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3 TIFFEN & CO

Maintaining a local focus has positioned Gerard Tiffen’s brokerage to benefit from Canberra’s changing fortunes 

Thanks to technology, broking is becoming more and more delocalised; there are brokerages in Sydney that are increasingly dependent on the Melbourne housing market, and vice versa. This doesn’t apply to all, however: while Tiffen & Co has the odd client outside Canberra, it remains a fascinating example of a localised brokerage competing at the top level.

Take the past 12 months as an example. Most brokerages have been struggling with lender changes, but for Tiffen & Co it’s been an excellent year, thanks in large part to changes in Australia’s capital. 

“Canberra has been dragged along by a few unfortunate incidents, one of them being Mr Fluffy,” explains managing director Gerard Tiffen. The Mr Fluffy asbestos scandal forced the government to buy back around 1,200 properties, in order to demolish them, and those blocks are now back in play. “People are buying the blocks, and builders are developing them now, and it’s still creating a bit of interest in the market,” Tiffen says.

More positively, Canberra’s airport is about to go international, with Singapore Airlines beginning direct flights there in September. “That’s a bit of a game changer for this town,” exclaims Tiffen. “It’s creating a lot of interest and pumping the market up on the residential side.” Tiffen himself has done loans for several Singapore Airlines staff in the past week, and says the mood in Canberra is optimistic. “Canberra’s population is only the size of Wollongong, but based on what’s going to happen over the next four to five years they reckon we’ll get to 420,000 people. That’s what Canberra needs; that’s what has been lacking … it’s the most positive thing to happen to this town in years.” 

What enables Tiffen to place such an emphasis on one city is the high profile his brokerage commands. Tiffen and Co sponsors a cycling team and a children’s rugby club, and participates extensively in local charitable initiatives. It focuses on its existing clients, targeting them with information specific to Canberra. This approach is working well, Tiffen argues. “We keep hitting our database, keep marketing to our database, keep things community-based; that’s always been our strategy and will probably remain so going forward.” 

Tiffen & Co has also benefited from low staff turnover, although a recent spate of pregnancies means Tiffen will have to look for new staff members. The brokerage has kept its staff through above-market pay, and by offering shareholder positions to its top-performing brokers. This offers more than just remuneration, Tiffen explains. “They learn; they sit on the board meetings. I think it’s a great opportunity for them to grow as people, learn more, and gives them confidence in the marketplace to say, ‘I’m not just a broker; you’re dealing with someone who owns part of the business.”