Victoria), discusses what triggered him to make the jump from banking to broking, his 2018 goals after exceeding all expectations last year, the highlights of his career so far as well as the secrets to his success.
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Announcer: 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 Adviser, and opposite me is James Mitchell, managing editor of Mortgages. How are you doing, James?
James Mitchell: Very good, thank you, Annie.
Annie Kane: Good. Last week we spoke to one of the luminaries of the mortgage broking industry, Andrew Mirams of Intuitive Finance, and this week we're going to the other end of the career spectrum by speaking to a new broker. But don't judge a book by its cover as this new broker has been broking on his own for less than a year but has already been making waves in the industry. He's prolific on social media, eager to learn and as many people will attest to, he's genuinely one of the nicest and happiest people around.
James Mitchell: Who is he?
Annie Kane: Who is he? In this episode of Elite Broker we're speaking to Melbourne-based broker Bernard Desmond. Is it right that you wrote $20 million in the first six months of business?
Bernard Desmond: That's right.
Annie Kane: That's amazing. And you also, you know, you've won FBAA Mentee of the Year, you've settled more than $4 million last month. You've really been smashing it out of the park. You know, I've been talking you up here, Bernard, but I just want to know like how you have been doing it. I mean, what got you into this sort of, you know, cycle where you've been able to write that much?
Bernard Desmond: First of all, thank you for having me on the podcast. I've been a big fan of the Elite Broker podcast. I've been following it even before I started becoming a broker, so thank you for having me.
Annie Kane: Oh, thank you.
James Mitchell: No worries. Thank you.
Bernard Desmond: The first thing that I did was I focused on the main key activity, which is appointments. And from day one of mortgage broking I have outsourced every single thing that I don't need to do. So I had an external processor from day one and that allowed me to focus on just the client-facing, front end bit where I could just chase in appointments and bring in new business, and just focus on that customer relationship and make sure that the bills are processing.
So I didn't want to time learning the systems and the nitty-gritties of, you know, how to data enter an application and, you know, what are the different forms with different lenders. So I just outsourced that from day one and that's enabled me to just hit the ground running from day one.
Annie Kane: When you say outsourced, do you mean abroad or do you do it with someone in the office?
Bernard Desmond: No. Within Melbourne, so onshore in Melbourne. So it's an external service provider that I was paying on a per-file basis. So this person knew and her business only looks after loan market brokers. So we basically were just I was writing the broker notes, I was completing everything that's required for the deal to get in, and just handing over then to this company which was called Your Client Service Manager. And then from there on, she was making sure that the data's keyed in to our client online and then it gets on to the lenders.
James Mitchell: Bernard, what was the decision, or how did you reach the decision, should I say, to join-
Bernard Desmond: In becoming a broker I did spend a fair bit of time understanding some of the key things like what are the pain points which other new to industry brokers are facing. And also, you know, sitting behind the system and doing the data entry stuff. I really don't enjoy it so I just thought, you know, if I could just focus on finding my next client and just making sure that someone who's really across all these systems, I can just pay them a flat fee and just not have to worry about it.
James Mitchell: What were you doing before you became a broker?
Bernard Desmond: Banker all throughout. So I've been a banker since 2006. 2006 to 2012 I was working in Dubai, predominantly in residential lending. So I spent a fair bit of time with Barclay's Bank doing residential lending in Dubai.
James Mitchell: Okay.
Bernard Desmond: And in 2012 we made the move. I came to Australia, so I've been in Australia for five years and started with the bank in the banking system and worked as a mobile lender for ME Bank for four and a half years. And after ME Bank I started moving into mortgage broking.
Annie Kane: So what was it that made you decide to jump into mortgage broking? I mean, what was it about banking that you weren't finding satisfaction with really, I suppose?
Bernard Desmond: Look, my banking platform I'm quite grateful to work. It's provided me a solid background and it's enabled me to do this. But the challenge that I was starting to face in banking within four years of being in the industry in Australia was things were starting to get tighter, and it was getting harder and harder for me to say no to clients. Wherein, you know, after four years of working for one particular bank, when you're working for one particular bank you're not actually providing a solution to a client. You're actually a sale person. You're pushing a product.
And that was something that I was starting to see that, you know, this is not actually the best thing for the client. You know, there are better things, there are better products, there are better solutions that the client can actually get. And broking actually has enabled me to give those choices to my clients. So that was a big reason why I became a broker.
Annie Kane: You were mentioning right at the beginning that you've got someone that you can help do your processing side of things. But I think a lot of new brokers, when they first start out they tend to kind of really be all hands-on on that side to kind of get across all the credit policies and the lender policies. Does that mean that you have to kind of do almost like an extra loop? Because you're not doing all the processing, does it mean that you have to spend more time actually keeping up to date with the credit policies?
Bernard Desmond: No. So credit policy is the one thing that I mastered. So my first 30 day plan was to get across in front of every single BDM and share with them my business plan and my vision. 'Cause as you'll understand, there are thousands of new people joining the industry every single month. And there are only so many BDMs in every single bank. So what I consciously made an effort to write an actual business plan and I got across, with the help of my aggregator, in front of each and every BDM. And sat across them and, you know, shared my vision as to what I was going to do, how I was going to do it and where I need their support to be able to deliver these numbers.
Annie Kane: And in terms of actually, you know, your decision to go to Loan Market rather than go out independently, what led you to that? What was it about Loan Market that drew you in?
Bernard Desmond: I did meet a fair bit of aggregators, pretty much every major aggregator out there. But the sense of support that I saw with Loan Market was a much more superior level of support. And also they're offering of their Manila service. And I wanted to join a group where I didn't want to ... I wanted it to be a plug-in place situation. Then I can just get my CR number and get off the ground running as soon as possible. So I didn't want to spend too much time on thinking on, you know, what my logo's going to look like, what my email address is going to look like. So those were the things that were very clear from day one, that I wanted to spend as little as possible time on it.
James Mitchell: It's interesting that you talk about the sort of, you know, I guess the outward appearance stuff. You know, the logos and that sort of thing. 'Cause I remember the first time we met you was at the New Broker Academy down in Melbourne and, you know, since then we've followed you a lot on social media. You know, you've got a big presence on social media. And just to me, personally, you always strike me as someone that you're always wearing a suit and tie. You always look, you know, very professional. You're driving, you know, a branded vehicle and you just have a very professional way about going about your business.
And I just wondered if that's something you've always, that's always been your style or if it's something you've adopted and shaped and that you're constantly working on to have this image, I guess, of professionalism. 'Cause it is quite striking. Personally, I find it quite admirable.
Bernard Desmond: Thanks, James. I think first impressions, you can make or break in their first impression. People make a lot of impressions when they meet you for the first time and, you know, I consciously work on it and I make sure that I look professional. We are professional. I am representing a professional industry so, you know, I really need to carry myself in the best way possible. And also my clientele, the profile of clients that I see and I cater to, they are mostly professionals. So, you know, I do my best to make sure that I look the part.
James Mitchell: Fantastic.
Annie Kane: Oh, you'll have to go suit shopping with James next time we're down in Melbourne.
James Mitchell: Yeah. No, I like it. Suit and tie, it should be mandatory.
Annie Kane: And I also wanted to ask you a little bit about, you know, the numbers you're writing. So is this all from resi or is there a mix of investment? What kind of clients are you seeing?
Bernard Desmond: 100% resi focus. So my first 12 month goal has been quite resi focused. I have come across a portion that is waiting. You know, asset finances come across my way, commercials come across me. But I've consciously made a decision I want to do one thing and I want to do it well, and that's been my focus for the first 12 months. So I have a goal in mind where I wrote my business plan, so I want to achieve 50 million in settlements in my first 12 months. And if I start doing bits and pieces of other things which I'm not good at, you'll just lose focus of it.
Annie Kane: Now, you've mentioned there a few times about your business plan and your 30 day plan. It sounds like you've got quite a sort of firm idea of where you want your business to be going and, you know, you-
James Mitchell: Yeah, it's well structured.
Annie Kane: Yeah. I mean, how much time do you actually spend planning what your business is going to be doing?
Bernard Desmond: I mean, this Christmas was the first time that I actually took some time out of the business after starting the business. I'm constantly reviewing how my business is tracking on a quarterly basis and that's really broken down into, you know, appointment activity. And that then goes on to, you know, applications and then on to settlements. So, you know, it all starts from, you know, how many number of appointments do I have to do on a weekly basis to hit X number of, you know, application goal. And, you know, it just helps me. Whatever I can measure gets managed. If I can't measure it, I won't be able to manage it.
Annie Kane: So how do you measure it?
Bernard Desmond: I've got an Excel sheet that I track on my activity. So, you know, I closely see if I'm low on appointments, I have to make more phone calls, I have to get in front of more networking groups, I have to get in front of more and more referral partners so I can get in front of more clients. So, you know, it is all about making phone calls and getting in front of as many people as possible.
James Mitchell: You've written, you know, a few pieces for us, for The Adviser blogs and stuff like that. And there was a piece you wrote about producing video as well.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
James Mitchell: Which I thought might be interesting for some of our listeners to hear about. 'Cause I'm really fascinated about this idea of marketing yourself and marketing your skills. Was that a question you had written down there, Annie?
Annie Kane: Well, yeah, 'cause I remember when we met you for the first time, as you mentioned, in the New Broker Academy in Melbourne. You were just finishing up your series of videos.
James Mitchell: That's right.
Annie Kane: And then you wrote the blog for us, very kindly, about sort of, you know, video marketing. But can you tell us a bit more about it and why you decided to launch it through that medium?
Bernard Desmond: Yeah. So my first experience with video was, you know, this is just before I became a broker. I actually enrolled into a competition which was-
Annie Kane: So You Think You Can Broker?
Bernard Desmond: Yes. Which was an initiative of the National Finance Brokers Day. So You Think You Can Broker. So then I had to create a video in 60 seconds and cover five bullet points on, you know, why I think I am a good candidate and I can be a good broker in the first year. So that video got a lot of traction and that actually gave me confidence that, you know, video is the way forward. I have been also following other influences from other complementing industrials like real estate and, you know, I see a lot of similarities between real estate and mortgages. And you know, real estate, some of the top performers in real estate do a really job with video.
So I thought, yeah, why not try video and make it a bit different? So one of the challenges I used to have is, you know, when you call a new lead or a new prospect, you know, you sometimes just can't get through across the phone with everyone. And I did a small 30 second video where, you know, I just sent through the link if I've called any and I've not been able to reach you. I'll just push that link on your mobile phone. You can just click on it. As long as you've got internet on your phone, it will just open up in YouTube and you can actually see who I am and what I am.
And, you know, that gives you enough reason to pick up the phone and, you know, start to make a conversation. So video has been really good, so I've just taken it to the next level now in the last four, five months that I've been working on it. So we've done a fair bit of video live testing, only with my existing clients, with my referral partners. And we're creating a sort of funnel which is going to get marketed in the next 30 days. So, yeah, I definitely will be looking forward to sharing that with you guys soon.
Annie Kane: Now, you mentioned briefly there your referral partners. And obviously being Loan Market, I'm assuming that some of them are from the Ray White group. But who else do you have as a referral partner?
Bernard Desmond: My referral partners, I've got a few accountants who are professional accountants. And I've got a few solicitors and conveyancers. But mainly, most of my referral business comes from real estate. So I'm actively involved in the local real estate community where I reside. And these are relationships that I've built over the last four years while I worked in the bank, so they are people that I've known and I've serviced them in the past. And just with the way lending is going right now, you know, it just helps them to have a good broker by their side.
James Mitchell: I like that idea of, you know, sort of modelling, you know, marketing techniques and opportunities off real estate 'cause there are synergies, like you said. Is Tom Panos one of the people that you're following in real estate?
Bernard Desmond: Oh, 100%. I'm a member of the Real Estate Gym and I'm so excited that you guys are bringing him to the Better Business Summit.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
Bernard Desmond: I'm looking forward to that one 'cause I've been on the Real Estate Gym for the last 12 months and I have taken so much out of the Real Estate Gym. It's the best $10 of investment that I've made on a weekly basis.
James Mitchell: Oh, excellent.
Annie Kane: Oh, you should tell Tom that. He'll be happy to hear.
James Mitchell: He's a good guy.
Annie Kane: So I just wanted to ask a little bit. So I saw on your LinkedIn that you are advertising now for a new credit customer service person to come and help you. Is this in addition to the one you already have or is this like a replacement role?
Bernard Desmond: No, this is a replacement role. So I'm looking for a new full-time person to come and be a part of it. As the business is evolving, I've got more clarity on, you know, what this role needs to look like and that's how I'm looking at getting a new person on board as a full-time.
Annie Kane: Okay. And seeing as we've now launched into a new year, what are your goals for this year and how do you intend to achieve them?
Bernard Desmond: My goal is to do 50 million in the first year. So that's from 1st of July to the 30th of June. So I'm halfway there. I'm tracking well on target so that would be my first goal, to hit the settlement mark. Where did that come from with the 50 million mark? It's just a settlement target that I did in my first year when I arrived in Australia working for one bank. So all I'm trying to do is just beat my own goal, yeah.
James Mitchell: Oh, that makes sense.
Annie Kane: So you're competing with yourself?
Bernard Desmond: Yes.
Annie Kane: Competing with past Bernard.
James Mitchell: Yeah.
Annie Kane: And I just wanted to like talk a little bit again about, you know, your goal planning and your sort of strategies for that. How much do you have to kind of set time to do that? 'Cause I imagine that, as you say, like you want to focus on the client-facing stuff and that's what you're good at. So how do you actually make the time and how much time do you actually put aside to do all this? And what's your process?
Bernard Desmond: It's just not done by myself alone. So I am a strong believer that everyone needs a mentor. So hence I've got a mentor from day one. I'm coached by Teresa O'Neil who's been in the industry for a while. She's got a national business across Australia called Alphabroker so I meet with her once a month and just brainstorm. You know, we just go through a whole lot of things that day. How is the business tracking, what kind of initiatives I've got in the pipeline, what I should be looking at? So it just gives me a different set of eyes to, you know, and it also helps she holds me accountable to my goals.
So, you know, I can have all these ambitious goals but if I don't share them with my mentor and, you know, there's nobody to hold me accountable, there's no purpose in, you know, measuring this. So we do meet on a monthly basis and just go through it again. This is what we said we were going to do last month. How are we tracking on it and what are the initiatives that we can do in the year ahead?
Annie Kane: Is it important to you to have that mentor there?
Bernard Desmond: 100%. I mean, mortgage broking can be quite lonely at times, especially when you start up new. There's a lot of things to do. You know, you're the sales person, you're the processor, you're the prospector. You have to also manage your books and, you know, do the marketing. So having a mentor is always helpful to give you some guidance. I also speak to a lot of, you know, brokers within the industry. So, you know, I've been actively following the Elite Broker podcast. I've listened to each and every interview, I've reached out to people like, you know, who have been there, done that.
Annie Kane: Oh, thanks.
Bernard Desmond: You know, so George Samios, for example. You know? Brenden Lowbridge. So, you know, these are people, you know, this is a great industry to be in. You guys are doing an amazing job and, you know, I mean, if you reach out for help people are always willing to help you.
Annie Kane: I'm glad that it's actually been useful for you so far.
James Mitchell: Yeah.
Annie Kane: It's good to hear that our work actually does something.
James Mitchell: No. No, it is nice. It's nice to have fans. Bernard, I just wanted to ask about lead generation. I wanted to know, from your experience coming into the industry been, you know, broking for a year or so, what has been the most successful lead generation or way of bringing in business you've found? Whether it's, you know, a client or a referral partner or a marketing strategy? What's been the most successful one and what's one that you've tried which you decided to discard because it was no use?
Bernard Desmond: I think adding value to your referral partners. When I say referral partners, it could be any other complementing business and you need to be able to add value to their business. You know, if you add value to somebody's business they will bring back value to you. Also, you know, look after your existing clients. I'm really big on customer service and I pride myself on that. My NPS score with Loan Market, which is surveyed externally, sits at 10 out of 10 on every single survey.
James Mitchell: Wow.
Bernard Desmond: So, you know, if you do the right thing by your client every single time, you can ask for the referral.
James Mitchell: Yes.
Bernard Desmond: You know, you can and it's all about asking the right question at the right time, and you will be in business.
Annie Kane: Well, that's really commendable work, Bernard, and we really look forward to seeing how your next six months go and hearing, you know, if you manage to meet your $50 million target. But just before we close up, I wonder if you can just provide me with what your career highlights as a broker have been so far.
Bernard Desmond: Yeah. There's been a few that I've really enjoyed. One being winning the FBAA national award last year as Mentee of the Year. Getting nominated at two categories at Better Business Summit, Rising Star and Customer Service. And also I thought one would be my NPS score, you know?
James Mitchell: Yeah.
Annie Kane: Yeah.
Bernard Desmond: I mean, just your customers acknowledging and, you know, helping and endorsing that, you know, you're doing the right thing. That's a big tick for me.
James Mitchell: Fantastic.
Annie Kane: Great. Well, thank you so much for your time, Bernard. And I say, best of luck and best of luck in the Better Business Awards as well. We'll see you down there in March.
Bernard Desmond: Thank you, Annie. Thank you, James.
James Mitchell: No worries.
Bernard Desmond: You guys are doing a fantastic job. Keep up the great work. Every broker needs to listen to this. There is so much value in all the interviews that you have done and everyone can get something out of it.
James Mitchell: Thanks very much, Bernard.
Annie Kane: Thank you so much for your support and best of luck. Well, thank you so much for tuning in and hearing a little bit more about Bernard Desmond. If you want to read more news, features and inspirational stories, please visit www.theadviser.com.au. And also tune in to our sister podcast, Mortgage Business Uncut. Thanks so much. Catch you next week.
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