Several leading brokers working in the SME and business finance space have revealed their top tips for brokers looking to source new SME clients.
Speaking during the broker panel at The Adviser’s SME Broker Bootcamp in Brisbane on Tuesday (20 November), FAST’s northern regional manager, Rob Ryan, moderated a panel session with three brokers on how they have successfully established themselves in the SME market.
Mhairi MacLeod, owner and principal broker of asset finance specialists Astute Ability Group, revealed that a large part of her success comes down to finding a niche market and becoming a specialist in the business operations and networks within it.
The Queensland-based broker said that the company recently undertook a research project into the horse racing and show jumping area and found that this was a market that was underserved when it came to finance. As such, Astute Ability Group has now become a specialist in equine finance, such as financing horse boxes and floats.
Ms MacLeod told SME Broker Bootcamp delegates that mortgage brokers looking to diversify for the first time should therefore “focus on picking your sweet spot for SME clients first”, rather than offering all small business lending from the word go.
She warned: “If you are trying to diversify, with small business lending, you need to have good scope of the client and their networks. But don’t try and do everything; if you try and deal with consumer loans under private sale, that is monumental paperwork. If you’re trying to expand, understand that that space probably isn’t where you should be starting because there is so much more in that consumer space.”
Eddie Harrison, director of finance at CHG Integrated Wealth, agreed that brokers need to find their “sweet spot” when it comes to small business loans.
“My ideal client is an asset-backed small business,” Mr Harrison said.
“I have a recent example of a client who funded a couple of excavators with me and he had lots of subcontractors underneath him who were low doc, and they were not asset-backed, so they are not my sweet spot. Because I didn’t have the time to spend two or three days researching how to write these loans, I’m better off referring that out and bringing in new business that is in that sweet spot for me.”
He added: “If you are not a specialist, you just have to surround yourself with good people and a good team, and you can do anything.
“So, I’d recommend you make other brokers your best friend. I have a good network of brokers that I can ring up and refer out to or even ask advice on which lenders to use for a particular equipment finance deal etc, and they are all specialists in different areas. So, when I do want to fund something I am not confident in, I can refer it back out to them.”
Mr Harrison added that banks also often have trade specialists, concluding “by no means is there an expectation for us to be experts in everything; it’s about having good conversations and relationships and bringing the bankers along, too.”
Mark Taylor, head of asset finance at Fundamental Business Finance, echoed the messaging, stating: “Don’t be afraid to outsource or go to someone who does specialise and ask for help, whether it be on a mentor basis or put your hand up, because going in on a shotgun approach doesn’t work.
“You’re better off representing yourself better to the customer and everyone else by referring deals out if you don’t have the expertise in that specialty.”
Rethinking the conversation
When it comes to finding SME client business, Mr Harrison said that his first port of call “is an opportunity for their families or their business”.
He elaborated: “If you ask someone about their business, they are pretty passionate about it. And once you get their financials, you can identify a lot more opportunities from there.”
Ms MacLeod agreed, and she gave the following advice for brokers looking to diversify into the SME space: “The key thing that some brokers fail to do is ask the question: ‘What does you partner do?’ or ‘Who else is in the family?’
“You need to find out if there are any small business owners in their network/family. Because once you find one SME, there are more than 100 hanging around because they work in networks and in tribes.”
Ms MacLeod gave the example of tradies who work on different jobs, and will be connected with electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, concrete layers, plasters etc.
Ms McLeod said: “If you get one, you get them all. You could have everyone associated with that trade. But only if you do a really good job with the first one.
“So it’s not just about working for referrals, but asking them who they are working with in their jobs. You need to open up the conversation with your SMEs and be interested in not only your client, but also their networks and how they are funding their equipment and home loans.
“I think that is where brokers need to change how they are asking for referrals in the SME space.”
The Adviser’s SME Broker Bootcamp is a national roadshow designed to help brokers propel their businesses, better understand the opportunity in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) market and transition into new revenue streams.
Having already visited Brisbane (20 November) and Perth (22 November), the free-to-attend bootcamps will be held in Melbourne on 27 November and Sydney on 28 November.
Attendees of the SME Broker Bootcamp will be able to claim up to eight hours of CPD points (MFAA and FBAA).
Secure your place at the SME Broker Bootcamp now to ensure you don’t miss out.
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.
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