Mortgage Choice Glenelg
Being a top broker for three years is seriously impressive but easy to understand; we only get more experienced. Keeping a brokerage at the top of MPA’s charts is a different task entirely; economic fortunes fluctuate, talented staff members leave and competitors copy your strategy. Mortgage Choice Glenelg has been able to weather the storm – so we asked owner Wendy Higgins what she and her team are doing differently.
The brokerage’s consistent performance is built on its customers’ trust, Higgins says, which in turn results from plain-speaking by its brokers. “It gets back to not being an order taker, but giving all-round advice – not just doing what they ask you to do, because that isn’t necessarily what’s best for them.” In particular, she points out that with refinancing, she’ll first attempt to push the client’s existing bank to a lower rate before looking elsewhere, saving the client work. But it also refers to giving clients the hard truths about whether their plans are likely to succeed, alongside their accountant, and being a source of guidance for any financial questions the client might have.
Day-to-day, the brokerage’s procedures are built to provide consistent service whilst being flexible enough to respond to demand. “We have one person who takes all the leads, makes all the appointments and decides what broker they’ll see,” Higgins explains. The client is then encouraged to fill in an enquiry form and return it beforehand, allowing the broker to do their research before the appointment. Notably, brokers at Mortgage Choice Glenelg are on regular wages – meaning they are interchangeable in the event a customer needs help and the broker is unavailable.
The many rewards of Wendy Higgins
Higgins herself is now very well known; she won the AMAs’ ‘Golden Morgie’ lifetime achievement award in 2011 and has appeared on MPA’s Top 100 list several times. So how does she deal with clients who ask for her specifically when she’s unavailable? “[The support staff ] won’t say straight away, ‘Oh, you can’t see Wendy’; they’ll wait until they’ve got the rapport with them over the phone, and then they might say, ‘Wendy’s not here right now, but Julia’s been here for 16 years, and Keith’s been here for five years”.
Being well-known has allowed the brokerage to reduce its marketing spend, although they still aim to remain visible in their community. As well as a fleet of eight branded company cars, the brokerage has taken out newspaper adverts and sponsored sports clubs – “We were sponsoring about eight sporting clubs; we are now sponsoring four,” Higgins says. The reason for the pull-back was also partly personal; Higgins’ husband and business partner, Dean Higgins, died in a tragic mountaineering accident in 2013. Higgins doesn’t believe less marketing is hurting the bottom line, though. “We’re busy enough; we’re getting enough leads. We get about 150–160 a month, and that’s enough for us to write $20 million a month.”
Alongside residential and equipment finance, developing a financial planning sidearm has been the brokerage’s aim for several years, and it is finally coming to fruition, Higgins says. “The trend is, clients are really looking for financial advice as well from a financial advisor, and I can’t believe how easy it is to get people to see Malcolm, who’s our financial advisor. And it means we see the clients again anyway … it’ll make the broking business a lot better by making those clients stickier.”
With growth, a new office is becoming increasingly necessary. It’s the latest step in a long journey, she notes; the current office’s predecessor was the Higginses’ home. “We were number one brokerage in Mortgage Choice in Australia from the back of that house! I think the thing we haven’t changed is what we’ve been doing. We look after people and we care about every deal. Our heart and soul goes into this, because it is a huge thing people are doing.”